A deaconess ministry in a Christian church is a group of women who serve the congregation and community. Deaconess duties vary greatly among denominations, but responsibilities generally include such tasks as assisting with church ordinances, supporting the clergy, ministering to the needy and educating female church members. While deaconesses are sometimes ordained, they're typically considered part of the lay ministry.
Assist with Church Ordinances
Deaconesses prepare garments and towels for water baptisms and help female candidates dress and enter the water. Episcopal deaconesses can sometimes perform infant baptisms in the absence of a priest. Deaconesses also arrange the table setting for the Lord’s Supper. A Seventh Day Adventist deaconess might also assist with distributing Holy Communion. Deaconesses are responsible for purchasing, cleaning, maintaining and discarding objects used for the ordinances of baptism and Holy Communion.
Support Deacons and Clergy
Deaconesses will often accompany deacons or clergy members on visits to female church members to uphold standards of modesty and privacy. Deaconesses may also take an active role during meetings by ushering parishioners into the sanctuary and seeing that they are comfortable. In the Episcopal faith, deaconesses may read the morning and evening prayer and the Litany in the absence of the priest and with approval from the bishop. Among Seventh Day Adventists, deaconesses are also tasked with maintaining the appearance of church grounds.
Help the Needy
Deaconesses help families in times of crisis, such as death or illness. They will comfort families by providing moral support and relieve a family’s stress by preparing hot meals and coordinating childcare. They will often send flowers on behalf of the church. Deaconesses regularly visit the sick and shut-in who can't attend weekly meetings. They spearhead charitable efforts to help the poor in the community.
Care for Women
Deaconesses promote the general welfare of females in the church. They educate women in the faith and counsel them through issues. They do this through formal teaching and informal, personal discussions. Deaconesses may even organize wedding or baby showers for women associated with the church to show support and joy for life’s milestones.
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