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Welcome to In the Footsteps of Phoebe!


In the Footsteps of Phoebe:  A Complete History of the Deaconess Movement in The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is available from Concordia Publishing House (St. Louis, MO).

This site includes hundreds of illustrations, a book synopsis, comprehensive bibliography, book reviews, and extended quotations not found in the book.  We expect these features to expand and grow in conjunction with the interests of readers.

The author's blog and a Woman of the Week column provide discussion venues for any browsers who would like to join in.

Time for Hobbies and Thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2015 @ 11:59am

Since reading, writing, and editing are sort of a hobby/passion/obsession, I've been pleased to have more than the usual amount of time to do these things lately. The reason, though a somewhat painful one, is that on Sept. 12, 2015, I fell backward off of a stage and sustained several fractured bones in my right foot.

Since surgery on Sept. 24 things have gone well. Physical Therapy started two weeks ago. One more surgery early in December will be the last, and then another period of some weeks of recovery.

I decided from the start that if Martin Luther could translate the Bible into the German language while secluded at Wartburg Castle, I could likewise be somewhat productive while just sitting around with my foot elevated above my knee! This decision has helped me get through many a long day, though I'll admit to cat-napping during the process.

In this week of Thanksgiving, I am grateful to God for doctors, nurses, surgeons, medicine, a loving and caring family, a loving and caring church, a loving and caring sisterhood of deaconesses in Concordia Deaconess Conference, and of course, the salvation that God has so freely given to us!

May you have a blessed Thanksgiving, in Christ!

The Life and Words of Deaconess Clara Strehlow

November 22nd, 2015 @ 12:50pm

One of my recent joys was to finish the biography of Deaconess Clara Elsa Flora Strehlow (1895-1985).

My first acquaintance with Clara was sometime during the early months of 1979, when we were both involved in campaigning for a deaconess training program within The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Clara had a calm voice and seldom spoke, but when she did have something to say, everyone listened. We regarded her as a mentor who gave sage advice gleaned from a life of genuine diaconal service in the Lord’s name.

Her experience was broad. She cared for orphans, organized Sunday Schools, worked at a home for the deaf, make countless home visits in the community, and starting in 1958, served as the first housemother of Deaconess Hall at Valparaiso University.

Here was a woman who had seen it all in the Church. When we met she had been a deaconess for 52 years – a founding member of the Lutheran Deaconess Conference of the Synodical Conference at the beginning of her career – and a founding member of Concordia Deaconess Conference – Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in the twilight of her career.

Sources for this biography include pieces written by Clara herself; her family’s oral history; the memories of her friends; and other articles and common domain historical documents. Some great photos add a fun dimension to the text. If you are looking for an easy and inspirational read - about how one dedicated deaconess lived her life in service to the Lord in her neighbors - this could be the book for you!  It's available from Lutheran Legacy Publishing, at http://www.lutheranlegacy.org/index.php/publications/20-the-life-and-words-of-deaconess-clara-strehlow

DOXOLOGY for Deaconesses

November 14th, 2015 @ 5:54pm

The first "DOXOLOGY for Deaconesses" - specifically for women who serve as deaconesses in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod - took place at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin, October 29-31, 2015.

In the Lutheran church, DOXOLOGY usually refers to a liturgical expression of praise to God.  DOXOLOGY: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel helps professional church workers acquire and improve the skills they need to provide effective spiritual care in their vocations. [Being blessed with an increased capability to care for our neighbors indeed gives cause to express praise to God!]

The conference presentations covered a variety of engaging topics, for example, "Putting the Best Construction on Everything;" "Christians after Christendom;" "Diaconal Service and the Care/Cure of Souls;" "Depression, Dysfunction and Despair: Clinical Realities;" "Spiritual Responses to Discouragement;" "Ethics and Caring;" "The Problem of Suffering;" "The Silent Epidemic: Compassion Fatigue." One can see, just from these titles, that the 35 attendees received much food for thought, as well as renewed encouragement and dedication to the task of addressing the needs of those whom they serve.

For more information about DOXOLOGY and the study retreats they offer, please see http://www.doxology.us/

Back again - at Last!

November 13th, 2015 @ 8:02am

Dear friends of Deaconess History!

I'm so pleased to be back in the blogging world after being too long away.  There are a basket full of reasons, including "human error" regarding passwords.  Thanks to my webmaster mentor, this hopefully won't happen again!  Stay tuned for some updates, now that I'm back on track with the software!

Teaching and leaving "Phoebe" in Liberia

March 18th, 2014 @ 1:25pm

Cheryl D. Naumann giving a copy of "In the Footsteps of Phoebe" to The Revd. Amos Bolay, President of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia

Teaching Liberian deaconess students in Monrovia, Liberia.

From February 21 to March 5, 2014, I had the privilege of journeying to and from Monrovia, Liberia, at the invitation of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of International Mission, to assist in teaching Lutheranism 101 to deaconess students of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL), an African church body that just became a partner church of the LCMS at its synod convention in the summer of 2013.

This course in Monrovia was the second phase of deaconess training in Liberia organized under the directorship of Deaconess Grace Rao (Director of Deaconess Ministry, LCMS Office of International Mission), with whom I traveled to Africa. 

Our ten students came from all over Liberia, from five different tribes with five different languages, so the common language of instruction is English, which they all know as their second language. The two women that came the furthest traveled three nights and two days; one of them with her three month old baby!  Every day they were eager to learn.  We started at 7:30 a.m. and finished between 4 and 6 p.m. (even having class on Saturday).  We had to insist that they took breaks during the day and their whole lunch hour because when they finished lunch they would be back in their seats waiting for class to start again.

After our last day of teaching, ELCL President Rev. Amos Bolay took us to see the Liberian Lutheran Malaria Initiative office.  I thought of Bishop David Stechholz of the LCMS English District while standing in the office, since the Bishop is on the LCMS committee for this initiative and the English District has made such an effort to support the Malaria initiative.  It was very moving to see what a huge effect the LCMS is having in this part of the world that so desperately needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the hand of mercy that is simultaneously provided through the love of Jesus Christ.  What a privilege we have to partner with and serve the people of Liberia in so many ways!

KFUO BookTalk Interviews

March 11th, 2013 @ 5:20am

These last several months since my dear father's departing to his heavenly rest have been very busy - and hence my lack of posts here on the blog. But activity in the realm of deaconess history has continued! In January I was interviewed three times on KFUO radio - A station located on property adjacent to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. BookTalk host Rod Zwonitzer did a marvelous job of interviewing me about In the Footstep of Phoebe, as well as encouraging his listeners to think seriously about diaconal work in their own churches. The good news is that you can hear these recorded programs simply by accessing the archived BookTalk section of the KFUO website: www.kfuoam.org, Archives, Book Talk, Jan. 14 (Part 1), Jan. 21 (Part 2), Jan. 22 (Part 3). After the interviews I wrote a 30-second advert for deaconesses, which is now airing daily on KFUO 850AM and streaming worldwide. The hope is that this will generate some interest to create more positions for deaconesses in LCMS congregations. Since recruitment programs for deaconess students have done their jobs well, we have a lot of women graduating from our LCMS deaconess training programs! Now the placement directors and the church as a whole need to keep up with finding enough appropriate places for these women to serve. This is a matter that we can keep in prayer! I hope you enjoy listening to the archived interviews!
Every once in a while one is delighted to find a book that expresses the truth in a way that one always hopes it could be articulated - simply, straight to the point, and in accord with Biblical teaching! This volume by Deaconess Mary Moerbe and her father, Gene Edward Veith, does just that with a topic that so desperately needs to be dusted off and discussed over shared cups of coffee. Sections of the book deal with the vocation of husband and wife; the vocation of parent; and the vocation of childhood. Everyone can benefit from this book, married or unmarried, with or without children. (Moerbe and Veith point out that all have the vocation of childhood, for our entire lives, even if only in terms of being the children of our heavenly Father!) Bottom line - Our six children will all be getting it for Christmas, and in the meantime, it's the first thing on my agenda to study in the fall Woman to Woman classes. Thank you Deaconess Mary and dad, for this great book! (Available from Crossway. $15.99)
The rather new "International Loehe Society" has hosted three international conferences to date: 1) The founding conference at Wartburg Theological Seminary (Dubuque, Iowa) in 2005; 2) A second at Neuendettelsau, Germany in 2008; and 3) A third at Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana) in 2011.

The theme of the latter conference, "Wilhelm Loehe: Theological Impact and Historical Influence," included a presentation by yours truly titled Lutheran Deaconesses in North America: Assessing Loehe's Influence.

My presentation, along with others, was published in the most recent issue of Currents in Theology and Mission (February 2012 Volume 39 Number 1). Anyone who doesn't subscribe to this periodical but would like to acquire a copy of this issue can contact the circulation desk at773-256-0751 or currents@lstc.edu

Currents in Theology and Mission is produced by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Concordia Deaconess Conference Pro-Life

February 19th, 2012 @ 12:38pm

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) has for many years been one of the forerunners of the Pro-Life movement in the United States. That Pro-Life conviction was upheld by the Synod's President, Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, in his testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Thursday February 16, 2012, in discussion of the threat to religious liberty that is posed by the recent contraception mandate from President Barack Obama's Health and Human Services Department. (Please see http://reporter.lcms.org/pages/rpage.asp?NavID=19663)

As implied, this stance is not new for the LCMS or for its pastors, teachers, and deaconesses. In fact, in 1984, only four years after its origin as an organization that provides personal, spiritual and professional growth opportunities for LCMS deaconesses, Concordia Deaconess Conference - Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (CDC) passed a resolution to ensure continued participation in Pro-Life support and education:

Resolution 1984S-1 – To Continue Pro-Life Studies

WHEREAS, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod at its July 1983 Convention passed Resolution 3-04B “To Reaffirm and Implement the Synod’s Pro-Life Position;” and
WHEREAS, Dr. Ralph Bohlmann, President of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, has requested each organization affiliated with Synod to implement this resolution and report back to Synod; therefore be it
RESOLVED, that Concordia Deaconess Conference affirm Synod’s position that (a) the living but unborn are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception (Job 10:9-11; Ps. 51:5; 139:13-17; Jer. 1:5; Luke 1:41-44); (b) as persons the unborn stand under the full protection of God’s own prohibition against murder (Gen. 9:6; Ex. 20:13; Num. 35:33; Acts 7:19; I John 3:15); and (c) since abortion takes a human life, abortion is not a moral option, except as a tragically unavoidable byproduct of medical procedures necessary to prevent the death of another human being, viz., the mother (1979 Res. 3-02A); and be it further
RESOLVED, that Concordia Deaconess Conference encourage member deaconesses to take a pro-life approach in counseling opportunities and to be a referral source for members of their congregations and staff of their agencies; and be it further
RESOLVED, that Concordia Deaconess Conference continue pro-life studies.

Program organizers for the CDC annual conference have invited Maggie Karner, Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care Life and Health Ministries, to serve as their 2012 banquet speaker. More information on the annual conference will soon be available on http://www.concordiadeaconessconference.org/news.htm

Deaconess Cook Book

October 12th, 2011 @ 4:51am

Every once in a long while I find a gem of Deaconess History on eBay. A few weeks ago it was a lovely little 1924 hardback "Deaconess Cook Book" compiled by the Deaconess Society of the First Lutheran Church, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Deaconess societies accomplished a great deal of work on behalf of the deaconess movement in North America, first through their members promoting and carrying out diaconal acts of mercy in areas local to the society; and second, by raising money to support deaconess training and deaconess service throughout the church.

I feel quite certain that my newly acquired "Deaconess Cook Book" is one of the projects that the ladies would have designed specifically to raise money for the deaconess cause! The fact that there are four "Patron and Patronesses" listed on the page opposite the front "Index" (Contents page) also testifies in favor of this possibility.

Within the 104 pages of great looking recipes, the Hor's D'oeuvre page includes a very interesting entry describing a good SMORGASBORD - what we might call a fancy buffet:

Butter pats; rye, wheat, and other breads cut in thin, small slices; strip of toasted bread, about width of two fingers; two or three kinds of cheese; caviar; sardines; anchovies, shrimps; lobster; medvurst; sausage; cold sliced chicken; cold sliced ham; sliced smoked salmon; sliced corned beef; sliced tongue; cold boiled salmon; small meat-balls; pickled herring; cucumbers; plain and stuffed olives; celery and other relishes. Besides the above a few salads may appear, as well as hot dishes consisting possibly of small meat pies, and various small omelets made by adding to omelet batter, sardines, minced ham, or fried mushrooms, also dainty meat or fish croquettes. The above dishes are placed upon buffet and serving table and are eaten before sitting down to dinner table; each guest may be asked to help himself; or, they may be placed upon dinner table and served before regular dinner is served, in that case the table must necessarily by cleared before the first course, leaving olives, celery, radishes, butter and bread.

I was surprised by the amount of seafood included in this smorgasbord - but then the book was published on the eastern seaboard. But what a massive amount of food to eat before dinner!

For the fun of it - Next time you go to eBay, type "deaconess" into the search bar and have fun looking at all of the different things that pop up about deaconesses.

Guest Blog by Deaconess Deborah Rockrohr

August 27th, 2011 @ 3:06pm

A New Page in Deaconess History

The Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (LCSA) will soon write a new page in deaconess history. For the past two years a small group of women have received short-term intensive course training from Deaconess Grace Rao with the support of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. These women will complete their final course in October, and on October 28, 2011, the LCSA will commission its first deaconesses.

As the director of the new full-time residential deaconess training program that will launch at Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS) in Pretoria in January 2012, I look forward to becoming better acquainted with these women who will shortly become my colleagues in the mercy work of the LCSA. Two of the current students, Nancy and Esther, were able to join us for the annual conference of the Concordia Deaconess Conference – LCMS in June (see July 3rd blog below). While we do not expect to move to South Africa until late in 2011, LCMS World Relief and Human Care is making it possible for me to join the LTS deaconess students for their final days of training and also be present for the commissioning on October 28. It is hoped that my visit in October will facilitate a smooth transition from the initial intensive training to the new full time program and permit me to develop professional relationships with the new LCSA deaconesses and others who will be resources for the new training program.

Although deaconess ministry will be new to the LCSA, women have been active in the work of the church for many years through the Women’s League. Similar in many ways to the work of the LCMS Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), these women organize to pray for the people of South Africa and the work of the church, and engage in projects that extend the mercy work of the church to the community. In South Africa, every major Christian denomination has a women’s league with a denominationally-distinct uniform. Nancy and Esther, who will soon be deaconesses in the LCSA, are also members of the LCSA Women’s League and appear in the league uniform in the July 3rd blog photo.

Concordia Deaconess Conference 2011

July 3rd, 2011 @ 9:45am

Concordia Deaconess Conference - Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (CDC) - a 'Recognized Service Organization' of the LCMS - holds annual conferences to provide its members with opportunities for personal, spiritual, and professional growth. This year's conference, held at Concordia University, Nebraska, from June 15-18, centered on the theme: Lutheran Spirituality: A Life of Receptivity.

Among the 2011 conference participants were two deaconess students from The Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, a partner church of the LCMS. The conference mission offering was designated for the support of a new deaconess training program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane (Pretoria, South Africa). CDC member, Deaconess Deborah Rockrohr (pictured above with the two students), recently accepted a call to serve as Director of this program.

CDC members thanked the outgoing Spiritual Counselor, Rev. John Berg, and four outgoing officers, Deborah Rockrohr, Carol Schroeder, Linda Cosgrove, and Lorraine Groth, for their hard work over the last several years. Newly elected officers include Sara Lemon, Vice President; Kim Schave, Treasurer, Jana Peters, Member-at-Large for Annual Conference Logistics; Heidi Bishop, Member-at-Large for Membership. Rev. William Weedon was elected as the CDC Spiritual Counselor for the next three years.

More information about the conference, membership applications, copies of the CDC newsletter, and so forth, are available at http://www.concordiadeaconesslcms.org/

Finishing the Run!

April 23rd, 2011 @ 4:00am

I am extremely proud of two colleagues - one a deaconess and the other someone who enjoys calling herself an F.O.D. (Friend of Deaconesses!) - who both completed a 5-Kilometer run today!
Violeta and Sarah!

These women have been training for this day for months. And their training paid off. They finished the run - and with good times - 31.41 minutes and 33.13 minutes respectively. And they are smiling at the finish line!

If you will forgive me, I need to add a faith-life application while I'm at it. The timing of this 5K run is a great reminder to me of the ultimate love God has shown to the human race. Jesus Christ didn't give up in the garden when He knew that the Heavenly Father wasn't going to take the bitter cup of suffering and death away from His lips. He had become incarnate and lived as true God and true man for this very purpose. Our Savior finished the run for us. And now we rejoice in remembering His death and in preparation for a glorious celebration of His resurrection on Easter day!

A blessed Easter to all!

Where Do LCMS Deaconesses Serve?

April 13th, 2011 @ 2:55pm

The most recent information available from The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod's Department of Rosters and Statistics shows that there are 213 deaconesses on the Synod's roster. The current "status" and "positions' of the women are described as follows:

By Roster Status:

131 – Active

24 – Candidates

22 – Non-Candidates

36 – Emeritus

By Position:

76 – Serving Member Congregation

16 – Recognized Service Organization

8 – Other Special ministry

8 – Synod HS/College/Univ/Seminary Faculty or Staff

6 – Chaplain-Institutional

5 – Synod Executive or Staff

3 – Missionary-Synod

3 – District Executive or Staff

2 – Synod College or Seminary Faculty

1 – Teacher

1 – District-Other Staff

1 – Executive Director

1 – Missionary-Other

12 Ways to Become a Missouri Synod Deaconess!

February 22nd, 2011 @ 10:38am

Anyone reading literature which is officially or unofficially associated with The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS), will have noted an increase in the mention of deaconesses over the last half decade. Some of this is due to the proliferation of deaconess training paths in the synod. Unless I've missed one, there are now TWELVE avenues to becoming a deaconess in the LCMS, as follows:

1. Concordia University Chicago - Undergraduate program
2. Concordia University Chicago - Certification (Cert. only, not in combination with another option listed)
3. Concordia University Chicago - on campus Master of Arts in Religion with Deaconess Certification
4. Concordia University Chicago - online Master of Arts in Religion with Deaconess Certification
5. Concordia University Chicago - Deaconess Colloquy
6. Concordia Seminary, St. Louis - Master of Arts in Deaconess Studies
7. Concordia Seminary, St. Louis - Master of Arts with Deaconess Certification
8. Center for Hispanic Studies (under Concordia Seminary, St. Louis)
9. Ethnic Immigrant Institute of Theology (under Concordia Seminary, St. Louis)
10. Deaf Institute of Theology (under Concordia Seminary St. Louis)
11. Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne - on campus Master of Arts leading to Deaconess certification
12. Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne - distance/online program, Master of Arts in Deaconess Studies

This is wonderful news, of course. But with willing workers a synod also needs places to utilize the trained workers. And at the moment finding places for all graduates, or keeping all deaconesses in the field in gainful employment is a real challenge.

The LCMS needs to do some urgent thinking about how it can work as a synod to make use of its many talented workers - whether they are deaconesses, teachers, pastors, or other commissioned ministers.

Guest Blog by Deaconess Grace Rao

February 7th, 2011 @ 9:44am

Deaconess Grace Rao - who works at The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod International Center (St. Louis) in the area of World Relief and Human Care - has been involved in some exciting diaconal education work in Africa, and very kindly agreed to provide the following guest blog:

It was a blessing and honor to visit the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Southern Africa at the request of Bishop Wilhelm Weber. I was humbled by his gracious invitation and was overwhelmed as he looked towards my unit at LCMS World Relief and Human Care to assist and uplift the seminary’s educational and diaconal needs in the areas of women and children. My first assignment was teaching an advanced course class on the “Role of Women in the Church” to the seminarian students, pastors, vicars, deans and few women from Women’s league of the Lutheran Church, with special references to “works of mercy,” the role of Lutheran deaconesses who shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ through acts of human care and mercy, and by including the structure of LCMS WR-HC and their ministries.

Second, another task was to give professional advice to the role of women in the church and specifically the inception of a deaconess program, designing the curriculum and the actual course set-up. This paved the way to lead two very successful intensive courses to train and equip local deaconesses in Southern Africa, and by teaching faithful Lutheran doctrine and practice amongst the leaders of the women’s league.

When asked for his thoughts about the diaconal training, the Bishop said “I am confident that this excellent training program will go quite a distance in assisting the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa to attain sustainable structures and staffing to address crucial works of mercy amongst previously neglected groups like single mothers, orphaned children, sufferers of HIV/Aids and other sick and dying people in and beyond the boundaries of our Lutheran congregations.” The next third and fourth courses are schedule to take place in the near future.

In addition, my responsibility also involves identifying, assessing, recommending to support the existing mercy projects, and implementing new projects as well. My unit assists a lot with theological resources. The Lord is gracious and kind, and with His blessings my ministry is moving well, and looking for stronger partnerships in years to come.

Deaconess Grace Rao

A Quick Year

January 30th, 2011 @ 6:23am

In the context of history, and particularly personal history, we often talk about how fast time flies by. When we start a new year, we can't believe how quickly the old one finished, and then at the end of January, we wonder how it could be time to begin preparing taxes again so quickly - at least those of us who need to file FAFSA forms are thinking about taxes aleady!

It was a year ago today that we attended the service and cemetery committal for my dear mother, Dorothy Violet Freitag. Throughout the year I've spent a lot of time thinking about her life and her Christian witness to me and others. I've missed her terribly, especially our daily phone calls that spanned the 3000 miles that separated us. But I've come to appreciate, also, that what she taught me is still a vital and vibrant part of my life. It's not just that I look in the mirror and see a likeness of her. Or that I bear her name as my middle name. But the faith that she and dad taught me (and my brother) is still alive and growing through the grace of God, through His Word and Sacraments.

I was particularly moved by verses 3 and 4 one of the hymns we sang in the Divine Service today: "O Savior of Our Fallen Race." The words went like this:

Remember, Lord of life and grace, How once, to save our fallen race, You put our human vesture on And came to us as Mary's Son. Alleluaia!

Today, as year by year its light bathes all the world in radiance bright, One precious truth outshines the sun: Salvation comes from You alone. Alleluia!

A blessed Epiphany!

"Deaconess Work" Funded by German State

December 2nd, 2010 @ 4:03pm

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!

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."
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!

Reflejo de Cristo - The Call of the Deaconess

September 30th, 2010 @ 8:10pm

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

Deaconesses in LCMS Procession

September 26th, 2010 @ 10:28am

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).

LCMS World Mission Deaconess in Hong Kong

September 2nd, 2010 @ 9:41am

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 http://tiny.cc/ok7oh and enjoy the stories of Carol and other LCMS missionaries like her.
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 http://www.flickr.com/photos/elcaarchives/4858186450/in/photostream/

Networking with Local Deaconesses

July 28th, 2010 @ 5:17am

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.