History, photos and stories of these unsung heroes of the Church
In the Episcopal Church, Deaconesses were faith-filled women who were the early pioneers of servant ministry. Being "set apart" as a deaconess was one of the few ways women could serve the Church in the years before the ordination of women.
It's been recorded that four deaconesses were ordained by Bp. William Whittingham of Maryland in September, 1857. At the time, women in the USA were not ordained as deacons. In 1970, the last of some 500 deaconesses were ordained. That same year, when General Convention voted to allow women to be ordained as deacons, the deaconesses were automatically included in this group.
Episcopal Deaconesses Feast Day - September 22
General Convention 2022 passed Resolution A008, authorizing this commemoration for trial use for the triennium 2021-2024; in Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2018.
The Episcopal deaconess movement describes a ministry of women who were set apart for service by their bishops, beginning in 1857 and ending with the ordination of women as deacons, authorized by General Convention in 1970.
Episcopal deaconesses joined a wider, multi-denominational movement that began in Europe in the 19th century. Read the full text.
We've created a bulletin insert that can be used on the Deaconess feast day.
Presentation on Deaconess Harriet Bedell, by Deacon Tracie Middleton. Looks at Bedell's early deaconess training, her work at Whirlwind Mission in Oklahoma, Stevens Village in Alaska, in Allakaket, near the Arctic Circle, the Florida Everglades Seminole community, and more.
Deaconess Commemorations at the Sisters in Faith website, by Deacon Patricia Marks.
Procession of Deaconess candidates, NYC, 1914
Know of a deaconess we've missed? Please contact Deacon Anne, webmaster.