Biblical Ministries for Women (Part 5)
By Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee, Th.D.. Ph.D.
12. Various jobs done by Deaconesses down throughout church history
For very many centuries, Deaconesses have done great work in helping the afflicted -- caring for widows and orphans; running women's organisations; and relieving the poor, etc. See too sections 5 & 7 above. Thus, around 225 A.D., Clement of Alexandria wrote that the women who accompanied the apostle Paul on his missionary journeys (cf. Rom. 16:2-3 & Phil. 4:5), col-laborated in teaching by bringing the Gospel to Pagan and to Jewish women not in public but in private homes (Tit. 2:3-5 & Acts 16:13-15 & 18:2,26) -- while the Apostles themselves preached in public and especially to the men (cf. Acts 6:1-2 & 13:l5ff).
Too, the 400 A.D. Chrysostom testified that the women who worked with the Apostles did not preach the Gospel publically in the congregational meetings. Yet they did engage in various private conversations -- and helped to spread the Gospel through other services, such as ministering hospitality.7
The great Protestant Reformation resurrected the office of Deaconess after its mediaeval decline and disuse. The Reformed Churches in Rhineland as well as the Moravian Brethren were famous for this.8 And some good few Deaconesses served in the city hospital of Calvin's Geneva -- taking care of the poor and the sick (see Calvin's Commentary on Romans 12:4-8 etc.).
Too, the Dutch Reformed Synod of Wezel in 1568 re-affirmed -- that suitably-qualified Christian women were eligible to serve as Deaconesses.9 Other Deaconesses worked at special Christian homes for the aged and for the handicapped 8
Yet others worked in the rehabilitation of street women.10 Always, however, the Deaconesses worked under the direction of the (male) Diaconate -- composed only of the male Deacons of a congregation or a group of congregations. Cf. Acts 6:1-8.
13. Modern needs which can ideally be met by Deaconesses
In addition to the above Deaconess jobs mentioned in Scripture and during subsequent church history (cf. sections 9-12 above), there are also modern church jobs which need to be done officially in the Name of Christ -- and which can ideally be executed by Deaconesses. Such Christian works in the Name of Christ and His Church, include: ministering to home-care patients; making and/or delivering meals to the needy; housekeeping services for invalids; providing and/or repairing clothes for the indigent; corrective education enabling recipients to learn how to take care of themselves and of others; instructing trainees how to teach others to care for themselves and for others; directing essential home repairs; providing good and Christian companionship for the lonely; commemoration of anniversaries; and operating essential services.
More specialised ministries would or could involve: helping at births and also at funerals; running youth hostels, shelters for runaways, drug rehabilitation centres, pregnancy advice services, homes for unwed mothers-to-be, regular maternity homes, home care and nutrition centres, baby and child care instruction services, corrective homes for girl delinquents, counselling centres, church personnel retirement homes, migrant orientation services, visitation of female prisoners, disaster relief agencies, nursing homes, nurses* hostels, and Christian hospitals. There is also a great need for running Christian day schools, Christian weddings, Christian labour relations advice centres, Christian homemakers’ groups, Christian correction centres, schools for the disabled, and shelters for flood and fire victims, etc.
Also needed are planners and personnel for Christian relaxation centres, for organising congregational suppers, flowers for bereavements, and the writing and mailing of get-well cards, There is also convalescent care, the organization of various kinds of Christian regional conferences, and Christian vacation resorts and rest homes, etc.
There is too the need of furthering the work of international Christian help to disadvantaged foreigners and especially women overseas; Christian health food depots; Christian subeconomic housing schemes; home financing services; fundraising for Christian endeavours; Christian adoption and mental health agencies; Christian ecology centres, etc., etc. Any one of the above could well occupy the lifelong services of at least one Deaconess.