Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fliedner's Training and Consecration of Deaconesses

Theodor Fliedner provided the probationary deaconesses in Kaiserswerth, Germany, with a hefty set of guidelines for day-to-day living and working in institutions of mercy. For example, the women were told how to carry out their duties in hospitals, especially in terms of following the doctors' instructions for medicine, diet, or ventilation for each patient; how to make daily reports to the doctors; and how to assist the pastors without imposing their Christian belief on those who were not receptive [to witness to Christ through their actions instead when necessary].

Each day the probationers and working deaconesses went to Chapel for half an hour. The time in Chapel began with the singing of a hymn, but was followed by complete silence during which each woman could choose to pray, read the Bible, or meditate on the Word. During the week there were other Bible classes and prayer meetings available to the women. In relation to this focus on God's Word, J.S. Howson once quoted Fliedner as saying, "We have no vows, and I will have no vows, but a bond of union we must have, and the best bond is the Word of God, and our second bond is singing."

The deaconesses in the various Motherhouses established by Fliedner always met together to vote on acceptance of new deaconesses into their houses and elected their own superintendent of the House. In turn, each woman was expected to obey the superintendent and to gladly and cheerfully accept whatever work was assigned to her by her superiors.

All of the German Deaconess Houses used a similar service of consecration for deaconesses. The service included singing; an address reminding the deaconesses that they are servants of Jesus, servants of the needy, and servants of one another; an opportunity for the deaconess candidates to indicate that they wish to take up such a ministry of mercy; the kneeling and blessing of the candidates; the recitation of a prayer from Apostolical Constitutions; and lastly, the service finished with the celebration of Holy Communion.

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