Deaconess

Elizabeth Catherine Ferard, first deaconess of the Church of England
Icon of a deaconess

Deaconess is a non-clerical order in some Christian denominations which sees to the care of women in the community. That word comes from a Greek word diakonos (διακονος) as well as deacon, which means a servant or helper and occurs frequently in the Christian New Testament of the Bible. Deaconesses trace their roots from the time of Jesus Christ through the 13th century. Deaconesses existed from the early through the middle Byzantine periods in Constantinople and Jerusalem; although the office may not have been in existence throughout the European churches. The female diaconate in the Byzantine Church of the early and middle Byzantine periods was recognized as one of the major orders of clergy.[dubious ][1] A modern resurgence of the office began in the early nineteenth century in both Europe and North America. Deaconesses are present in many Christian denominations at the present time.

Contents

Early Christian Period

The oldest reference to deaconesses, women deacons occurs in Paul’s Letters (c. 55-58 AD) (see below). Their ministry is mentioned by early Christian writers such as Clement of Alexandria[2] and Origen.[3] Secular evidence from the early 2nd century confirms it. In a letter to the emperor Trajan, Pliny of Bithynia attests to the role of the deaconesses. Pliny refers to “two maid-servants” as deaconesses whom he tortures to find out more about the Christians. This establishes the existence of the office of the deaconesses in parts of the eastern Roman Empire from the earliest times. Fourth-century Fathers of the Church, such as Epiphanius of Salamis,[4] Basil of Caesarea,[5] John Chrysostom[6] and Gregory of Nyssa[7] accept the ministry of female deacons as a fact.

The Didascalia of the Apostles is the earliest document that specifically discusses the role of the deacons and the deaconesses more at length. It originated in Aramaic speaking Syria during the 3rd century, but soon spread in Greek and Latin versions. In it the author urges the bishop: ‘Appoint a woman for the ministry of women. For there are homes to which you cannot send a male deacon to their women, on account of the heathen, but you may send a deaconess . . . Also in many other matters the office of a woman deacon is required.’[8] The bishop should look on the male deacon as Christ and the woman deacon as the Holy Spirit, denoting their prominent place in the church hierarchy.[9]

The deaconesses are also mentioned in a controversial passage[10] of the Council of Nicea in 325 which seems to imply their hierarchal, consecrated status; then more clearly at the Council of Chalcedon of 451 which decreed that women should not be ordained deacons until they were 40 years old. The oldest ordination rite for deaconesses is found in the 5th-century Apostolic Constitutions.[11] It describes the laying on of hands on the woman by the bishop with the calling down of the Holy Spirit for the ministry of the diaconate. A full version of the rite, with rubrics and prayers, has been found in the Barberini Codex of 780 AD. This liturgical manual provides an ordination rite for female deacons which is virtually identical to the ordination rite for male deacons.[12] Other ancient manuscripts confirm the same rite.;[13] A careful study of the rite has persuaded most modern scholars that the rite was fully a sacrament in present-day terms.[14]

Olympias, one of the closest friends and supporters of the archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom, was known as a wealthy and influential deaconess during the 5th century.[1] Justinian's legislation in the mid-sixth century regarding clergy throughout his territories in the East and the West mentioned male and female deacons in parallel. He also included female deacons among those whose numbers he regulated for service at the Great Church of Hagia Sophia, listing male and female deacons together, and later specifying one hundred male and forty female deacons. Evidence of continuing liturgical and pastoral roles is provided by Constantine Porphyrogenitus' 10th century manual of ceremonies (De Ceremoniis), which refers to a special area for deaconesses in the Hagia Sophia.[1]

Pauline text

The earliest clear mention of a female deacon by Paul (58 AD) is in his Letter to the Romans 16:1 when he says: "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is the deacon of the church at Cenchreae." The original Greek says: 'ουσαν διακονον, ousan diakonon, being [the] [female] deacon of the church at Cenchreae. Many scholars agree that the phrase denotes 'an official title of a permanent ministry', documenting the existence of a female diaconate.[15]

A reference to the qualifications required of these female deacons appears in what is probably a letter by one of Paul's disciples, the I Tim 3:8-13:

The women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things… for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith in Christ Jesus.[9] (New Revised Standard Version. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1993)

This verse about ‘the women’ stands in the middle of a whole section also addressing the men. However, the words regarding 'the women' do not seem to refer to the wives of male deacons, but to deacons who are women. The transition is natural in Greek, because the same word διακονοι covers both men and women. To indicate the women, the Greeks would say ‘διακονοι γυναικες’ [= ‘deacons women’]. We find this expression in the church legislation of Justinian.[16] This interpretation is also followed by the early Greek Fathers such as John Chrysostom[17] and Theodore of Mopsuestia[18] It is through this verse that the female leaders are reminded of their role in the diaconate and confirmed in their active participation in the offices of the church.

Several deaconesses are specifically commended who took part in the Jesus movement alongside himself. Two of these women are Priscilla and Phoebe of the church in Cenchreae. He describes both of these women as ‘helpers of many’ and ‘servants of the church whose business in Rome warranted the support of all the saints’ (Rom 16:1-2).[19] When Paul mentions Phoebe, “our sister Phoebe [the] diakonos of the church of Cenchreae”, he adds “she has been a helper of many and of myself as well”. In describings her role and his in the congregation, Paul uses the Greek verb meaning ‘to be at the head of, to rule, to direct’. In addition, Paul also speaks of other female ministers such as Mary, Tryphaena, Typhosa and Persis whom he writes ‘worked hard in the Lord’ and ‘workers in the Lord’ (v. 12). The contribution of these women is described by the same verb, χοπίάω, used to describe ‘toil’ and ‘labour’ (Matthew 11.28; John 4.6). Moreover, Paul uses this verb to describe his own work for the Lord and other apostolic labours. In addition, Mary’s labour described as ‘among you’ or ‘for your benefit’ (v. 6) suggest a recognized role of ministry within the church .[20] The church at Philippi is another example of early female leadership where women both founded and controlled the church’s ministry. In Paul’s letter to the Philippian church, he addresses the three female leaders, Euodia, Syntyche and a third, for which he uses the affectionate term, syzugē to mean “mate” (Phil. 4:1-3).[21] Through the Pauline epistles it is clear that deaconesses and other women exercised important roles identified and recognized as central within the office of the church.

Women as Deaconesses

Two types of monastic women were typically consecrated to the female diaconate in the early and middle Byzantine period. Abbesses and nuns with liturgical functions, as well as the wives of men who were being raised to the episcopacy. There was a strong association of deaconess with abbess starting in the late fourth century or early fifth century in the East, and occurred in the medieval period in the Latin as well as the Byzantine Church.[1] Principally, these women lived in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, where the office of deaconesses was most often found.[9] There is literary evidence of a female diaconate particularly in Constantinople, and archaeological evidence of deaconesses in a number of other areas in the Empire, particularly Asia Minor.[1] One example of a deaconess from Constantinople during the post-Constantine period was Olympias; a well educated woman who after being widowed devoted her life to the church and was ordained a deaconess. She supported the church with gifts of land, money and her wealth which was typical during this period. Macrina born in 330, the eldest sister of Basil and Gregory of Nussa, was also a well known deaconess who founded her own monastic community. Melania born in Rome in 383, also founded monastic communities and provided hospices for pilgrims.[9] Deaconesses, like these wealthy women, were supporters of the church. In many cases they founded religious communities which welcomed all unmarried women, whether virgins or widows. Deaconesses are often mistaken as being only widows or wives of deacons; and it is sometimes described that they came out of an order of widows. Minor church offices developed about the same time as the diaconate in response to the needs of growing churches. Widows, however, were elderly women of the congregation in need of economic help and social support due to their situation. This concept is mentioned in the first Acts 6:1 and 9:39-41 and 1 Timothy 5. These widows had no specific duties compared to that of the deaconess. In the Apostolic Constitutions deaconesses were recognized as having power over the widows in the church. The widows were cautioned to obey “deaconesses with piety, reverence and fear.”[9] In the first four centuries of the church, widows were recognized members of the church who shared some similar functions of a deaconess; yet did not share the same responsibilities or importance.

Roles

In the Byzantine church deaconesses had both liturgical and pastoral functions within the church.[1] These women also ministered to other women in a variety of ways, including instructing catechumens, assisting with women’s baptisms and welcoming women into the church services. They also mediated between members of the church, and they cared for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the imprisoned and the persecuted.[22] They were sent to women who were housebound due to illness or childbirth. They performed the important sacramental duty of conducting the physical anointing and baptism of nude women. Ordination to the diaconate was also appropriate for those responsible for the women’s choir, a liturgical duty. Evidence in the Vita Sanctae Macrinae (or Life of St. Macrina) shows that Lampadia was responsible for the women's choir. Some believe that they were also presiders of the Eucharist, but this practice was seen as invalid.[23]

Art

Episcopa Theodora (Church of Santa Prassede)

It has been argued that some examples of Christian art reflect the leadership roles of deaconesses including, supposedly, administration of the Host, teaching, baptizing, caring for the physical needs of the congregation, and leading the congregation in prayers.[21] Some depictions of women in early Christian art in various ministerial roles were, arguably, later covered up to depict men. The fresco in the Catacombs of Priscilla has been claimed as one example of a conspiracy to deny women’s involvement in the Eucharist.[22] Another example involves the chapel of St. Zeno in the Church of St. Praxida in Rome. An inscription denoting a woman in the mosaic as, “Episcopa Theodora” was altered by dropping the feminine –ra ending, thereby transforming into a masculine name. Because episcopa is the feminine form of the Greek word for bishop or overseer, the inscription suggests that Theodora was a woman bishop; however, this appellation was also originally used to honour the mother of a bishop.[21]

Decline of the female Diaconate

After the 4th century the role of the deaconesses changed drastically. It appeared that the amount of involvement with the community and the focus on individual spirituality[23] did not allow the deaconess to define her own office. During the rule of Constantine, as Christianity became more institutionalized, leadership roles for women decreased.[9] It was during the fifth and sixth centuries in the western part of the Roman Empire that the role of deaconess became less favorable. The Councils of Orange in 441 and Orléans in 533 directly targeted the role of the deaconesses, forbidding their ordination. By at least the ninth or tenth century only nuns were ordained as female deacons. Evidence of female diaconal ordination itself is less conclusive for the ninth through early twelfth centuries than for previous eras. There is enough of a historical record to indicate that the female diaconate continued to exist as an ordained order in Constantinople and Jerusalem for most if not all of this period. In the Byzantine Church, the female diaconate decline began sometime during the iconoclastic period with the vanishing of the ordained order for women in the twelfth century. It is probable the decline started in the late seventh century with the introduction into the Byzantine Church of severe liturgical restrictions on menstruating women. By the eleventh century, the Byzantine Church had developed a theology of ritual impurity associated with menstruation and childbirth. Dionysius of Alexandria and his later successor, Timothy, had similar restriction on women receiving the Eucharist or entering the church during menses. Thus, “the impurity of their menstrual periods dictated their separation from the divine and holy sanctuary."[1] By the end of the medieval period the role of the deacons decreased into mere preparation for priesthood, with only liturgical roles. In the 12th and 13th century deaconesses have completely disappeared in the European Christian church. By the eleventh century they have ceased to exist in the eastern Mediterranean Christian churches.[9]

Modern history

The modern deaconess movement began in Germany in 1836 when Theodor Fliedner and his wife Friederike Münster opened the first deaconess motherhouse in Kaiserswerth on the Rhine. Fifty years later, there were over 5,000 deaconesses in Europe. William Passavant is credited with bringing the first deaconesses to the United States. During a trip to Germany he came in contact with Pastor Theodor Fliedner, who had opened a hospital and training school for deaconesses in Kaiserswerth. At Passavant's request, in 1849 Fliedner brought four German deaconesses to Pittsburgh to work in the Pittsburgh Infirmary (now Passavant Hospital).[24]

In 1884, John Lankenau, a business owner, brought seven sisters from Germany to run the German hospital in Philadelphia. Other deaconesses soon followed and began ministries in several United States cities with large Lutheran populations. By the 1963 formation of the Lutheran Church in America, there were three main centers for deaconess work: Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Omaha. These three sisterhoods combined and form what became the Deaconess Community of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America or ELCA. The history of the office of Deaconess in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) is thoroughly documented in the 2009 book 'In The Footsteps Of Phoebe'.[25] LCMS Deaconesses affectionately trace their roots back to Phoebe, a woman mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Romans 16.1 as a member of the church of Cenchrea (a Greek city near Corinth).

The spiritual revival in the Americas and Europe of the nineteenth century brought rapid social change. Women who began to seek new roles for themselves turned to deaconess service. On the 18th of July, 1862, Elizabeth Catherine Ferard received Deaconess Licence No. 1 from Archibald Tait, the Bishop of London, making her the first deaconess of the Church of England.[26] On 30 November 1861 she had founded the North London Deaconess Institution and the Community which would become the (Deaconess) Community of St. Andrew. The London Diocesan Deaconess Institution also trained Deaconesses for other dioceses and some served overseas and began deaconess work in Melbourne, Lahore, Grahamstown South Africa and New Zealand. In 1887, Isabella Gilmore oversaw the revival of the Deaconesses not living in a Community. In the Victorian era, for women with a calling to serve God, the role of Deaconess was socially acceptable at the time. Allowed to function as ministers or servants, women filled the traditional societal role of caregivers and teachers.

Denominations

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Karras, Valerie A. (June 2004). "Female Deacons in the Byzantine Church". Church History 73 (2): 272–316. doi:10.1017/S000964070010928X. ISSN 0009-6407. 
  2. ^ Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9:5, ‘’Stromata’’ 3,6,53:3-4.
  3. ^ Commentary on Romans 10:17; Migne PG XIV col. 1278 A-C.
  4. ^ Migne PG 42, cols 744-745 & 824-825
  5. ^ I. Defarrari (ed.), ‘’Saint Basil: the Letters’’, London 1930, Letter 199.
  6. ^ Migne PG 62, col. 553.
  7. ^ Migne PL 62, cols 988-990.
  8. ^ Didascalia 16 § 1; G. Homer, ‘’The Didascalia Apostolorum’’, London 1929; http://www.womenpriests.org/minwest/didascalia.asp
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Olsen, Jeannine E. (1992). One ministry many roles: deacons and deaconesses through the centuries. Concordia scholarship today. St Louis: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 22, 25, 27, 29, 41, 53, 58, 60, 70. ISBN 0570045967. 
  10. ^ http://www.womenpriests.org/traditio/can_nic1.asp
  11. ^ Apostolic Constitutions VIII, 19-20; F. X. Funk, ‘’Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum’’, Paderborn 1905, 1:530.
  12. ^ http://www.womenpriests.org/deacons/deac_gr1.asp
  13. ^ Many texts are now online: "Grottaferrata GR Gb1 (1020 AD)". womenpriests.org. http://www.womenpriests.org/deacons/deac_gr2.asp. Retrieved 2011-04-21. ; "Vatican GR 1872 (1050 AD)". womenpriests.org. http://www.womenpriests.org/deacons/deac_gr3.asp. Retrieved 2011-04-21. ; and "Coislin GR 213 (1050 AD)". womenpriests.org. http://www.womenpriests.org/deacons/deac_gr5.asp. Retrieved 2011-04-21. .
  14. ^ R. Gryson, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church, Collegeville 1976; originally Le ministère des femmes dans l’Église ancienne, Gembloux 1972, esp. pp. 117-118; Y. Congar, ‘Gutachten zum Diakonat der Frau’, Amtliche Mitteilungen der Gemeinsamen Synode der Bistümer der Bundesrepublik Deutschlands, Munich 1973, no 7, p. 37- 41; C. Vaggagini, ‘L'Ordinazione delle diaconesse nella tradizione greca e bizantina’, Orientalia Christiana Periodica 40 (1974) 145-189 ; H. Frohnhofen, ‘Weibliche Diakone in der frühen Kirche’, Studien zur Zeit 204 (1986) 269-278; M-J. Aubert, Des Femmes Diacres. Un nouveau chemin pour l’Église, Paris 1987, esp. p. 105; D. Ansorge, ‘Der Diakonat der Frau. Zum gegenwärtigen Forschungsstand’, in T.Berger/A.Gerhards (ed.), Liturgie und Frauenfrage, St. Odilien 1990, pp. 46-47; A. Thiermeyer, ‘Der Diakonat der Frau’, Theologisch Quartalschrift 173 (1993) 3, 226-236; also in Frauenordination, W. Gross (ed.), Munich 1966, pp. 53-63; Ch. Böttigheimer, , ‘Der Diakonat der Frau’, Münchener Theologische Zeitschrift 47 (1996) 3, 253-266; P. Hofrichter, ‘Diakonat und Frauen im kirchlichen Amt’, Heiliger Dienst 50 (1996) 3, 140-158; P. Hünermann, ‘Theologische Argumente für die Diakonatsweihe van Frauen’, in Diakonat. Ein Amt für Frauen in der Kirche - Ein frauengerechtes Amt?, Ostfildern 1997, pp. 98-128, esp. p. 104; A. Jensen, ‘Das Amt der Diakonin in der kirchlichen Tradition der ersten Jahrtausend’, in Diakonat. Ein Amt für Frauen in der Kirche - Ein frauengerechtes Amt?, Ostfildern 1997, pp. 33-52, esp. p. 59; D. Reininger, Diakonat der Frau in der einen Kirche, Ostfildern 1999 pp. 97-98; P. Zagano, Holy Saturday. An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church, New York 2000; J. Wijngaards, Women Deacons in the Early Church, New York 2002, pp. 99-107.
  15. ^ H. Schlier, ‘’Der Römerbrief’’, Freiburg 1977, pp. 440-441 (full discussion); same view in the commentaries by Th. Zahn, ‘’Der Brief des Paulus an die Römer’’, Leipzig 1925; E. Kühl, ‘’Der Brief des Paulus an die Römer’’, Leipzig 1913; M.J. Lagrange, ‘’Saint Paul, Épître aux Romains’’, Paris 1950; F. J. Leenhardt, ‘’ L’Épître de saint Paul aux Romains’’, Neuchâtel 1957; H.W.Schmidt, ‘’Der Brief des Paulus an die Römer’’, Berlin 1962; O. Michel, ‘’Der Brief an die Römer’’, Göttingen 1963; E. Käsemann, ‘’An die Römer’’, Tübingen 1974. Major article: G. Lohfink, ‘Weibliche Diakone im Neuen Testament’, in ‘’Die Frau im Urchristentum’’, ed. G. Dautzenberg, Freiburg 1983, pp. 320-338.
  16. ^ Novella 6. 6 par. 1-10; 131. 23; 123.30, etc.; R. Schoell and G. Kroll, eds. Corpus iuris civilis, vol. III, Berlin 1899, pp. 43-45, 616, 662.
  17. ^ Homily 11,1 On the First Letter to Timothy; Migne, PG 63, col. 553.
  18. ^ In Epistolas b. Pauli Commentarii, ed. H. B. Swete, Cambridge 1882, vol. II, pp. 128-129.
  19. ^ Jewette, Paul King (1980). The Ordination of Women: An Essay on the Office of Christian Ministry. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 70, 72. ISBN 0802818501. 
  20. ^ France, R.T. (1997). Women in the Church’s Ministry. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 25, 85, 88. ISBN 0802841724. 
  21. ^ a b c Torjesen, Karen Jo (1993). When women were priests : women's leadership in the early church and the scandal of their subordination in the rise of Christianity. San Francisco: Harper. pp. 10, 16. ISBN 0060686618. 
  22. ^ a b Grenz, Stanley J.; Kjesbo, Denise Muir (1995). Women in the church : a biblical theology of women in ministry. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press. p. 39. ISBN 0830818626. 
  23. ^ a b Swan, Laura (2001). The forgotten desert mothers : sayings, lives, and stories of early Christian women. New York: Paulist Press. p. 106. ISBN 0809140160. 
  24. ^ Christ Lutheran Church of Baden http://www.oefgroup.com/34.html
  25. ^ Naumann, C.D. (2009), In The Footsteps of Phoebe, Concordia Publishing House
  26. ^ "Deacons - Famous Deacons". DACE.org. http://www.dace.org/deacons/famous.shtml#ferard. Retrieved 2010-11-19. 
  27. ^ Phyllis Zagano (2004-10-08). "‘Grant Her Your Spirit’". America Magazine. http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=3997. Retrieved 2010-11-19. 

Bibliography

  • Church of England. "The ministry of women, 1920." Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Macmillan,

See: http://www.dace.org/deacons/history-extended.shtml. See Diaconal Association of the Church of England. The Beginnings of Women's Ministry: The Revival of the Deaconess in the Church of England, edited by Henrietta Blackmore, Church of England Record Society, 2007.

  • De Swarte Gifford, Carolyn. The American Deaconess movement in the early twentieth century, 1987. Garland Pub., ISBN 0-8240-0650-X
  • Diakonissen-Anstalt Kaiserswerth.Vierzehnter Bericht über die Diakonissen-Stationen am Libanon: namentlich über das Waisenhaus Zoar in Beirut, vom 1. Juli 1885 bis 30. Juni 1887. 1887. Verlag der Diakonissen-Anstalt,
  • John Malcolm Forbes Ludlow, Woman's work in the church: historical notes on deaconesses and sisterhoods, 1978, 1866, Zenger Pub. Co., ISBN 0-89201-007-X
  • Grygo, Elizabeth N. The Deaconess Movement in the Russian Orthodox Church, 1860-1917.Thesis (M.A.I.S.) University of Washington, 1990
  • Gvosdev, Ellen. The female diaconate: an historical perspective, 1991., Light and Life, ISBN 0-937032-80-8
  • Ingersol, S. (n.d.). The deaconess in Nazarene history. Herald of Holiness, 36.
  • Lauterer, Heide-Marie. Liebestätigkeit für die Volksgemeinschaft: der Kaiserwerther Verband deutscher Diakonissenmutterhäuser in den ersten Jahren des NS-Regimes, 1994. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, ISBN 3-525-55722-1
  • Markkola, Pirjo. Synti ja siveys: naiset, uskonto ja sosiaalinen työ Suomessa 1860-1920. 2002, Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, ISBN 951-746-388-X
  • Salmond, James David. By love serve: the story of the Order of Deaconesses of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, 1962. Presbyterian Bookroom
  • Späth, A. Phöbe, die Diakonissin: vortrag, 1885. Zu beziehen durch .
  • Webber, Brenda, Beatrice Fernande. The Joy of service: life stories of racial and ethnic minority deaconesses and home missionaries, 1992. General Board of Global Ministries
  • Wijngaards, John. Women Deacons in the Early Church. Historical Texts and Contemporary Debates, Herder & Herder, New York 2002.

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Deaconess — Dea con*ess, n. (Eccl.) A female deacon; as: (a) (Primitive Ch.) One of an order of women whose duties resembled those of deacons. (b) (Ch. of Eng. and Prot. Epis. Ch.) A woman set apart for church work by a bishop. (c) A woman chosen as a helper …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • deaconess — ► NOUN ▪ a woman with duties similar to those of a deacon …   English terms dictionary

  • deaconess — [dē′kən is] n. [ME dekenesse < LL(Ec) diaconissa, fem. of diaconus: see DEACON & ESS] in some Protestant denominations, a woman consecrated or commissioned to serve in a church related agency or hospital …   English World dictionary

  • deaconess —    Deaconesses are women who perform the functions of a deacon in many Protestant churches. The modern Protestant deaconess movement began as a small ministry within the Moravian Church in 1745. That movement inspired a German Lutheran pastor,… …   Encyclopedia of Protestantism

  • Deaconess —    In the Apostles time there were holy women set apart for the work of the Church, for example Phoebe, the servant or deaconess, who was commended by St. Paul. This order of Deaconesses continued until about the seventh century, when the changed …   American Church Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • deaconess — UK [ˌdiːkəˈnes] / US [ˈdɪkənəs] noun [countable] Word forms deaconess : singular deaconess plural deaconesses a woman with a position just below that of a priest in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Orthodox churches …   English dictionary

  • Deaconess — A maid that had devoted her life to serve God, and to prayers as well. St. Paul mentioned Phoebe as a deaconess (Rom. 16:1). She is officially in charg of certain duties in the church. She helps the priest in serving women, particularly the sick… …   Dictionary of church terms

  • deaconess — noun Date: 15th century a woman chosen to assist in the church ministry; specifically one in a Protestant order …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • deaconess — /dee keuh nis/, n. 1. (in certain Protestant churches) a woman belonging to an order or sisterhood dedicated to the care of the sick or poor or who is engaging in other social service duties, as teaching or missionary work. 2. a woman elected by… …   Universalium

  • deaconess — noun a) A female deacon. b) A female servant in the early Christian church …   Wiktionary


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