Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Deaconess Work" Funded by German State

This year's new challenge of teaching German to Middle School students has taken me down a few unexpected paths, but certainly down some fun ones such as the exploration of German websites. On one of those journeys I came across Concordat Watch, a site dedicated to achieving the separation of Church and State as a means toward ensuring (equal) human rights for all people. Interestingly, one piece claims that "the first centralized German church charity was established by the Protestants as a response to the threat posed by the socialist workers' movement."

Among a variety of articles delivered from purely secular points of view, Concordat Watch contains (biased) information about the origin and development of deaconess work in Germany, as well as the current delivery of "Protestant" diaconal services through the organization known as Kiakonisches Werk.

Diakonisches Werk is described as presenting itself, "not as a huge state-funded corporation, but as a soup-kitchen run by deaconesses, or Protestant nuns."
These women "worked in hospitals, kindergartens, and homes for the aged. However, today the Diakonisches Werk is no longer staffed by deaconesses, any more than Caritas [the comparable Catholic charity] is by nuns."

In another entry regarding modern times we read:

The Protestant church charity, Diakonisches Werk

"The Protestant Diakonisches Werk is organized geographically into 24 state associations and thematically into 90 professional associations. It includes the diaconical institutions of nine different Protestant churches (Mennonites, Salvation Army, Independent Protestant-Lutheran Church, Methodists, Moravian Brethren, Old Catholics, Association of Free Evangelical Churches (Baptists/Bretheren), Evangelical Old-Reformed Church). ...

"In 1989 Communist rule ended in East Germany, which united with West Germany. The eastern part of the country was traditionally Protestant and it is not surprising that soon the size of the Diakonisches Werk increased significantly. Between 1978 to 1998, (a period which includes the addition of the eastern German states) the number of employees increased 70 percent (from 17,800 to 30,100) and the number of places or beds increased 51 percent, (from 713,000 to 1.08 million), while the number of full-time employees almost doubled (from 215,000 to 420,000). After this expansion into the new eastern states, consolidation set in and from 1998 to 2000 the Diakonisches Werk actually contracted slightly. The reduction in the number of facilities and services was 13 percent, employees 5 percent and places or beds 3 percent. Only the small sections concerned with “special help” and “training” showed any growth. Then from 2000 to 2002 all the key numbers rose in terms of the number of facilities and the beds or places, however, they did so only by 1.4 percent and 4 percent respectively, while the number of employees rose by 13 percent through the addition of 51,764 new positions. ...

"What is going on here? Two facts are suggestive. One is that during its quick expansion into the former East Germany, the Diakonisches Werk was obliged to hire people with no church affiliation. The second is that a decade later it was finally in a position to begin insisting on church membership and, as an official of the Diakonisches Werk admitted, to offer these employees a permanent job only when and if they joined the church."

Concordat Watch is certainly worth a look for those who might be interested in exploring cooperation between church and state in the delivery of diaconal service!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Historical Records Grant provides Deaconess Photos

What a surprise and delight to note that the state of Missouri supports the preservation of historical archive materials which are related to local history but originated in the context of the work of a Christian church.

The Dana Dawson Library located at Saint Paul School of Theology, Kansas City, has received a grant from the "Missouri Historical Records Grant" program for the purpose of restoring and digitizing historical photographs from the Kansas City National Training School for Deaconesses and Missionaries. (Saint Paul School of Theology is a seminary of the United Methodist Church, split between two campuses in Kansas City and Oklahoma City.)

The library's blog site explains: "These photographs document the history of women’s ministerial work in the Kansas City community and highlight Saint Paul’s ongoing commitment to social issues. The heritage of the Kansas City National Training School is reflected in the records, photographs and publications such as The Kansas City Deaconess of the training school as well as in several books in the Saint Paul library. This rich heritage tells the story of courageous young women who ventured into the most desolate, dangerous, and poverty-stricken areas of Kansas City to bring social services and hope to the poor. Additionally, their stories give voice to the poor and immigrant populations of Kansas City during the beginning of the 20th Century. These records can supplement students’ studies in women’s history, social justice issues, health and welfare ministries, and ministry to immigrant populations."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Deaconess-in-Training in WELS Sister Church

Pieter Reid, a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), serves as "a pastoral friendly counselor" to the national Indonesian church known as Gereja Lutheran Indonesia (GLI). According to Reid's Oct. 7, 2010 blog on missions in Indonesia, GLI is making history by training its very first deaconess.

Reid explained, "One goal of the sister church of WELS in Indonesia is to get the women of GLI active in serving the Lord and serving each other. For this to happen and continue, there needs to be a GLI woman who can be trained to assume this leadership role. ...

"Ibu Heni, one of the pastor’s wives, started attending the GLI seminary two years ago. She didn’t do it to become a pastor, but wanted to grow spiritually. Ibu Heni is taking all of the courses required of the seminary students. Besides being very gifted and faithfully applying herself, she understands the teachings of the Bible, has leadership ability, and the heart of a servant. Ibu Heni has the gifts to become a deaconess and help all the women of GLI to serve the Lord and serve others.

"The leaders of GLI were approached and asked if Ibu Heni could be designated as a Deaconess-in-training. She will continue taking all the seminary courses for the next two years. She will have all the doctrine courses, counseling courses, courses on family life, and all the other courses a pastor will have taken. Work has begun to train and prepare Ibu Heni to become a Deaconess who will oversee the entire ministry of women within GLI and prepare these women to reach out to those who do not yet have Jesus as their Savior. What a blessing a Deaconess will be to this church body!”

It will be interesting to watch this new development, and to note whether the next stage of training - to prepare the women of Indonesia to "reach out to those who do not yet have Jesus as their Savior" - will indeed produce a second generation of deaconesses for this church body.

We wish them every blessing with this endeavor!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reflejo de Cristo - The Call of the Deaconess

A beautiful visual of Renate Gibbs highlighting three aspects of diaconal ministry: spiritual care, works of mercy, and teaching the faith.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Deaconesses in LCMS Procession

On September 11, 2010, the Service of Installation for the new President of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, as well as other synod officers and elected and appointed Board and Commission Members of the LCMS, took place at the Chapel of St. Timothy and Saint Titus on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

One of the unique features of the Divine Service was the procession of 300 individuals into the sanctuary during the Processional Hymn, "Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest." The printed service book noted, "The procession this morning holds high our Lord's work in The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod through its called pastors and church workers, as well as through the ministry of our partner churches throughout the world. The faculty of St. Paul's Lutheran School, Des Peres, Missouri, represents the commissioned teachers of our Synod. Other commissioned ministers of our Synod follow them. Members of the Concordia Deaconess Conference represent our Synod's work of mercy throughout the world. The pastors of our Synod and the Council of Presidents are those called to the preaching office. Faculty members from our Synod's seminaries prepare men for that preaching office. Visiting bishops and presidents from our partner churches throughout the world exhibit the catholicity of the Gospel throughout the world and the worldwide carrying out of our Lord's command to 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation' (Mark 16:15). The Praesidium and those serving in the service this morning conclude the procession."

The thirty-nine members of Concordia Deaconess Conference in the procession traveled at their own expense, from 14 different states, to take part in this joyous occasion. The women included Jennie Asher, Heidi Bishop, Sandra Bowers, Kim Bueltmann, Linda Cosgrove, Gloria DeCuir, Susan Eyer, Jessica Feldmann, Lorraine Groth, Kelly Hardt, Julie Heck, Betsy Karkan, Dorothy Krans, Sarah Longmire, Ruth McDonnell, Linda Meyer, Jeana Moe, Betty Mulholland, Cheryl D. Naumann, Pamela Nielsen, Linda Nobili, Jane Obersat, Lauren Olsen, Joyce Ostermann, Jennifer Phillips, Grace Rao, Loraine Rathman, Deborah Rockrohr, Kim Schave, Carol Schroeder, Sarah Schultz, Linda Seward, Doris Snashall, Jane Stancliff, Corinne Thompson, Gayle Truesdell, Kristin Wassilak, Rosemary Williams, and Renee Young.

Several informal "group" photos such as the one above were taken of the LCMS deaconesses as they began to arrive at the chapel (but no photo actually captured all 39 women together at the same time).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

LCMS World Mission Deaconess in Hong Kong

The "Mission Blog" - official blog of LCMS World Mission - is a great place to browse for inspirational stories about the synod's foreign mission fields and the people who are working in those fields.

One of the new posts is from Deaconess Carol Halter, who has been in Hong Kong for many years. Carol's account of her witness to a woman she met at a family reunion she had been invited to speaks volumes about her commitment to Christ and her primary focus whenever she is with people... a focus on planting the seed of the Word of God in the hearts of those who still need to be reached for Christ.

Have a look for yourself at and enjoy the stories of Carol and other LCMS missionaries like her.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Photos of ULCA Deaconess Motherhouse in Baltimore

Archivists for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have uploaded an interesting collection of photos which include images of the Lutheran Deaconess Motherhouse and Training School in Balitmore, Maryland.

Many of the photos were taken during the "1960 Triennial Conference" held at the Motherhouse. Even though such photos may not relate directly to one's own church history, it's fun to see what the deaconess movement looked like in other pockets of American religious history. Particularly enjoyable are photos of the deaconesses, their garb, and their faces as they interact with one another and their environment.

To take a closer look, go to

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Networking with Local Deaconesses

The last two weeks have been fun for me, getting to know a couple of people who are new to our school, and in particular, another deaconess who has been called to teach 2nd and 3rd grade across the hall from where I'll be teaching the 7th and 8th graders. Yesterday she and I traveled about 40 minutes away to meet another deaconess and her new deaconess intern for lunch. The four of us went to a local home-style diner, engaged in lighthearted introductory conversation about our work - including lots of laughter - and finished with a scoop of ice cream and a commitment to meet together at least once a month.

Such a meeting might seem like a waste of time, but I'd rather think of it as building relationships with my sisters in Christ. It's important for us to create a solid support network with those who have common interests and philosophies. There will be times when we need to turn to another to discuss a Bible passage; to ask for guidance on how to help someone in our care; to get a second opinion on a personal issue; to find/provide a shoulder to cry on.

I treasure the deaconesses living in our local area, and those who are scattered across across the US, and those who serve in partner churches in various places around the world. I treasure them as individuals and because they often fill the role of friend as well as colleague. And I treasure them for the mercy work that they carry out in the name of Jesus.

If you know that there are other deaconesses or student deaconesses living near you, take the initiative to visit with them. Write some encouraging notes. Pick up the phone and let them know you are thinking about them. Create some sort of "local area" gathering for socializing (an activity that we shouldn't forget). Once established, this kind of network will undoubtedly also engender opportunities for mutual personal, professional, and spiritual growth.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New President for The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

In 2002, Rev. Matthew Harrison, Executive Director of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) department of World Relief and Human Care, secured funds to create a Deaconess Task Force for the purpose of promoting diaconal ministry in the LCMS. The Task Force reviewed current ideas and literature on the diaconate, pursued ideas for student financial aid, produced PR materials on deaconess ministry, and promoted deaconess professional care.

Since 2002, Rev. Harrison has remained interested and involved in the development of deaconess ministry in both the United States and abroad. His support and encouragement of the deaconess community has meant a great deal to deaconesses in the field.

Yesterday, delegates at the LCMS synodical convention in Houston, Texas, elected Rev. Harrison as their next President. This is an historical moment for the synod, and I also predict, an historical move for the future of deaconesses in the synod.

May God bless Rev. Harrison as he prepares to take office. May the Lord give him courage, wisdom, discernment, joy, and peace in all that he will need to carry out for the Lord and His Church, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be preached and made known to all peoples.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Women's History in June

I recently happened upon a website for The National Women’s History Project. The Project started in 1980 and is a non-profit educational organization “committed to recognizing and celebrating the diverse and significant historical accomplishments of women.” As to be expected, the organization carries out its objectives by collecting and generating a variety of educational materials and programs, acclaimed and made available via the website.

The News and Events section of the site features a list of significant events that have occurred in each month over the course of the years. I’ve chosen a few for the month of June to list here, just because I find it interesting to note in which years particular US history milestones included women, and compare the sort of things that might be happening with women in church history during those same years.

• June 25, 1903 - Madame Marie Curie announces her discovery of radium
• June 11, 1913 - Women in Illinois celebrate passage of a state woman suffrage bill allowing women to vote in presidential elections
• June 20, 1921 - Alice Robertson becomes the first woman to chair the House of Representatives
• June 9, 1949 - Georgia Neese Clark confirmed as the first woman treasurer of the United States
• June 10, 1963 - Equal Pay Act enacted: "To prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce." (PL 88-38)
• June 23, 1972 - Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which guarantees equal access and equal opportunity for females and males in almost all aspects of our educational systems.
• June 18, 1983 - Dr. Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space
[Bullet points are quotations from]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Waiting to Serve

Most women serving as deaconesses are asked, "What is a deaconess?" on a fairly regular basis. In the Lutheran Church, the formal definition of such a servant of Christ has changed over the decades. All too often, the definition is dictated by what a deaconess DOES, rather than WHO or WHOSE she is. What needs to be remembered is that regardless of changing roles in the workplace, certain things are not altered. In particular, I mean that the expected attitude of the heart and mind - of consecration and servanthood - does not change. Having said this, I suppose those who have no personal knowledge of a deaconess still feel that they are in the dark as to her role in the church. If you are one of those people, it's probably time for you to read In the Footsteps of Phoebe.

Be knowledgeable about this profession (vocation) and how a deaconess might benefit YOUR own parish or institution. The downturn in our economy has caused many Lutheran congregations and institutions to forfeit the acquisition of more staff. Hence there are trained deaconesses who are waiting for first-time placements or who are hoping to move to a new position and are not able to do so. I challenge you today to take a creative look at your own ministry model, to see if it might be possible to put one of these waiting women to work with YOUR team, sooner than later!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Changes and Back on Track

Sometimes life can get very interesting when a series of changes occur. This can be true in a church community as well as in individual lives. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is facing the possibility of embracing some significant changes. This year's convention will bring new officers, maybe even a new president, and the presentation of large alterations to the synod's administrative structure/functioning. It's hard to say what the trickle-down affect of any significant changes might be on the sydod's members, but such changes will make a huge difference for those who are elected to serve.

On a personal note, we are waiting for the birth of a grandchild - a happy change - while I still mourn the passing of my mother. I paid a visit to my dad again out in Seattle to help him with some things, and am now recovering from cracked ribs which I acquired while cleaning out his deep chest freezer. Home again, life is getting "back on track," which means there should be more time for HISTORY as well!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, "Little Girl"

Well, this day finally came, and way too soon. Today our youngest child turns twenty. No more teenagers in the family. Just six adult children, with some of them sporting their own "growing" families.

This marching on of time and proliferation of anniversaries is happening in other areas of life too. Most notably, the "Concordia Deaconess Program" at Concordia University Chicago is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Having started in the fall of 1980, this training program has provided a host of dedicated young (and sometimes older) women for diaconal service in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Our own "little girl" - the one who turns twenty today - just happens to be in the Chicago training program!

Life moves quickly, so it's important to take time to celebrate those birthdays, whether they are for people or important organizations. Yes, today is a good day to think about the many gifts and blessings with which we have been blessed by God, and the sheer amount of years that He has been blessing us with such gifts!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Not Quite Right, UCC!

Having chanced upon an interesting article posted on April 29, titled "The End of an Era" - which reported the February 25, 2010, death of the last deaconess in the United Church of Christ, I was amused to see the author's parochially short-sighted conclusion. Since the "comments are closed" on this article, even though it was posted only yesterday (!), I felt compelled to write a comment here.

The first two paragraphs of the article started out well enough - with a short historical statement...

"In the late nineteenth century, St. Louis was the American center of the Deaconess Sisters, a movement that traced its spiritual roots back as far as Paul’s first letter to the Romans. This order of women, founded in Germany in the 1830s, dedicated their lives to caring for the sick and the poor. They were established in America in 1889 by a group of St. Louis Evangelical pastors who wanted to respond to the needs of the poor in their community.

"The Deaconess Sisters of St. Louis, which included 200 women, launched Deaconess Hospital and a nursing school and worked with children, seniors, and the homebound ill. Their work continues today through the ministries of CHHSM members including the Deaconess Foundation, Deaconess Parish Nurse Ministries and the International Parish Nurse Resource Center in St. Louis."

The next paragraph is the amusing one:

"Now the Deaconess movement in the United States has passed into history. On February 25, 2010, Sister Marie G. Lee, the last Evangelical Deaconess Sister in the United States, died in St. Louis."

This is a good example of the ignorance that can easily develop in any Christian denomination when its members forget, were not taught, or do not recognize the fact that the cumulative history of the Christian Church can exist outside of their own denomination!

[The rest of the article contains interesting information about the deceased deaconess and may be found at]

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wesley's Famous Words

I've known for a while that the United Methodist Church has a long history of deaconess service, but have never read much about that history. Today I stumbled across an inspirational article about Deaconess Clara Ester, an African American deaconess who served for many years as the executive director of Dumas Wesley Community Center, a United Methodist Women-supported national mission institution, located in the Crichton neighborhood of Mobile, Ala. [See]

One of the interesting things in this article is the citing of some "famous words" of John Wesley, which are credited with having a profound influence on Deaconess Ester. Simple and direct, the quotation reads:

Christian service
“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.” -John Wesley

That about sums it up!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Prayed by Deaconesses

The website for the Order of Deaconesses in the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) includes a couple of beautiful prayers appropriate for the personal prayer life of a deaconess:

O GRACIOUS FATHER, we here dedicate both our souls and our bodies to thee and thy service, in a sober, righteous, and godly life: in which resolution, do thou, O merciful God, confirm and strengthen us; that, as we grow in age, we may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

O LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy handmaidens who call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Anglican Deaconess Association (ADA) which is affiliated with the REC describes itself as "an organization for the promotion and support of the traditional Order of Deaconesses." Interestingly, this association also includes a prayer for deaconesses on the back of its publicity tract:

O LORD of souls, who hast chosen and called us to service in thy Church; all our trust is in thee, for in thee are the springs of our life. Abundantly give us of thy blessed Spirit, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, and use us as it shall please thee for the glory of thy Name. Empty us of self and fill us with the meekness of wisdom. Increase our faith, mellow our judgment, stir our zeal, deepen our affections. Do thou choose for us the work we do and the place in which we do it, the success we win and the harvest we reap. Preserve us from jealously and impatience, from self-will and depression. Make us faithful unto death, and give us at last the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I have emailed the deaconess listed on the REC website to ask for the sources for these prayers, and will add that information when it is received!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Order of Deaconesses in Reformed Episcopal Church

It can be interesting to take an occasional look at the deaconess movement in other Protestant denominations in the United States. As recently as 2002, the Reformed Episcopal Church adopted a Canon to officially recognize the Order of Deaconesses and establish requirements for candidacy. But this action was really a restoration of the vocation that existed in the church more than a century earlier.

The Order of Deaconesses was revived in the Church of England by the Bishop of London in 1861, and subsequently in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America in 1889. And in 1920, the denomination's Lambeth Conference encouraged the restoration of an Order of Deaconesses throughout the entire Anglican Communion. However, in 1976, the specific Order of Deaconesses in the United States "dissolved into the Diaconate" when the Episcopal Church voted to allow the ordination of women.

A year later, in 1977, a large group of traditional Anglicans adopted The Affirmation of St. Louis as a confessional charter to unite Continuing (Traditional) Anglicans around the world. Among other assertions, this charter recognized the need for a special ministry for women, and declared "as one of the 'essential principles of evangelical Truth and apostolic Order: The ancient office and ministry of Deaconesses as a lay vocation for women, affirming the need for proper encouragement of that office.'”

Since adoption of the confessional charter, several women have been admitted to the Order of Deaconess in Traditional Anglican jurisdictions. The training program for new deaconesses is housed at Cranmer Theological House, just north of Houston, Texas. (A review of the Deaconess Studies curriculum there reveals some intriguing course titles, including "Biblical Womanhood.") One of the House's website pages states, "Cranmer Theological House is distinguished by its strong commitment to the Holy Scriptures as God's infallible Word, its adherence to the theology of the English Reformation as expressed in the historic Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, and its commitment to the worship and polity of the greater Anglican tradition."

Quotations taken from:

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Deaconess Martha S. Boss Commemorative Book

Serving the Lord with Joy - A Pioneer of The Lutheran Church-Hong Kong Synod
: Deaconess Martha S. Boss Commemorative Book

This 123-page book was just published by the Social Service Committee of The Lutheran Church-Hong Kong Synod. Contributors to the collection of stories about Deaconess Martha S. Boss (1913-1973) are the very people whom she served and/or worked with in China and Hong Kong for over 27 years.

The stories are heart-warming and include titles such as: "An Honorable Benefactress," "My First Piano Teacher," "My Big Sister," "From Temporariness to Eternity," and "My Beloved Deaconess." These tributes show the large and loving influence that Deaconess Boss had on the Chinese population, particularly in Hong Kong, while she spent her life in service to God and those who needed to know His love in Jesus Christ.

Martha is described as a woman for whom no task was either too small or too great - and in the midst of whatever she was doing, the people to whom she brought her ministry of mercy knew that they were loved both by her and by God.

This is an inspiring volume - which I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in mission work, the work of deaconesses abroad, or in examining how one humble deaconess made a huge impact on the lives of countless others as she acted on her love for them.

ISBN: 978-988-99256-9-7

Monday, March 22, 2010

Website for LCMS Deaconess Biographies Project

A website for the LCMS Deaconess Biographies Project is now ready for public use at

The site includes pages that explain the project's background, a list of all deaconesses who have officially served the LCMS or the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, and an easy-to-follow "submit information" page for the collection of material on these deaconesses. A catalog of acquisitions and list of project donors is also available on the website, along with the project timeline, updates, and photographs. It is also possible to make tax-deductible financial donations via PayPal or Credit Card on the site's "donate" page, (or checks can be mailed to the Project Business Manager).

Phase One of the Project lasted nine months and entailed creating a website and other communication tools; and setting up a physical project administration center (computer systems, shelves, archive folders and boxes, etc.).

As of March 4, 2010, Phase Two of the Project is underway, with the soliciting, receiving, and archiving of information related to the deaconesses and their work as agents of mercy on behalf of the church. This phase is expected to take three years.

Phase Three of the Project will include publication of a Biographical Encyclopedia of Deaconesses and Phase Four the depositing of the Project archives at Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis, Missouri.

Have a look at the website and enjoy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

International Women of Courage Award

In March 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice established an annual International Women of Courage Award to recognize women, from anywhere in the world, who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women's rights or the advancement of women in society. According to the US Department of State website, the award created by Miss Rice is the only one of its kind which “pays tribute to emerging women leaders worldwide, and offers a unique opportunity to recognize those who work in the field of international women's issues.”

On March 10, 2010, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama served as joint hostesses for these annual awards at the Department of State.

The ten women honored with the 2010 International Women of Courage Award include:
1. Shukria Asil, of Afghanistan, for promoting government responsiveness to the needs of women.
2. Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi, of Afghanistan, for integrating women into the government and police force.
3. Androula Henriques, of Cyprus, for fighting human trafficking.
4. Sonia Pierre, of Dominican Republic, for ending discrimination based on country of origin and the human rights abuses of statelessness.
5. Shadi Sadr, of Iran, for advocating for women’s legal rights and an end to execution by stoning.
6. Ann Njogu, of Kenya, for seeking social transformation and being at the forefront of reforms in Kenya.
7. Dr. Lee Ae-ran, of the Republic of Korea, for promoting human rights in North Korea and aiding the refugee community in the Republic of Korea.
8. Jansila Majeed, of Sri Lanka, for strengthening rights for internally displaced persons.
9. Sister Marie Claude Naddaf (also known as Sister Marie Claude), of Syria, of working for social services for women.
10. Jestina Mukoko, of Zimbabwe, for documenting human rights abuses.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

March is Women's History Month

My first reaction when hearing this designation for the month of March was, "Really? If March is Women's History Month, then when is Men's History Month?" On second thought, in spite of my skepticism, I decided to google the phrase and see just how seriously people are taking this idea.

Interestingly, I discovered that 2010 will see the 30th anniversary of the National Women’s History Project (NWHP). This organization's website explains, "When we began mobilizing the lobbying effort that resulted in President Carter issuing a Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980 as the first National Women’s History Week, we had no idea what the future would bring. And then, in 1987, another of our successful lobbying efforts resulted in Congress expanding the week into a month, and March is now National Women’s History Month." [ ]
So there we have it. It is truly an official designation for this month, thanks to President Carter's proclamation.

Another couple of paragraphs on the NWHP website interest me in light of the fact that In the Footsteps of Phoebe records - for the first time - many thoughts, actions, and activities of women during important eras in church history. For example:
"The overarching theme for 2010 and our 30th Anniversary celebration is Writing Women Back into History. It often seems that the history of women is written in invisible ink. Even when recognized in their own times, women are frequently left out of the history books. To honor our 2010 theme, we are highlighting pivotal themes from previous years. Each of these past themes recognizes a different aspect of women’s achievements, from ecology to art, and from sports to politics."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thank You to 19 Countries!

It is good to be able to return to this site and submit a blog after an absence of several weeks. My mom's funeral was on January 30 and I spent another 10 days with dad afterward. Home again, it took a while to "catch up" with life.

How gratifying it has been to see that you and others, including new readers, have continued to use the website resources. According to today's "Google Analytics report," individuals in 19 different countries accessed this site during the last four weeks. That information encourages me, because it is evidence of a continuum of healthy interest in deaconesses, their work, and the history of their work in church and society.

So... let's get back to work and see what we can find of interest to write about! And thank you to all who have checked in from the 19 countries!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Precious Mom - Who Enjoyed History

Those of you who visit this column on a regular basis know that it's unusual for me to go so long without writing a new blog. For the last two weeks I've been in the Pacific Northwest. The first ten days were spent at my dear mother's bedside, before she left this vale of tears to enter the presence of her Lord and Savior in Heaven.

Since then, between accomplishing various tasks to prepare for her memorial service and the arrival of family from all over the world, I have had some time to reflect on the many gifts and the wonderful life with which God abundantly blessed mom throughout her almost 90 years on earth.

Mom actually loved History. She earned a Masters Degree in History in the early 1940s, at a "time in history" when it was rather unusual for women to return to college to acquire a graduate degree. I realize now that it was she who engendered and nurtured a love of history in my own life. Each summer when we took the annual family vacation road trips, the travel itinerary always included visits to state capitol buildings, museums, famous geological formations, Cowboy-and-Indian Era towns or forts, and anything else of interest about the United States and its history. She enjoyed these family holidays. And she succeeded in including these educational excursions in the midst of our vacations in a way whereby we didn't even realize that she was secretly "homeschooling" us on the road!

Mom was a great planner and organizer. In August 2009 she and dad visited our Pennsylvania home and we had a wonderful time together. After a great game of pinochle, she made an unusual request. "Cheryl, I'd like you to take a picture of me. I'd like you to take a nice picture for my obituary." As comical as I thought the request was, especially since she looked and felt so well, I honored her request. She looked at the digital photo right away and was pleased with the result. How odd it is now, to be using that photo, exactly five months after it was taken. It is the same photo that appears at the top of this blog.

For those of you who have not read the tribute that I wrote to mom on Mother's Day 2009, please go into the Woman of the Week archive (on this website) and click on May 10, 2009 - Dorothy (Bauman) Freitag.

What a privilege it has been to be the daughter of my mother; to be instructed by her example of Christian faith and life; to have her ever-listening ear and receive counsel from her in so many areas of life; and to have had the privilege of being with her as she walked through the gates of Heaven into the presence of Jesus. "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Concordia Deaconess Conference

January 12 marks the 30th birthday of the official inauguration of Concordia Deaconess Conference - Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Chapters 14 and 15 of In the Footsteps of Phoebe go into detail about the origin and colorful history of this deaconess conference, started by nine confessional deaconesses in 1980.

Concordia Deaconess Conference is launching a new BLUES NEWS newsletter format and celebrating its anniversary throughout 2010, including a special 30th anniversary conference to be held at Concordia University Chicago, June 23-26, 2010.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Concordia Deaconess Conference!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Prayer for Commemorating William Passavant

January 3, 2010 saw the addition of a new "feast" to the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church: the commemoration of William Passavant!

To my mind this would be an appropriate addition to Lutheran calendars as well, given the fact that Passavant was the Lutheran pastor who arranged for Theodor Flieder to bring four of his deaconesses from Kaiserswerth (Germany) to Pittsburgh in order to help him run the Pittsburgh Infirmary (which became the first Protestant Hospital in the United States). Of course the LCMS has an even tighter connection with Passavant, in that after two of these women served as deaconesses under him, they married LCMS pastors and one of them played a part in the history of the deaconess movement in the Synod.

The Collect (prayer) used by the Episcopal Church for commemorating William Passavant on January 3 is found in a new publication, Holy Women, Holy Men (2009):

"Compassionate God, we thank you for William Passavant, who brought the German deaconess movement to America so that dedicated women might assist him in founding orphanages and hospitals for those in need and provide for the theological education of future ministers. Inspire us by his example, that we may be tireless to address the wants of all who are sick and friendless; through Jesus the divine Physician, who has prepared for us an eternal home, and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Loehe on Deaconesses and 1 Timothy 5:3-16

Most often when Bible passages are discussed in relation to the office of deaconess, the starting point for discussion is Romans 16:1. Wilhelm Loehe - in a series of paragraphs titled "On the Deaconess" which he wrote in 1858 - was additionally very interested in the application of 1 Timothy 5:3-16 to the female diaconate.

Loehe wrote, "Holy Scripture contains a passage, which does not, to be sure, talk about the office of the deaconess, but has nonetheless been interpreted as talking about the deaconess office from time immemorial; it is the passage 1 Timothy 5:3-16. When we have just said that the passage has been interpreted as talking about the deaconess office from time immemorial, we must not think of a unanimous and general interpretation of the Christian Church. Two great teachers of the ancient church who were in office during the second half of the 4th Century, the oriental John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople, and the occidental Ambrose, archbishop of Milan, see the adduced passage talking about nothing else but the care of widows. Contrariwise, others, like the occidental Tertullian, who died in 220, and the oriental Epiphanius, who died in 403, already hold that the passage talks about the vocation of deaconess. The view prevailed in later times and has become the generally accepted one. If the passage talked only about the care of widows, one has said, it would be hard to see, why the selection of the widows to be cared for was so tightly attached to certain moral and other virtues, since Christian mercy does not make such great distinctions; therefore widows have to be in mind who, on the one hand, to be sure, are cared for, but who, on the other hand, are employed for the blessing of the congregations. There is something to commend this view, and the entire antiquity has therefore taken the requirements for the deaconess office from this passage."
[Quotation taken from Wilhelm Loehe on the Deaconess, translated by Holger Sonntag.]