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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

One deaconess learns from another

style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER XIV.


The deaconesses of the early Church differed from those of modern times, as we have seen, in being directly responsible to a church society, and in belonging to a church congregation in numbers of two or more. Modern life shows a strong tendency to organization. Wherever there are workers in a common cause they are banded together in societies and associations. It was in accordance with the spirit of the age in which he lived that Fliedner united his workers in the Rhenish-Westphalian Deaconess Society, in 1836. It was a happy inspiration--shall we not say a _providential_ one?--that furnished a convenient organization for the office under present conditions. The mother-houses in Germany offered good working-models, and their practical advantages were so obvious that in whatever Protestant denomination the diaconate of women has revived, it has been in connection with these homes. There is no place where the training of a deaconess in all its aspects can be so well obtained as in the deaconess home and training-school, which is our synonym for the German mother-house.

Besides the advantages of a permanent home, under careful supervision, to which the probationers and deaconesses have access, in such a home care is taken to train the deaconesses in the doctrines

of the Church, and there is an atmosphere favorable to the virtues of faith and devotion that the work demands. The deaconesses are never allowed to forget that they serve in a threefold capacity: "Servants of the Lord Jesus; servants of the sick and poor, 'for Jesus' sake;' servants one to another." The motto of the indomitable little republic of Switzerland, "All for each and each for all," might well be accepted as that characteristically belonging to them.

Then, too, there is a tradition of service in such a home. One deaconess learns from another. The physician is at hand to give his suggestions and medical instruction, and the lectures on Church history, on the history of missions, and on methods of evangelization make the home a center of information on all questions that affect the usefulness of the office. There is no other one place in which to obtain the practical and theoretical instruction that is needed for the education of a deaconess well equipped for her work.

Furthermore, the deaconess home offers a wide and varied field for those possessing different gifts. None can be so highly educated and cultivated that places cannot be found to utilize their talents to good advantage; while those who are sadly lacking in the education of the schools can, by talent, untiring industry, and energy make up for defects in early training.

The field of work of the deaconess in modern times is a large one. It would be easier to define what it is not than what it is. In orphanages, in asylums for fallen women, in women's prisons, in reform schools, in Sunday-schools, infant schools, and higher schools, in classes among working-girls and servants, in industrial homes, in asylums for the blind and deaf and dumb, in hospitals of various kinds, and in churches, working under the direction of the pastor--in all of these relations and many others we find deaconesses in Germany, France, England, and other European countries.

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