Project Canterbury

The Deaconesses of the Church in Modern Times.

Compiled by the Rev. Lawson Carter Rich.

Reprinted from The Churchman, May 4, 1907.

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York 2007


The Rev. John Saul Howson, D.D., Dean of Chester, who inspired the revival in the Deaconess Movement in England.

Deaconess Elizabeth Ferard, first Deaconess in the Anglican Communion.

Deaconess Gilmore, Head Diocesan Deaconess of the Rochester and Southwark House, England.

Deaconess Cecilia Robinson, of the Rochester and Southwark House, England.

The Bishop of London's Deaconess House at Westbourne Park, of which Deaconess Ferard was the first Head.

Chapel of the Rochester and Southwark House, England, designed by William Morris, was was the brother of Head Deaconess Gilmore.

The altar in the chapel at Westbourne Park.

The Rev. Wm. R. Huntington, D.D., LL.D., who inspired the revival of the Deaconess Movement in America.

The New York Training School for Deaconesses. The Oratory. The Library.

Dean Knapp. The New York Training School.

The New York Training School for Deaconesses. The Dean's Study. The Dining Room.

The New York Training School for Deaconesses, 226-230 East Twelfth street.

The Rev. James De Wolf Perry, D.D., Warden of the Church Training and Deaconess House, Philadelphia.

St. Martha's Settlement, Philadelphia.

The Church Training and Deaconess House, 708 Spruce street, Philadelphia.

The Chapel of the Philadelphia School.

Pell-Clarke Hall, Orlando, Fla., a Diocesan School for Girls.

Mission Home, in the Mountains of Virginia.

Lydia Mission, in the Mountains of Virginia.

A Mountain Congregation, Lydia Mission, Virginia.

A Sunday-school Class of Indian girls, Wyoming.

A Deaconess's House in the District of Asheville, N.C.
"Ryemoor." A House of Rest, North Sumner, Me.
Hospital in Valdez, Alaska.

Deaconess's House, Kawagoe, Japan.

The Deaconess in Kawagoe, and her Sunday-school Class.

Home of the Deaconess in Soochow, China.

Children of St. Faith's School, Soochow, China.

Deaconess's House, Honolulu, Hawaii.

The work of an English Deaconess. A congregation in Basutoland, South Africa.

The House of Mercy, Washington, D.C.

Holy Trinity Lodge in the Latin Quarter, Paris.

A Deaconess in Manila.

The Settlement House in Manila.

The Deaconess in Alaska travels many miles in wagons or on horseback, to reach her points of work.

Canon 20--"Of Deaconesses,"

From the Digest of the Canons of the General Convention as amended by the General Convention, 1904; the original Canon passed in 1889.

§ i. A woman of devout character and proved fitness, unmarried or widowed, may be appointed Deaconess by any Bishop of this Church. Such appointment shall be vacated by marriage.

§ ii. The duty of a Deaconess is to assist the Minister in the care of the poor and sick, the religious training of the young and others, and the work of moral reformation.

§ iii. No woman shall be appointed Deaconess until she shall be at least twenty-three years of age, nor until she shall have laid before the Bishop testimonials certifying that she is a communicant of this Church in good standing and that she possesses such characteristics as, in the judgment of the person testifying, fit her for at least one of the duties above defined. The testimonial of fitness shall be signed by two Presbyters of this Church, and by twelve lay communicants of the same, six of whom shall be women. The Bishop shall also satisfy himself that the applicant has had an adequate preparation for her work, both technical and religious, which preparation shall have covered the period of two years.

§ iv. No Deaconess shall accept work in a Diocese without the express authority in writing of the Bishop of that Diocese; nor shall she undertake work in a Parish without the like authority from the Rector of the Parish.

§ v. When not connected with a Parish, the Deaconess shall be under the direct oversight of the Bishop of the Diocese in which she is canonically resident. A Deaconess may be transferred from one Diocese to another by Letters Testimonial.

§ vi. A Deaconess may at any time resign her office to the Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese in which she is at the time canonically resident, but she may not be suspended or removed from the office except by the Bishop for cause, with the consent of the Standing Committee, and after a hearing before the Bishop and the Standing Committee.

§ vii. No woman shall be recognized as a Deaconess until she has been set apart for that office by an appropriate religious service, to be prescribed by the General Convention, or, in the absence of such prescription, by the Bishop.


To a person asking the question "What is a Deaconess?" the above Canon gives the official answer of our authorities, corresponding in most particulars with what has been put forth in recent years by the Church of England. The office of Deaconess is hardly discernible to-day in other portions of the Catholic Church, whether Eastern or Western. It is essentially the revival of a Primitive Order and to the Rev. Wm. R. Huntington, D.D., rector of Grace church, New York, is due the credit for the untiring efforts which have enlisted much of the interest in the subject unquestionably felt in America to-day.

Scarcely half a century has elapsed since the subject began to take definite shape in the minds of devout men and women here and abroad; but, short as the time is, so much has been accomplished that it has been found necessary to confine the present article to a brief examination of this period alone, leaving the interesting study of the position and work of Deaconesses in the primitive Church to a subsequent paper. Even with this modification, no attempt has been made to exhaust the subject. Many very interesting institutions have necessarily been wholly passed over, the intention having rather been to suggest a study of the peculiar characteristics presented in the development of the institution under varying circumstances. It is, however, to the ideal set forth in those early ages that the work of the present time owes its inspiration, and we doubt if any of the readers of this brief account of what is being accomplished by the Deaconesses who are devoting their lives to the cause of Christ and His Church today will be satisfied until they have learned something of the spirit which called this earnest company of workers into being.

To those who desire to make this study by themselves, we commend a most interesting volume entitled "The Ministry of Deaconesses," by Deaconess Cecilia Robinson, published by Methuen & Company, London, in 1898. The singularly gifted author of this work, now entered into her rest, has presented the whole subject in a scholarly and attractive manner, and from her book much that is of interest in the present paper has been drawn.

The revival of the institution of Deaconesses was begun in the United States. The Diocese of Maryland may lay undisputed claim to the honor, an association known as the "United Deaconesses" having begun its work in Baltimore in 1855. These Deaconesses were admitted to their office by the bishop, and were under his direct supervision, living together in community, as the "Associated Deaconesses." They were presided over by the "First Deaconess," and were chiefly occupied with nursing and teaching.

We next hear of the movement in Alabama, where the Deaconess Institution was established by Bishop Wilmer in 1864. The chief work of its members was the care of an orphanage and of schools for girls. The Deaconesses lived in community, "not simply for convenience, but from a deep, conscientious conviction that they can in this way more effectually work for the glory of God, and the good of mankind." They worked under the personal supervision of the bishop. In 1872 another beginning was made by Bishop Littlejohn, in Brooklyn. The preceding year the subject had been discussed in the General Convention of the Church, and had met with much sympathy and encouragement. The paper of "Principles and Suggested Rules," which had just been issued by some of the English bishops, was read at the convention, and formed the basis of the Deaconesses' Association in Long Island. This institution differed from its two predecessors in being chiefly parochial, and in having no community life. It resembled them in being under the immediate control of the bishop, by whom the Deaconesses were set apart to their office, though without the laying-on of hands. Of these original institutions, that in Alabama alone still continues its work. The one in Maryland has ceased to exist, while that in Long Island has become a Sisterhood.

To St. George's parish belongs the distinction of having had the first Deaconess in the City of New York. In 1887 Miss Julia E. Forneret was set apart for the work by Bishop Potter, in the parish church, at the request of the Rev. Dr. Rainsford. Deaconess Forneret was joined shortly after by Miss Clara H. Simpson and Miss Hildegard van Brockdorff, who were subsequently made Deaconesses, and the work has gone on without interruption. These first Deaconesses were all trained in the parish; but at the present time the New York Training School is looked to for that phase of the work.

These were, however, isolated efforts, by which experience was gained and the way prepared for more united action. Nothing of importance could be accomplished until the sanction of the Church as a whole had been won, and this was not obtained easily. From the year 1868 onward the subject was again and again brought before the General Convention. Dr. Muhlenberg, and Mr. William Welsh were perhaps the first advocates of the cause, whose chief leader has since been Dr. Huntington, of New York. The Board of Missions, in 1871, had strongly recommended the opening of institutions "for the training of Deaconesses for service in the Church's missionary or educational work," but eighteen years elapsed before any definite step was taken.

The first Englishman to take up the study of the subject was Dean Howson, who published a paper in 1858, and in 1862 produced a very elaborate work calling attention to the references to Deaconesses in the apostolic age and the centuries that immediately succeeded it. Meanwhile, in 1861, Bishop Tait, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, set apart Elizabeth Catherine Ferard as the first Deaconess of the Church of England. Elizabeth Ferard came of an old Huguenot family. She had always desired to give her life to some definite Church work; and having been much impressed by a visit to the institution at Kaiserwerth, where the Germans had already begun the training of women, she came home and offered herself to the bishop. She was very loth to assume the post of Head Deaconess, but, as no one else could be found, was finally persuaded to accept it. The work grew slowly. Some of its best friends hindered its progress by accepting a low ideal. All was new and untried. The right women were hard to find; and those who first started had to feel their way and buy their experience. An elementary school was undertaken in the neighborhood of King's Cross, London, for the poor children of the neighborhood; and here the first Probationers were taught. This little house was soon found too small, and a move was made to larger premises in Westbourne Park. Here a piece of land with two houses already built and sufficient ground to build a chapel was purchased through the generosity of a friend. At first, the second of the small houses, St. Gabriel's, was used as a Nursery Home for such of the sick poor as were not eligible for ordinary hospitals; in after years it was changed to an Industrial Home for Girls, and at present it is needed for the Sisters. From St. Andrew's, the larger house, many Deaconesses have gone forth during these past years to found other houses, both in England and elsewhere; some with Community life, as in the Mother House, and some without. Under the present Constitution, the bishop of the diocese is Visitor, and one of the assistant bishops of the diocese, the Warden. The latter appoints the Sub-Warden, and after consultation with the Community, the Chaplain also. The Superior is elected by the Community, the election requiring confirmation by the bishop. The work is mainly parochial. It is carried on in fourteen parishes in London, and in two workhouse infirmaries. Two Sisters are occupied in a Convalescent Home for Men and Women at Westgate-on-Sea. One is Superior of a Deaconess Community in Christ Church, New Zealand, and two are working among the Kaffirs in the diocese of Grahamstown, Cape Colony. The training includes the usual branches of parochial work, especially religious teaching, experience in nursing, and theological instruction. The desire is to give such training as shall enable the Sisters to minister wisely and sympathetically to the suffering, sinning people who shall be entrusted to their care. The Holy Eucharist is celebrated daily in the chapel, and the Day Hours are recited. Retreats and Quiet Days are held regularly, both for the Deaconesses and their Associates, who number over one hundred. A quarterly magazine, entitled "Ancilla Domini," gives most interesting accounts of the work.

The second Deaconess Institution in England was founded in 1869 by Dr. Harold Browne, who was then Bishop of Ely. Not long after it was started, a severe outbreak of small-pox occurred in the town, and the help which the Deaconesses were able to render at that critical time won for them many warm friends. Other beginnings were also made in the diocese of Chester in 1869, in Canterbury in 1874, and in Salisbury in 1875. In 1880 an institution in East London was started by Bishop Walsham How, another warm friend of the movement, and every few years the system took root in fresh soil.

When Bishop Harold Browne was translated to Winchester, he established another Deaconess Home at Farnham, in 1879. Here it remained for some years under his direct supervision, but was later removed to Portsmouth as a better centre for the work. The greater number of these Winchester Deaconesses are also Sisters in the Community of St. Andrew. There are also Deaconesses working in various parts of the diocese who received their training in this central house, which is their headquarters, and where they are yearly welcomed at the summer festival and Retreat, and at other times "for purposes of devotion and rest." Sister Emma, called by Bishop Browne to be the first member, has been from the very start the "Mother Superior," alike the pioneer and mainstay of the movement.

The group of buildings at Portsmouth has been developed with rare skill. Beauty and quiet reign on every hand. But the chief charm of the place centres in the chapel. All else in the house is plain and frugal; but loving devotion has been lavished upon this little House of God. Everything is well proportioned and in good taste. An Early English arch encloses a small apsidal chancel, within which stands an exquisitely painted altar. The reredos is of carved stone, representing the Crucifixion, and cross and lights and flowers, with the seven red lamps ever burning overhead, bear eloquent testimony to the beauty of holiness. Here there is a celebration of the Holy Eucharist four times a week. On Sundays every one attends the church of the parish in which she works; but the Canonical hours are regularly observed in the chapel. Here, constantly throughout the day, and not only at the stated hours, earnest worshippers seek and find the help they need for their life and work.

When, a few years ago, an opportunity presented itself for opening the door of the Home to temporary workers and students, candidates for the Foreign Mission field under the auspices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and other societies, came seeking preparation for their noble work, and since then there has passed through the Home a succession of keen and enthusiastic missionary students, for whom their parent societies have been glad to secure training in a Religious house about which centred so many wide activities. Life "by rule" in St. Andrew's Home becomes, as one of the students expressed it, "not only tolerable, but happy--most of those who have tried it would say wonderfully happy."

The opening of the Home in South London by Bishop Thorold, then Bishop of Rochester, marked an important era in the movement. It was called the "Deaconess Institution for the Dioceses of Rochester and Southwark." Mrs. Isabella Gilmore, the widow of a British naval officer, was invited by the bishop to undertake the work, with the title of "Head Diocesan Deaconess," and she has given us a graphic picture of the early days.

"In the year 1884 the Diocesan Conference decided to have a Deaconess Institution, and Bishop Thorold was asked to take steps to found one. It was not, however, until the year 1887 that it began in a small house in Clapham Park. There were many difficulties at the start; in looking over old papers referring to the Rules and Constitution and work planned for us, I can only feel how gaily and blithely it was all talked of; no one seemed to dream that there would be any difficulty in getting a good woman to be the head, and any number more who would work with her. The first woman, Miss Martin, who was appointed Head Deaconess, died quite suddenly at Selsdon Park, while staying there with the bishop, making plans for the future. It was not until more than a year after that Bishop Thorold heard of me, and asked me to accept this post. I was at that time a Sister at Guy's Hospital; and I cannot say that I was drawn to the indefinite sort of work it seemed to me I should have to do. But I loved the poor and had worked much among them, and presently an unmistakable call came to me to give myself to the multitudes of South London. Like other people, I thought there would be any number of good women only too glad to come and share the joy of work for the Master amongst His poor; but no, I, too, had to wait.

"Bishop Thorold set me apart as Deaconess, in our first little chapel, on April 16, 1887. Many of the dear friends who gathered around me then have gone to their rest, and it is very beautiful to look back and think of the warm hearts and loving wishes that sent me on my way--a way often very hard and difficult, but always blest and happy.

"I began my work in two Battersea parishes, and was nothing more than an ordinary parish Deaconess; one lady came to the institution; she and I worked together alone for many months, waiting for others to come.

"At that time my life was entirely absorbed by my work for and with the people; but a time came when I realized that there was a far larger work in front of me, viz., my share in the revival of the ancient order of Deaconess. Fortunately for myself and for this institution, our then Warden, Canon Toone, understood the question and cared for it. Let me state now what are the 'Rochester Lines,' and how they grew. In 1887 there were seven or eight Diocesan Deaconess Institutions; two of them were doing much good and active work, but all of them were working upon Sisterhood lines. The Deaconesses in them were called 'Sister,' lived in community, working under their Head Deaconess as under a Mother Superior, who sent them out and recalled them. We felt that though the Sisterhoods had their great work in the Church, it was not ours; and I can remember how firmly Bishop Thorold said, "A quasi Sisterhood I will not have." We then planned out together our future: the women were to be as nearly as possible in the same position as the Deacons; and they were to work solely under their Parish Priest; they were to be free of the institution except so far as it was to be a house of rest and refreshment; they were to receive their own stipends and in all ways manage their own affairs; they were to live in their parish, and if a near relation could live with them, so much the better; in any difficulty the matter was to be referred to the bishop. According to 'Rochester Lines,' a Deaconess is an official of the Church under the authority of the bishop, and must not be confused with a Sister.

"At the end of our fourth year, we had outgrown our first house, and we moved into one of the stately mansions of Clapham Common, whose lovely garden of eight acres was to be 'developed,' leaving us the house and a fair amount of ground; four years later it was purchased and invested in the Rochester Church Trust. In 1901, under the help and guidance of our Warden, Archdeacon Daniell, our Council amended the Constitution and Rules. The age at which a Deaconess was to be set apart was raised from twenty-five to thirty, and women were allowed to be trained here to be lay workers, licensed by the bishop, but whose work was not permanent, like that of the Deaconess. With regard to growth and numbers, forty-one women have been made Deaconesses here; four of these are Head Deaconesses elsewhere, and there are seven lay workers and nine students in the house. To-day our Diocesan Deaconesses live in their own homes, sometimes a flat, sometimes lodging. Frequently a father, a mother, a sister, or aunt may live with them; but it must be in the parish to which they are licensed, and in the midst of their people. They receive their own stipend--L75 per annum, or its equivalent. They are not bound to come to the diocesan institution at any time, but it is considered wise that they should attend, if possible, the monthly service there, and once a year the bishop calls on them to attend there for a Retreat. They are always welcome to come for rest, or in case of illness, or when they are in any trouble or sorrow."

The present Archbishop of Canterbury was at one time the president of this institution, as the Bishop of Rochester, and when subsequently translated to the See of Winchester, his interest in the movement continued to be shown there, in connection with the prosperous work which has been above referred to. At the present time he is keenly alive to the progress of the movement, and is numbered amongst the very warmest friends of the schools in this country.

During all these years there has been a continual discussion of the subject, and in 1897 it received the formal recognition and approval of the whole body of Anglican bishops assembled at Lambeth. The eleventh resolution of the Conference declares: "That this Conference recognizes with thankfulness the revival alike of Brotherhoods and Sisterhoods and of the office of Deaconess, in our branch of the Church, and commends to the attention of the Church the report of the committee appointed to consider the Relation of Religious Communities to the Episcopate."

In America, the adoption of the Canon of 1889 marked a new beginning in the history of the Deaconess cause. With a view to furnishing the preparation therein required, there was opened, experimentally, in October, 1890, with the approval of the Bishop of the diocese of New York, and under the patronage of the Rector of Grace church, a school known as "Grace House Training School for Deaconesses." It was under the immediate care of the Rev. Haslett McKim, D.D., whose services were gratuitously rendered, and he was assisted by a staff of ten teachers.

The result of the first year proved so satisfactory that it was determined by the promoters of the school to incorporate it under a new name; to place it under the management of a board of trustees; and by giving to the bishop of the diocese the right of nomination in the filling of all vacancies in the Board, to relieve the institution of the look of being a merely parochial undertaking. The school was forthwith incorporated under the laws of the State of New York, and although it has retained a quasi connection with Grace Parish, inasmuch as the classes continue to meet in Grace Settlement, the tie has ceased to be a necessary one, and the institution has become, to all intents and purposes, general in its scope and reach.

The school is presided over by a Dean, Deaconess Susan Trevor Knapp. It is governed by a board of trustees, and has a faculty consisting of nine clergymen, one physician and six women. There are at present eighty graduates, fifty of whom are Deaconesses. Many women enter the school and are trained for the mission field and for parish work who have no thought of becoming Deaconesses; and many of the missionaries now laboring in foreign lands are among the latter number. Deaconesses from the New York school are at present at work in thirteen dioceses and missionary jurisdictions within the limits of the United States; also in Nova Scotia, in the Latin Quarter of Paris, in China, in Japan, and in the Hawaiian and Philippine Islands.

A glimpse of the day's routine in the school may prove interesting. The rising bell sounds at half-past six. By seven-thirty it is expected that all the household will have assembled in the Oratory. Parochial relations are left entirely to the students, and it is desired, and proven by experience to be true, that the ladies come for their training from parishes of the most divergent schools of thought. The students are therefore expected to go to their parish church for their Communions, and the devotions in the Oratory, which has no altar, correspond to the family prayers of a devout household. After breakfast, which is at a quarter to eight, housework, in which every student is expected to take her part, occupies the time until nine o'clock. A study hour follows, and then the regular instructions continue until twenty minutes past twelve. The curriculum is modelled very much upon that of a Theological Seminary, and a high standard is insisted upon both in regard to scholarship and the development of character. Luncheon is served at one o'clock, preceding which the students assemble again in the Oratory for an Intercessory Service, lasting about a quarter of an hour. Very touching petitions are oftentimes sent in by people outside the school to be offered at this time, and it is always a great joy to the earnest women who gather for this purpose, to have their friends and persons unknown to them avail themselves of this means of having their requests made known unto God.

The students are carefully restricted in their afternoon work that they may have time for exercise and recreation. During this time, and in the evening, the elective studies, Greek and Ecclesiastical Music, are taken up; also the practical courses in Plain Sewing, Ecclesiastical Embroidery, Nursing--taught by a resident graduate nurse--Book-keeping, Cooking and Laundry Work, from which the students are at liberty to make their own choice.

Afternoon tea at five o'clock is an informal affair, at which visitors are always expected. Dinner is at half-past six; and the day closes with prayers at nine. The prayers ended, silence is enjoined, and conversation ceases until after the service next morning. Lights are out at eleven o'clock.

"We do nothing" (writes the Warden, the Rev. Dr. Huntington), "to encourage, and, if there were need, should do everything to discourage, the tendency to conform to the Sisterhood type of life. Our idea is that the Deaconess is emphatically either a diocesan or a parochial helper of the clergy. If she is serving in a diocesan institution, school, hospital, or the like, she is then in a direct relation to the bishop. If she is serving in a parish, then her position is precisely that of a curate, with only this difference--that her duties are such as a woman can properly undertake."

Bishop Greer finds in this school his Deaconesses for the work in the Bronx. At present there are five residents at St. Agatha's House, on One-hundred-and-seventy-first Street, and morning by morning they start out on a round of calls in the various parishes in the vicinity, returning in the evening after a long day's work. These visits bring them into touch with a thrifty, well-to-do class of people, quite different from those with whom the parish visitor often has to deal, and very happy results are confidently expected.

The Philadelphia Church Training and Deaconess House, though founded a little subsequently to the New York school, is in all essential particulars a sister institution. What is said of the training in one may be taken as representing in large measure the spirit of the other. Deaconesses have already been sent out to twenty different dioceses and missionary jurisdictions within the limits of the United States. It also numbers a great many trained workers in the foreign field who have not been made Deaconesses. Altogether seventy-seven women have been graduated, and of these, forty-five are Deaconesses. Deaconess Caroline N. Sanford is the "House Mother" of the school. The Rev. James De Wolf Perry, D.D., is Warden, while the President is, as in the case of all Deaconess Institutions, the bishop of the diocese. Bishop Whitaker, who founded the school in 1891, has always taken the greatest interest in its welfare, and during the past year he has directed that a fund of $30,000, which had been raised by the diocese in honor of the twentieth anniversary of his elevation to the Episcopate, should be applied toward an endowment fund. Miss Mary Coles should be mentioned here, as a lady who, while disclaiming the title of "Foundress," has, from the inception of the movement, been identified in every possible way with the successful progress of the work.

The Associates have been a strong arm of help to this institution, and have made it possible to show much generous hospitality to God's servants in the Church. This hospitality is characteristic of Deaconess Institutions in general. The new missionary, just starting out on her untried labors, the weary one coming home for a well-earned rest, others passing to and fro with their various messages, find in these institutions a place to pause and gather that fresh strength and refreshment which the word of love and sympathy in a common interest always gives. Another feature of special interest in connection with this school is the Deaconess Retiring Fund Society, incorporated in 1897, and intended to aid Deaconesses in making some provision for old age. "Ryemoor," West Sumner, Me., is a Vacation Home open to Deaconesses and graduates of the various training schools in the country, but managed from the Philadelphia House.

St. Martha's House, on the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Snyder Avenue, is a unique institution, established in the midst of one of the most crowded quarters of Philadelphia, and supplying loving spiritual care, together with bodily comfort and recreation, to a multitude of poor. The Deaconess in charge is assisted by a strong corps of resident workers; and here, too, the students from the Training School gain much of their experience.

The week at St. Martha's is a full one. There is the Domestic Circle of Mothers, The Girls' Guild, The Saving Fund, Mothers' Sales, Boys' Work with its many clubs, and The Kindergarten. The question is frequently asked: "What, exactly, is the work of a Deaconess?" This question will perhaps best be answered by a description of the life which is being lived by Parish Deaconesses to-day.

Let our readers picture to themselves two little rooms in a not very inviting-looking street in one of the big city parishes. For the Deaconess wants to live in the midst of her people, and suitable lodgings, with a clean, comfortable landlady, are not always easy to find. She may be fortunate enough to be in a parish which possesses a Church House, in which she will have her own rooms. But, however unattractive they may look from the outside, you will be sure to find them bright and cozy within; the nice white curtains, polished floor, tasteful, though simple furniture, with pictures, books and little personal effects, forming a pleasing contrast to some of the surroundings. The sitting-room is brightened by plants and flowers, often the gift of loving fellow-workers. We have known Deaconesses whose rooms were in this way kept constantly supplied with fresh flowers almost the whole year round, the donors explaining, "Deaconess will not let us give her anything else, but she cannot refuse to accept flowers." And indeed she is grateful, for she wants her room to be as beautiful as possible, feeling that it, like herself, has a silent witness to offer and a work to do in bringing the refining influences of Christianity to bear upon the lives and homes of those around her. So she will spare no pains in keeping her house as fresh and bright as possible, that it may help to rest and cheer the many tired city workers who will come to see her there, and will go away stimulated to try to make their own homes more like that of "our Deaconess." We remember the delight of a Deaconess who had put some pretty muslin curtains in her window, when she saw within a few days the exact copy of them appear in a neighboring window, which before had displayed a very shabby pair!

The Deaconess is an early riser; for these first morning hours are the only ones she can really call her own, and they are invaluable to her as the time in which she gets her quiet reading and prayer, and prepares for the day's work. By 8:30 AM she has probably already been to her devotions in the parish church, and had her breakfast, and is now sitting at her desk. But, early as she is, she cannot be sure of being long undisturbed, for her people are early, too, and by and by comes a knock at the door. Interruptions are among the things that a Deaconess has to learn to suffer gladly, and she rises at once to respond to some such request as: "Please, Deaconess, mother wants a letter for the Children's Hospital, as Johnny is worse again," or, "Please Deaconess, father's got the bronchitis, and mother said would you lend her a steam kettle." The request granted the Deaconess drops into her chair again, looking up presently to glance at the clock and close her book with a little sigh; for this may be one of the mornings when she has a class to instruct, and she must set an example of punctuality. Or, if it is Monday, she is probably due at the parish house, to meet the clergy; report special cases, and receive her share of the coming week's work. For the Deaconess is the servant of the clergy; she does not plan out her own work, but receives it from her rector. Her duties will vary, therefore, according to the wishes of those under whom she serves. Before starting she picks up her bag (a wonderful arrangement which the children think contains everything), and glances to see that it is provided with all she is likely to require during the day. It may be her duty to attend at the vestry or parish room, there to help or represent the clergy in receiving the applications for various kinds of relief. Perhaps, too, she has started a Mothers' Meeting, and half an hour will be spent in giving out needlework to some of the very poor women--widows, or mothers whose husbands are out of work. The sewing will be done at odd intervals at home, and when the work is brought back, the Deaconess will receive it and see that it is paid for.

By eleven o'clock she is generally free to set out on her morning's round of visits. This will vary with the day. In the early part of the week she will probably be collecting the savings of the people for the Provident Club, and she will have to pay a great many calls in one morning, passing rapidly from house to house, with a few cheery words in each; but always ready to stop where she is really wanted, to visit a sick child, make a poultice, dress a burn, or listen to some tale of trouble, as the case may be. Or perhaps one of the District Visitors has sent to tell her that she is unable to do her work this week, and cannot find any-one to take her place. So the Deaconess is off to that street, glad of the opportunity of a talk with some whom she does not often see, and making the acquaintance of new-comers. It may be that she is running round with the notices of some special service or meeting, notices which are far more likely to be read and attended to if they are accompanied by a few persuasive words, and the assurance, "Now, Mrs. Brown, I shall be there, and shall be looking out for you and your husband." Then there is some beef-tea to be taken to a sick person, and a chop to be bought for the dinner of some delicate mother, just convalescent, and thinking too much of the children to take proper care of herself. Possibly her bag contains a bunch of flowers, or a picture book for the little sick child whose pale face will brighten at the sight of her "Deakness." She will need to exercise much tact, will learn to see quickly where she is not wanted, and will have a due respect for "washing days," and the hour when the husband is expected home to dinner, and the wife is busy "dishing up." But there will always be those whose work has been stopped by sickness, or laid aside in old age, who welcome gladly the visit of the Deaconess, even if she can only spare a few minutes to repeat a hymn, or pass on some cheering thought which has come into her own mind during her early morning reading.

Thus the morning flies all too quickly, and by one o'clock she is quite ready for her midday meal and rest. If she is a well-disciplined Deaconess, she will repress the desire to pay just one more visit, and will return to her room for a short hour's rest. But even this is by no means secure, for her people know that this is one of the few times to catch the Deaconess at home. She may find one of the other workers waiting to tell her of some one who is ill or in trouble, whom she would be glad if the Deaconess could find time to visit, or perhaps her advice is sought about some difficult case which has just presented itself in another district. The Deaconess responds gladly, for the bond between the other workers and herself is one which she is ever trying to draw closer, realizing what a source of strength it may be on both sides.

A few minutes' quiet, and she is ready for her afternoon work. If it is Monday there will possibly be a Mothers' Meeting to attend. It will doubtless be conducted by some other lady worker, but the Deaconess will be there to help, and perhaps to give an address at the close. Or it may be the day when her band of workers meets to help in the cutting out of the garments which supply the Mothers' Meeting. This is always a very happy afternoon, for these helpers are themselves working women, giving up their hard-earned leisure to do this piece of work for the Church. And very quickly and well they do it, chatting all the time about parish matters, and drawing close together over their labor of love. You may find these same women on another afternoon, sitting in the Deaconess's room, busily occupied in mending the cassocks and surplices of the Church, and enjoying a cup of tea over their work. At sales of second-hand clothing, Sunday-school treats and parochial teas their help is quite invaluable, and the Deaconess wonders how any parish can get on without them. For she knows she can always turn to some of them if she wants beef-tea or a bowl of jelly made for the sick, a child taken to the hospital, or a kindly office performed for some neighbor in trouble. They, in their turn, learn to feel it a privilege to have their share in the ministry of the Church they love.

But perhaps there is no afternoon meeting, and the Deaconess is free to spend the time in visiting. She looks through her list of special cases, and is off to read to an old woman or a bedridden man. Then there are absentees from the Mothers' Meeting or a guild of some sort to be enquired after, truants from the Sunday-school to be looked up, irregular communicants to be called upon, a visit of comfort to be paid to one in trouble, or some one who has been slipping away from the right path to be warned and helped. She must be prepared, too, for unexpected calls, such as, "Please, mother wants to speak to you," from a little voice at her side, or "Deaconess, can you spare a minute or two?" from a window, opposite. There is hardly anything she will not be asked to do, from making a will to drawing a tooth! She will be sent for before the doctor in sickness and instead of a policeman to settle a quarrel! She has taught her people that she is their servant, and they will not fail to make use of her. The sense of appropriation with which they talk about "our Deaconess" is very delightful.

But again, on another afternoon she dons her best cloak and gloves, and you know that she is off to pay what are termed "calls." Each of these visits has some definite object. Either she is in need of a Sunday-school teacher to supply a vacancy, or another helper in her Girls' Club, or she wants to consult a District Visitor about some case in her district, or to enlist the interest of one of the wealthier members of the congregation in some poor family. If she is wise, she will not grudge the time thus spent, but will look upon it as an important part of her work. For she forms a sort of connecting link between the rich and the poor, and may do much to bridge over the gulf between what are called "the classes" and "the masses." The apparent indifference and want of sympathy for the suffering and sorrow around them, of which the rich are so often accused, is due far more to "want of thought" than "want of heart." It is difficult to realize needs with which one never comes into contact; while the desire to help is often discouraged by the fear of pauperizing, and the difficulty of discovering the really deserving cases. There are many who, though they may feel themselves unfitted or unable to take a personal share in the work will yet gladly do all in their power to strengthen the hands of one whom they feel to be in a certain sense their representative. Very warm friends for herself and her people the Deaconess may make in this way. They will send her letters for hospitals and convalescent homes, flowers and fruit for the sick, old clothes for her sales, toys and books for the children. They will employ her women in their houses, help to find situations for her boys, and get her girls into service. Nor will she let them rest content with a vicarious form of charity, but will strive to bring them into that personal touch with her people which may be helpful to both.

With regard to the difficult question of charity, the Deaconess will probably tell you that she wishes it could be taken out of her hands altogether. It takes long to teach some of her poor folk that she is not merely a dispenser of the alms of the Church, whose chief duty is to distribute tickets for coal and groceries. She wants to be welcomed for her Master's sake, and not for what she may have to give; and she is rather pleased than otherwise when a woman shouts after her down the street, "I shan't turn religious for what you've got to give away!" But in most parishes the distribution of assistance will form one of her duties, and in this work she will gladly welcome and cooperate with the organized associations of the town. Loth as she is to spend her time at committees, she will generally contrive to spare an hour or two to attend to this one, for the sake of the experience she will gain and the information and advice she can give. She has cause to be very grateful to the public societies for the substantial help which they are often able to give in cases whose needs were beyond the limits of the parochial funds--sick folk sent to convalescent homes, families tided over times of special difficulty, bread-winners set upon their feet again, girls got into homes or service, and old age provided with a pension which removes the constant fear of the poorhouse.

By this time the afternoon is over, and the Deaconess has fairly earned her cup of tea, and enjoys it as only a tired worker can. Perhaps, too, she has asked some other worker to join her, an opportunity which is not a little appreciated by those who have once come and enjoyed a cozy chat about their work, with its pleasures and difficulties. This is a capital way of getting to know the day and Sunday-school teachers and other Church helpers; and many a confidence has been reposed in the Deaconess during these quiet talks, to be repaid by her sympathy and advice.

Then follows Evening Prayer in church--a very restful and refreshing half hour. And now, if she is fortunate, she may have an hour or two of quiet before the inevitable evening engagement. You will find her again at her desk, preparing an address for the Mothers' Meeting or Bible-class, writing up her parish books and reports, doing her club accounts, writing an article for the parish magazine, or more rarely indulging in the luxury of some reading for her own benefit. Very happy she thinks herself if she is allowed to remain undisturbed; but at the best the time goes all too quickly, and before eight o'clock she is off again. The evening work varies with the day. Now it is a rehearsal for an entertainment which she has to superintend, and tomorrow it will be a parish reception, where she must be in time to shake hands with everybody. Or she may be responsible for the Sunday-school teachers' class, a very enjoyable piece of work; and another night there is a service in the Mission Room, at which she will be needed to lead the singing. Then there is a Girls' Club or a night school class--very interesting, though somewhat exhausting; or instead of these she may have a women's Bible-class or Communicants' Guild. At certain times of the year there may be candidates for confirmation requiring her instruction. If there should happen to be no meeting, she is very glad of the opportunity to call upon one or two of the workingmen, who are never to be found at home except in the evening, and who, when once she has got to know them, often prove her warmest friends. If space permitted, we could recall many delightful instances of the generous and ready help received from these men. We think especially of one Deaconess who was fortunate enough to have a little bit of garden attached to the Church House in which she lived. All the year round this was kept bright and beautiful by a workingman, who freely gave up some of his few hours' rest, day after day, to cultivate it, and grow the flowers which went to brighten many a sick room in the parish.

But now the day is drawing to a close, and ten o'clock finds the Deaconess back in her rooms, weary in the work, but not of it, conscious that she is but an "unprofitable servant," and seeking only that her Master's word at the last may be: "She hath done what she could."

Now and then she will get that delightful thing in a Deaconess's life--a spare evening. Then, if she be fortunate enough to live within easy reach of the Deaconess Institution by trolley or train, she will run over for a few hours, and perhaps stay the night, to get a sight of those in the Home, and a chat with the Head Deaconess. Very comforting these talks are, and well worth all the trouble of the journey. For, hard-worked and weary as the Head Deaconess may be, she is never too tired to welcome her children, to listen to the account of all their difficulties, to sympathize with their story of success or failure, and to advise and encourage them in times of trial. "A visit to the Head Deaconess is a sort of moral tonic," said one, and in the bracing atmosphere of the Home, the sisterly intercourse with those who are still in training, above all, in the simple and peaceful services in the beautiful chapel, her soul is endued with fresh strength for the work of her ministry.

And now and again the Deaconess sets off to pay a flying visit to a sister Deaconess. Over their cup of tea they compare notes and exchange experiences, and are drawn very close together in the bond of common work and mutual sympathy. Once a month, also, a service at the Home affords the Deaconesses an opportunity of meeting not only each other, but other workers associated with the Institution. And once or twice a year a visit from their bishop, or a call to "Retreat" or to a "Quiet Day," brings them together, and helps them to realize their union with each other in the "fellowship of the Gospel."

One day in the seven is set apart for rest. This will probably be Saturday, for, unlike most workers, Sunday with the Deaconess is one of the busiest days of the week. If she is wise, she will guard this resting time carefully, knowing that it is absolutely essential if she is to keep bright and fresh amid the sad surroundings of her life. Happy the Deaconess who is able to run over to her home for the day, or whose friends are near at hand, and who can thus gain the refreshment which comes from complete change of thought. For the special consecration which the Deaconess has received does not sever family ties, nor cut her off from her friends. Rather does it give them a new value, and we can safely say that no one appreciates a holiday more thoroughly than the Deaconess, when the summer comes round, and brings with it her well-earned month's rest.

Our readers will see that a life such as this does not leave much room for loneliness. Of course, the Deaconess, like all other workers, will have her times of depression. She will meet with disappointments in her work, and the more she loves her people, the more she will feel their troubles, and the more anxious she will be when they go wrong. But, on the other hand, their affection, shown in many touching, sometimes amusing ways, will be a source of constant delight to her, the growth in grace and Christian character which she will watch in one and another, will comfort her not a little, the successes will atone for the failures, and she will tell you that the words of her Master are literally true, and that she does, indeed, receive a hundredfold in return for anything she may have given up for His sake.


We are indebted to the Rt. Rev. Wm. Paret, Bishop of Maryland, for some very interesting additional facts in connection with the establishment of the Institution of Deaconesses in Maryland. The bishop's letter follows. It is much to be desired that all persons having access to information relative to the early history of the "Organized Workers" of the Church in this country will communicate with the compiler of this series of articles, in care of THE CHURCHMAN.

My dear Mr. Rich:

In answer to your letter making inquiry about Deaconesses and their relation to this diocese, I send you, beside the answers to your own direct questions, the following statement:

Entry from Bishop Whittingham's Journal for Nov. 4, 1856

"Morning; I visited the Infirmary in Exeter Street and formally accepted the Rule of it, as offered to me by the Associate Sisters in their Instrument to that effect dated Nov. 3.

"Notified them of such acceptance, and of the appointment of the Rev. Wm. C. Crane, Presbyter, as Rector or Warden by a formal Instrument."

This was the beginning of St. Andrew's Infirmary, presided over by four Deaconesses living in community at the infirmary, No. 64 South Exeter Street. At this place they worked with good results until Feb. 9, 1858, when St. Andrew's Infirmary became consolidated with the Church Home and Infirmary, the Deaconesses continuing their work of nursing and supervising for some years (until 1864 or thereabouts), at which time the Sisterhood of the Good Shepherd was formed, the earlier order of Deaconesses being the nucleus of this. In 1874 this community was invited by the Bishop of Missouri to remove to his diocese, and there the Sisterhood of the Good Shepherd is found to-day, 1907.

At the time of the removal, there were surviving two members of the original order of Deaconesses. These were offered, and they accepted a home for their remaining days in the Church Home, preferring not to go to the new home of the Sisterhood.

(These notes are from contemporary reports of the Church Home and from a sketch of the work of St. Andrew's Infirmary which appeared in The Monitor of Feb. 13, 1857, by Bishop Whittingham, written but a few months after his formal acceptance of the Order of Deaconesses.)

Yours truly,
Bishop of Maryland


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