Mid Week Reflection and Prayer – Elizabeth Ferard

A Reflection and Prayer by Rev. Derek Akker.

After the death of her mother in 1858 Elizabeth Ferard wished to find a way to serve God and the Church of England. Her calling was at the same time the Church of England was discussing the revival of the order of deaconesses in England. Archibald Tait, Bishop of London, encourages Elizabeth Ferard’s religious vocation and her visit to the Lutheran Church in Kaiserwerth, Germany where a deaconess institution had been established. Her visits to Kaiserwerth and to other deaconess communities in Germany were inspirational and nurtured her desire to serve as a deaconess.
In 1861 she started her work in creating what would become an order of deaconesses. The Community of St Andrew, housed in Kings Cross, north London, with its rule of life based on worship and works of mercy was the first step. In July 1862 the Bishop of London admitted Elizabeth as the first deaconess in the Church of England.
There was a growth in the deaconess movement and their work among some of the poorest people in in the Kings Cross / St Pancras area of north London. They would have faced the reality of poverty, poor health, poor housing and malnutrition head on. The task must have seemed unending and yet they continued to give of themselves. Much of the conditions that were portrayed in Charles Dickens’s 1838 novel Oliver Twist were still a reality for many existing in Kings Cross. This was where the deaconesses served and sought to bring comfort and show mercy.
Not all deaconesses were members of the Community of St Andrew, some saw their ministry within the parish system. This parochial model was advocated by Isabel Gilmore (1842-1923). The deaconess movement was to spread worldwide, to many American cities as well as South Africa, China, New Zealand and the Philippines.
Elizabeth Ferard, Isabel Gilmore and the other early deaconesses needed to have a single mindedness and strength of mind in order to fulfil their vocation. They were reaching the highest clerical role in the Church of England at a time when women had few rights were seldom in positions of leadership.
In 1987, four Sisters of the Deaconess Community of St Andrew were ordained Deacon at Bristol and Seven Sisters at London. In 1994, three of those Deacons were ordained as Priests.
As we begin our time of prayer and reflection find a comfortable place to sit, slowly breath in and out, trying to calm yourself and become relaxed.
Think about what you have just read, what strikes you about the position of the early deaconesses?
Is there anything you admire or question about Elizabeth Ferard’s vocation?
Pause for moment and think about the challenges the early deaconesses faced, their strength of character and what we can apply from their lives work to ours.
The Lords Prayer
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
Let us pray
Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servants Elizabeth Ferard, Isabel Gilmore and the early deaconesses may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy.  Amen.
Eternal God, the creator of the human family and the world in which we live, grant us the grace to witness in our lives the teaching of Jesus as found in the Gospels. Show us how to live together in the depth of your love. Teach us how to express faith in works of compassion and justice. Direct us as we strive to fashion a world and society reflective of your dream for us and all creation. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and until the day of eternity. Amen.
Final Prayer 
Father, In the awareness of Your presence
Beneath the shadow of Your wings,
In the closeness of Your love, may we abide.
Jesus, In the fellowship of Your saints,
In the communion of Your faithful,
In the church called to mission, may we abide
Spirit, In the power of Your love,
In the fullness of Your gifts,
In the guidance of Your wisdom, may we abide. Amen
May God grant to the world justice, truth and peace. Amen

Picture of Elizabeth Catherine Ferard, First Deaconess of the Church of England, Founder of the Community of St Andrew, d1883