Friday, November 27, 2009


The Apostolic Constitutions (a collection of Eastern Church ecclesiastical instructions collected into one work in the 4th Century) provides historians with the clearest idea of how deaconesses were involved in the administration of the early church. Briefly, the Constitutions show that a deaconess served the church by caring for the needs of other women in specifically designated ways:

1. She was a doorkeeper at the women's entrance to the church.
2. She showed women to their places in the church, taking care to meet the particular needs of the poor and strangers.
3. She instructed women catechumens and visited their homes where men could not go.
4. She carried out certain duties pertaining to the Baptism of women.
5. She provided for the physical and spiritual needs of women in prison during times of persecution.
6. She cared for the sick and sorrowing.
7. She served as a "mediator" for the resolution of disagreements in families or among friends.

In light of Romans 16:1, it is interesting to see the Constitutions state that both deacons and deaconesses carry out work pertaining to "messages, journeys to foreign parts, ministrations, services."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Example of Deaconesses in Methodist Episcopal Church

On May 10, 1889, Edward G. Andrews wrote (in the Introduction to "Deaconesses in Europe and Their Lessons for America" by Jane Marie Bancroft:
"The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at its session in May, 1888, inserted in the law of the Church a chapter on deaconesses, defining their duties and providing for the appointment and oversight of them through the Annual Conferences."

Now that is what I consider to be prudent action! Yes, we can learn a lesson from those who became organized (way back in the 19th century) about defining the duties of their professional church workers, and making provision for both their "appointment" and their "oversight." With many deaconess candidates waiting for placement in the LCMS, it seems that some of these areas could do with review and revision - not only for the sake of those who desire to serve in the vocation of deaconess, but for the church at large.

Anyone else care to offer a thought or suggestion on this topic?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Deaconess Character in Opera

The opera King Roger, written by Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) about the Norman King Roger II of Sicily (1095 - 1154), includes a deaconess as one of its six characters. The actress who plays the deaconess sings contralto and fills a key role in the story line in Act One.

A summary of the three-act production of King Roger can be read on a website titled Operawonk, which claims to be “an operating theater for dissecting operas and disseminating operatic knowledge.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Old Testament History

When the second quarter of the school year began week, my 7th and 8th grade Biblical Studies class started a new study unit on Old Testament History. We utilize great material from Concordia Publishing House called Voyages: Exploring God's Word, which includes colorful student workbooks.

Such a course might sound a bit dry, or perhaps boring. After all, the Old Testament has a reputation for being law-oriented and irrelevant to today's world. However, my class's experience with the Old Testament doesn't support that stiff view of the Old Testament. Through the study of Scripture itself, we recognize that every story in the Old Testament presents threads of the Gospel and eye-opening relevance to both our personal life and society today.

The first two lessons in the unit were marvelous examples of this fact. In Genesis 1 and 2 we read about how God made and ordered the world that we live in. God didn't create and then just let go. He created in such a manner that our entire existence would have a pattern that was sustained by the design of God Himself: day and night; seven day weeks; a cyclical day of rest; time and seasons; partners fit for every species; marriage; and so forth.

In Genesis 3 we read of the fall into sin and can only imagine how disappointed God must have been. He took great care in creating the human race and providing an Eden-life for people. All that Adam and Eve needed to do was to fear, love, trust, and obey God the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, above all things. Fortunately, God came back to the garden to speak to Adam and Eve, in spite of the fact that He knew of their disobedience and sin. And while He informed them of the consequence of their sin ("for the wages of sin is death") He also provided the hope of a deliverer, the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) Who would one day crush Satan's head.

In the meantime God continued to show His love to Adam and Eve. He gave them clothes made from animal skins. Yes, He killed animals to cover the humans. Almost like a foreshadowing of how His Son Jesus would someday die to cover the sins of all humans. [In Holy Baptism we "put on Christ."] And He would chase them out of that beautiful garden so that they could die a physical death and have the opportunity to receive new life in Heaven with Him someday. In other words, that they might live eternally with Him in everlasting bliss. Whatever else was to come along in their long lives, they would turn to God as the bringer of their redemption, and God would forgive and renew them in His grace.

Reading with Christian eyes, we see that Old Testament History is really an account of God's grace to the human race. It's our story. Thanks be to God for such a gift!