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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

And Miss Thoburn came to be its first superintendent


The

very interesting article from which the quotation has just been made seems to think the term "deaconess" a misnomer for the Kaiserswerth deaconess, as she belongs to a community, whereas the deaconess of the early Church was attached to a congregation and belonged to a single church as an officer; but it may well be questioned whether the class of duties assigned to the deaconess of the early Church and of modern times alike, that is, the nursing of the sick, the care of the infirm in body and mind, the succoring of the unfortunate, and the education of children, are not the main characteristics of the office of a deaconess, while the fact of her connection with a number of like-minded women in community life is merely an external feature of the office as it has developed in the nineteenth century. Whatever form the question may assume, with the Presbyterian churches of Scotland and England so far committed to the adoption of the office of the deaconess as an effective part of the organization of the Church, it seems inevitable that the Presbyterian Church of America will have to meet this question in the near future.

The Methodist Episcopal Church of America, although occupying itself with the question of the diaconate of women later than any of the denominations previously mentioned, by its acceptance of the office and by making it an inherent part of its ecclesiastical organization has taken a higher ground than any Protestant body, with the

exception of the Church of Scotland. The Methodist Episcopal Church has ever offered a freer scope for the activities of its women members than any other body of Christians save the Quakers, who are still the leaders in this respect; but it may be questioned if any furnishes a larger number who are actively engaged in promoting philanthropic and religious measures.

The honor of practically beginning the deaconess work in connection with the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States belongs to Mrs. Lucy Rider Meyer, of the Chicago Training-school, who, during the summer months of 1887, aided by eight earnest Christian women, worked among the poor, the sick, and the needy of that great city without any reward of man's giving. In the autumn the Home opened in a few hired rooms, and Miss Thoburn came to be its first superintendent. The story of the growth of the work, the securing of a permanent home, and the enlargement of its resources is a most interesting one.[88]

The Rock River Conference, within whose boundaries the Chicago Home is situated, had from the beginning an earnest sympathy and confidence in the work as it was developing in its midst. A memorial was prepared, and was presented to the General Conference in May, 1888, by the Rock River Conference, through its Conference delegates, asking for Church legislation with reference to deaconesses. At the same time the Bengal Annual Conference, through Dr. J. M. Thoburn, also presented a memorial asking for the institution of an order of deaconesses who should have authority to administer the sacrament to the women of India. Our missionaries in India have long felt the need of some way of ministering to the converted women who are closely secluded in zenana life, and who, though sick and dying, are precluded by the customs of the country from any religious service of comfort or consolation that male missionaries can render. If it had been possible for our women missionaries to administer the sacrament many Indian women could have been received into the Church. All of the papers and memorials on this subject were put into the hands of a committee, of which Dr. J. M. Thoburn (afterward made missionary bishop to India and Malaysia) was chairman; and the report of the committee was as follows:


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