Project Canterbury

A "Lady Day" Letter

By William Reed Huntington

[New York:] no publisher, 1909.



Or, better still, "my dear daughters" (for as such I cannot help regarding you),--how shall I thank you enough for the act of kindness that has cheered and brightened for me this tempestuous day, or how adequately emphasize the genuine warmth with which I return your love?

On the twenty-third day of October, 1871, in the General Convention, then assembled in the city of Baltimore, I ventured, though it was my first term of service as a deputy, to offer the following Resolution:

"Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring ; That a joint Committee, to consist, on the part of this House, of three members of each order, be appointed to sit during the recess, and to report to the next General Convention on the expediency of reviving in this Church the primitive order of Deaconesses."

Somewhat to my surprise, though greatly to my satisfaction, the motion prevailed, and the Committee was appointed, but, had I foreseen that fully eighteen years would lie between this initial step and the fruition of my hopes, it is doubtful whether I should have had the courage to start in upon so arduous a campaign. At last, however, the Deaconess Canon came into existence, and during the twenty years that have elapsed since its passage, the fruits of it have been becoming more and more abundant.

But how little I dreamed, on that October day in 1871, that thirty-eight years later, I should be receiving at the hands of half a hundred Deaconesses a beautiful pledge of their confidence and affection. No more welcome tribute has ever come to me. The two passions of my ministry, if I may so speak, have been the furtherance of unity among the Christian people of our country and the enlargement of woman's sphere of activity in the Church. If little progress has been made in the one direction, surely much has been made in the other; and be it noted that to you women whose names have come to me in connection with this gracious gift, and to your associates in the Order, by far the most of the credit and the praise belongs. It is one thing to frame a measure, it is another thing to make it work. Save for your earnest cooperation, save for the proof which your works have given of your faith, the Canon of Deaconesses would have lain upon the statute book unto this day a dead letter.

One thought gives me special satisfaction. I have to confess that, at times, the misgiving has visited and distressed me that, perhaps, after all, the Deaconesses whom my efforts had helped to bring into existence were not as happy in their calling as they might have been out of it. This fear of having made a mistake, of having, directly or indirectly, persuaded into entering the Diaconate a number of women, who, because of the occasional loneliness of their task, might, perhaps, be regretting their decision, has haunted me for long.

Your letter, brief though it is, has completely dispelled this apprehension, for I find it resonant with an undertone of peace and joy. Completely reassured, I gratefully accept your gift, interpreting its symbolism to mean

"At evening time it shall be light."

With faithful affection, I am ever yours in the fellowship of a common ministry,



Project Canterbury