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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

What shall I do to become a deaconess


in any denomination should we expect women to be more ready to adopt this work than in the Methodist Episcopal Church, because women members have been accustomed to exercise nearly all the obligations and duties, and many of the privileges, that are accorded the laity of the great connection, and they are prepared to accept new duties in new relations. This Church has over a million women enrolled as members, able to serve it in every capacity, from the lady in her home dispensing gracious Christian hospitality, to the one standing quite alone, who will welcome, as a brevet of rank, this new call to service. There are many such women ready to respond. Many, too, whose hearts have been left desolate by bereavement, who will be glad to fill the empty hands and vacant life by work for God and humanity. To such a woman the wide world is her home; the dear ones of her family are the poor and sick and needy who crave her aid.

The beautiful Mildmay motto is: "They dwell with the King for his work." There are thousands of women all over the land who are ready to become "King's Daughters" in this additional sense of the word. The possibility of what such women can accomplish in the furtherance of God's kingdom upon earth has not begun to be fathomed.

Think of a great city church, with the manifold interests clustering around it, left to the care of a single pastor! He has not only the preparation of his weekly sermons,

the care of the social meetings of the church, but a long line of other duties that are equally important to maintain. He must perform pastoral duties, push forward aggressive movements in behalf of the masses not touched by the church services, and fulfill public duties in connection with great charities, philanthropies, and moral reforms that he cannot neglect without injury. If the efforts of such a pastor could be furthered by one, two, or more deaconesses, as are many of the pastors of the London churches, how greatly would the working force of such a Church be increased!

It is true that we must develop the work in accordance with our American ideas and institutions. Through the study of the methods that have been adopted in European institutions, and the experience that has been there won through long years of patient toil, we are prepared in a measure to start where their work leaves off. But we shall find that our circumstances require new adjustments, and that we shall have our own problems to solve, so that eventually our work will assume a distinctively American form.

We have only to plant the seed and to give it favorable conditions for growth. The outcome is not ours: "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand." The results are with Him who giveth the increase.

The practical question may occur to some one who reads these pages, "What shall I do to become a deaconess?" Write to the superintendent of the nearest deaconess home, and ask for directions. It is best not to multiply homes until we have a larger number of trained deaconesses that are ready to take charge of them, and until the number of applicants desiring to enter them is much greater than at present.

Many churches that need the services of a deaconess will doubtless select one of their number whose heart God has inclined to this service, and will provide the means by which she can secure the necessary training at a home and training-school. There are many devout Christian women in every community who have for years been deaconesses in labors, if not in title and prerogatives. It is very important for such women to give their sympathies and fostering care to this new institution. If not deaconesses by office, they can ally themselves as associates. The associate is a real officer in many of the deaconess establishments in London. Ladies who have great sympathy with the cause, and an earnest desire to do what they can to advance it, give some portion of their time, their labor, or their means to promote its interests. They will go to the home and reside there for some weeks or months, being under the direction of the superintendent and filling all the duties of a sister. Or, if such duties are not practicable, they will work in behalf of the home, often securing the aid of those whose assistance is most valuable. In some places it is arranged that a woman who earns her bread by daily toil shall be assigned to labor at her regular vocation, consecrating a certain portion of her wages (perhaps one twenty-fourth) to the cause with which she is allied.

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