Sunday, March 22, 2009


With our nation's current focus on economic problems, the story of Paul Levy, the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, brings some hope that people are willing to work together on all levels to help one another through this time of crisis.

Hmmm... Did you notice that Deaconess is part of the name of Levy's hospital?  [Or have you ever noted that there are Deaconess Hospitals in St. Louis, MO; Bozeman and Billings, MT; Evansville, IN; Spokane, WA; Boston, MA; New York, NY; Oklahoma City, OK; Cincinnati, OH; Detroit, MI; Milwaukee, WI; Northwood, ND; Newburgh, IN; and so on, across our country?]

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School, well known for its biomedical research and the quality service it provides for "nearly three quarters of a million patient visits annually in and around Boston."  But this auspicious hospital began in 1896 when a group of Methodist deaconesses decided to dedicate their energies to the care of Boston's poor and sick.  In 1996, the New England Deaconess Hospital merged with Beth Israel Hospital, rendering the current hospital name.

The early history of Missouri Synod deaconesses is also closely tied to certain hospitals and institutions:  Koch Hospital and Sanatorium in St. Louis; Lutheran Hospital and later, Lutheran Homes for the Aged in Fort Wayne; the Lutheran Sanatorium in Wheat Ridge (CO); Lutheran Hospitals in Beaver Dam (WI) and Hot Springs (SD); and Bethesda in Watertown (WI).

Until 1935, most LCMS deaconesses trained as nurses.  Few are nurses today, but many are called by congregations, districts, or "recognized service organizations" to provide spiritual care in prisons, hospitals and hospices, nursing homes, group homes, and other assisted living residences.  Like the word Deaconess in the name of so many of our nation's hospitals, modern deaconesses continue to leave their mark in these important areas of service.

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