Deaconess Board President
SUPERVISED BY: Pastor in Charge
PREPARED BY: Pastor in Charge
reach out to the lost.
meet with the Board at least once monthly.
assist the Pastor with administering the Sacraments.
prepare and decorate the Pulpit for all worship services.
make provisions for the poor.
To visit the sick.
SKILLS & QUALIFICATION REQUIREMENTS:
good standing with the A.M. E Zion Church.
(Written by G. Alexander Brooks; edited by Bishop
Louis Hunter, Sr.)
This information is designed, first, to direct
prospective Deaconesses in a brief study to give a general knowledge of
essentials of the deaconesship and to serve as a refresher course for those who
have already been consecrated to this office. A brief historical sketch and a
discussion of personality, qualifications, and training and duties will suggest
a consistent, extensive and continued study for better service in this
important office of the Church.
HISTORY OF THE DEACONESSHIP
The word “deacon”, from the
Greek “diakonos”, literally means “one who serves”, one who minsters to others.
The office of the Deacon became necessary soon after church was launched at
Pentecost The feminine form of Deaconess did not occur until sometime later. In
Romans 16:1-2, Paul says, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a
servant of the Church at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh
saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for
she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself, also”
Soon after deacons were
chosen it became necessary for women to assist the Apostles in their work,
especially as it was related to teaching woman and serving in other ways which
could be done better by women than by men. There are indications as in the case
of Dorcas (Acts 9:36) and others, that the service of women was held in highest
esteem by the Church and had a distinctive character.
In the Post- Apostolic Age,
Pliny makes the only reference to such workers in the Church in a letter to
Trajan about 110 A.D. He speaks of young women who are called “ministrae”, that
When the Apostolic
Constitution was written, widows and deaconesses were distinct groups the
former occupying a position inferior to the latter. Different rules were given
for the consecration of each group.
In the fourth century the
order of widows was abandoned, but not that of deaconesses. In 325 A.D. The
Council of Nicaea spoke only of deaconesses, while in 533 A.D. the Council
recognized the widows who were called deaconesses. Later both orders fell into
disuse because of the abuses by Montanous, who allowed women to preach. He also
traveled about the country with two women, which gave cause for much scandal.
Following a period of
probation, the Council of Chalcedon allowed deaconesses to be consecrated at
the age of forty, which was also the requirement of the Justinian Code. There
are only one or two instances where they were consecrated earlier, as the case
recorded by Tertullian that a virgin was admitted at the age of twenty, This,
however, was regarded as a nororius irregularity. At the age of eighteen,
Olympias of Constantinople was praised by Chrysostom for becoming a deaconess.
In the Middle Ages, heretical sects freely ordained deaconess. The Church of
Wesel and the Puritans of Amsterdam, form their beginning, employed women for
such services. In the A.M.E. Zion Church, the office of Deaconess is the only lay office to which one must be consecrated.
Personality of the Deaconess
Personality is important, and
traits or characteristics that make for a desirable personality should be
cultivated. These are appearance, attitudes, habits, sociability, patience,
sympathy, understanding and calmness under emotional conditions.
Any woman feeling the call to
be a deaconess should examine herself to see if she possesses these
characteristics, for as a deaconess she will be often called upon to deal with
both the social and spiritual life of others.
Qualifications of the Deaconess
There is abundant proof that
in the early Church devout Christian women rendered excellent service. Servant
and deaconess being synonymous terms, for women who served were called
Read again Romans 16:1-3
Qualifications of a deaconess
are well stated by Paul. They are similar to those of the deacon. Let us
consider a few passages from his first letter to Timothy.
a slander (1 Timothy 3:11). Another translation says, “not gossips.” A gossip
cannot make a good deaconess. Like the worthy woman of Proverbs 31: 26, “She
openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” One
of the great temptations of life is to keep silent while others are saying
unkind things about another, but the good deaconess will learn to speak wisely
and in love.
grave (3:8,11) Always cheerful, but never silly. She should be a woman of
understanding, weighing wisely every suggestion or bit of advice before
speaking. She should not laugh at those things that should be taken seriously,
double-tongued (3:8). She should never be on both sides of a question, or
undecided about matters affecting another’s welfare, or concerning right or
wrong. The matter of confidence is a sacred trust, and should be held sacred. A
deaconess should never be guilty of talking about others in any way except the
good. If she cannot say the kind thing, then she should say nothing.
. A record of temperance should be behind the life of a deaconess. Intoxicating
liquor should never be mixed with the work of the Lord, and a woman who drinks
disqualifies herself for this desirable type of service. One who gets
intoxicated cannot be sober in her thinking. And if a woman is not sober in her
thought, how can she be sober in her living?
in all things (3:11). She should be trustworthy, dependable, faithful to her
God, to her Church, to her Pastor, and to herself, never leaving undone the
things that she is obligated to do, so far as in her lies strength and ability.
of for good work (5:10). She is to be known for her unselfish service. Dorcas
is a good example (Acts 9:36). Her love for God flowed out to those around who
were in need, but because it was a service she could render “as unto Him”.
(5:10). The world is truly afflicted: death, suffering, broken homes, poverty,
disease and sorrow are everywhere, and the deaconess must ever be ready to
help. The unfortunate must not be left “on the Jericho road”- and they will not
be left when the good deaconess passes by
Whatever may be one’s calling,
training is essential. If one wishes to become a lawyer, physician, musician,
or teacher, he knows he must have the proper training.
A deaconess should feel the call to
this office. “If any man desire the office of bishop, he desireth a good work”
(1 Timothy 3:1). The minister may discover that a young woman has ability and
has felt the call of God. When certain qualities are exemplified in her daily
life and he is convinced that they are genuine, then he may suggest that she be
trained for this work. Such selection should be considered, with humility, as
Jesus kept His disciples in
training for three years, and carefully educated both mind and heart. He taught
them how to pray, how to approach people, and how to deal gently with those who
needed their help, to love their enemies and to do good to them that persecuted
and despitefully used them.
Too often a woman who has been
consecrated to the office of deaconess allows herself to feel that she is
qualified. After she has had a few
months training the consecration service should help her feel her
insufficiency, and convince her that study of God’s Word on these matters must
Deaconess should be trained to
pray, to sacrifice, to be obedient, to love, to tell the truth, to be calm and
submissive and unafraid. The pastor will train, advise and guide them in how to
counsel those in need, and how to help in time of crises.
Regular visitation should be made
by the Deaconess to the sick, convalescent and needy members of the parish. Be
ready to understand with sympathy the vast problems of young and old. The
deaconess is to pray with those who desire prayer,
Deaconesses must not take sides
with unbecoming rumors. They should not allow themselves to be receptacles for
The president should devise a
monthly roster so that the duties are evenly shared for the following (as directed by and at the discretion of the
pastor): (1) Two deaconesses on the duty and in uniform to stand with the
minister when the doors of the Church are opened to assist with new members.
The hymn book should be turned to the page for the reception of New Members.
(2) Two deaconesses on duty at church during wakes and funerals, (3) At least
two deaconesses to assist with Baptism. (4) The Board of Deaconesses should see
to it that the Sacrament of Communion is prepared for the pastor to consecrate
and that the table is properly prepared for the people. This includes the
preparation of clean white linen, shining silver, and properly displaying
emblems and colors for the season. The bread and grape3 juice are also to be
made ready for consecration for the Lord’s Supper.
The age (approximately 40 years of
age) of the women on the board should be balanced. Just as young men and women
are urged to answer the call to the ministry, young women should also seek to
know early what the Master would have them to do, and answer His call. Younger
women on the board bring strength physically and mentally and can add vigor to
the overall service rendered by the strength physically and mentally and can
add vigor to the overall service rendered by the Board. Likewise, the older
members of the Board provide the wisdom of experience and the beauty of a good
example to help groom the younger women in this life of dedication and service.
Because the members of this Board
are consecrated, the spirit of working together in harmony and
love should abound. The spirituality of the Board should be deep; and it is
each woman’s duty to seek spiritual growth and knowledge that will enhance her
Christian life and add to the ministry of the Board. Bible study, prayer meeting,
Sunday School, daily devotions will deepen spirituality, and the deaconess
should seek to participate in them as often as possible.
From the Discipline, A.M.E. Zion