In 2016 we celebrated the 125th anniversary of Anglican Deaconess Ministries (ADM). It was a significant time to reflect back on the amazing training and ministries in which this organisation has been involved.
The organisation was originally the vision of the Rev Mervyn and Martha Archdall. They saw the work of deaconesses in Germany and were inspired to encourage women in Sydney to undertake a similar ministry.
The history of the women who subsequently offered themselves for service is truly inspiring. There was a recognition that all ministry needed to be grounded in God’s word. And so, Deaconess House was established (which is now Mary Andrews College).
These women who trained were courageous and, in many cases, pioneering. They lived out the understanding that God’s word was not just for our heads. It was to permeate one’s heart and find expression in our hands. And so, cutting edge ministries were established. Ministries in difficult places and with broken people. Schools were established in disadvantaged areas. They set up homes for children and adolescents in need, including a home for girls who had been referred by law courts. They provided training to uneducated women so they could find employment. They established a hospital network that particularly cared for the dying. These women reached out into their communities with the love of Jesus through word and care.
For us as an organisation, it has been a helpful time of reflection and planning for the future. What are we to be in our day?
The biblical prophet Isaiah had a deep sense of urgency to share this same challenge with people of his day. Isaiah 58 reveals that people then were confusing relationship with religion. They believed that if they performed some religious activities, then God would respond to them in the way they wanted. But they were actually blind to what God had always wanted from them: a right relationship with him, that was then reflected in right relationship with others.
I know at Mary Andrews College we talk about this from day one. Study is not an end in itself! It is an important part of developing a relationship with God. For to have a relationship with God is to become like him. The way we live flows from our deep interaction with God. Just like the women in our history, it flows from the head, to the heart, to the hands.
Our actions reflect a heart changed by God. A heart that now notices the broken and the poor and the vulnerable. A heart that is quick to act in love. There is a great paradox here. When our focus is on others, because God has changed our hearts, we receive.
As an organisation we have been grappling with some of these issues. How are we to give expression to this? How are we to be encouraging others? As a result, Anglican Deaconess Ministries has been stepping out in some very significant directions. It is important to note, however, that the study and proclamation of God’s word is always foundational to all our ministries, and Mary Andrews College remains an important aspect of this.
ADM has launched the Mental Health and Pastoral Care Institute, under the leadership of Keith and Sarah Condie. Our Mercy and Justice Ministries are being developed, giving very concrete expression to the practical care that a relationship with God calls us to. It is our hope that many of the students who come through Mary Andrews College will be inspired by these ministries and be enriched in their own ministries in their churches.
There is also a deep desire in ADM to raise up women who are passionate about God’s word and are seeking to find ways to engage with God’s world. So, an ADM Fellowship program has been established, together with an initiative called the Hub in which women who are leading not-for-profits, profits and arts initiatives are meeting together regularly to be mentored and to explore how they can bring gospel-shaped renewal to the areas they are involved in.
Our Annual Funding Event gives the opportunity for women to present inspiring ideas of engagement with the world for the sake of Jesus. A number of financial awards are made on the day that enable these initiatives to be developed.
We’re at an exciting stage in our history, as we continue to seek to encourage women to integrate their relationship with God and engagement in his world. We’re calling committed, courageous women to keep working in hard places. We want to inspire, support, pray for and encourage these women.
Rev. Jackie Stoneman
DipMusEd, AMusA, LTCL, ThL (2nd Cl Hons), D'ss H'se Diploma (Hons), MA (Chaplaincy), Grad Cert in Professional Supervision (Pastoral)
Principal of Mary Andrews College, Jackie has been on the Faculty since 1994. Originally a High School Music teacher, Jackie trained at Moore Theological College and spent the following ten years in parish ministry. She is actively involved in Sadleir Anglican Church, Kairos prison ministry and ministering to women in Myanmar each year.
Deaconesses reached out into their communities with the love of Jesus as they served in churches, hospitals, schools and children’s homes. Their ministry work included teaching, encouraging, caring and training. The last deaconess was set apart in 1991, after the role of deacon was opened to women in 1989. Our deaconesses leave us a legacy of sacrificial service and ministry.
In April 2018, many of our remaining deaconesses, along with several female deacons, joined together at ADM for lunch and a time of prayer and sharing. On that day, we asked them to share their advice for the next generation of Christian women, based on their experiences in ministry:
Discover more about the lives and experiences of our past and current Deaconesses.