A century of service: celebrating the role of deaconesses in the church

Holmes, Janice and McCracken, Philippa (2008). A century of service: celebrating the role of deaconesses in the church. Belfast: 10Publishing.


This publication was commissioned by the Presbyterian Women’s Association (Ireland) and the Presbyterian Historical Society in Ireland, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Board of Mission in Ireland. It consists of two parts. The first part, written by Dr Janice Holmes, is a historical survey, based on original scholarly research and including full references, of the first 100 years of the deaconess movement in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), 1908-2008. This survey recounts the origins of the deaconess movement within the PCI in the early twentieth century, its leadership and organisational structures, its personnel and its activities. It goes on to explain the difficulties encountered by this fledgling movement, in particular its lack of funds and the ambivalent attitudes towards women’s ministry within the church. It explores how the deaconesses were reorganised in the 1940s and placed on a more secure financial footing, which allowed the group to grow in size and scale. It considers the changes of management and the move into new areas of ministry, such as hospitals and suburban housing estates. It concludes with a consideration of deaconesses within the modern Irish Presbyterian church and how their largely service-based role sits alongside that of female clergy.

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