Daily Prayer At Saint Laika’s

* Isabella Gilmore and Elizabeth Ferard *


God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, though your people walk in the valley of darkness, no evil should they fear; for they follow in faith the call of the shepherd whom you have sent for their hope and strength. Attune our minds to the sound of his voice, lead our steps in the path he has shown, that we may know the strength of his outstretched arm and enjoy the light of your presence for ever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Christians, dismiss your fear, let hope and joy succeed;
the great good news with gladness hear, the Lord is risen indeed;
the shades of death withdrawn, his eyes their beams display,
so wakes the sun, when rosy dawn unbars the gates of day.

The promise is fulfilled, salvation’s work is done,
justice with mercy’s reconciled and God has raised his son;
he quits the dark abode, from all corruption free,
the holy, harmless child of God could no corruption see.

Angels with saints above the rising victor sing
and all the blissful seats of love with loud hosannas ring;
you pilgrims, too, below, your hearts and voices raise,
let every breast with gladness glow and every mouth sing praise.

My soul, thy saviour laud, who all your sorrows bore,
who died for sin, but lives to God and lives to die no more;
his death procured my peace, is resurrection’s mine;
believe, receive the full release: it is signed with blood divine.

( Joseph Hart 1762 )

MEDITATION by Tim Madsen

Isabella Gilmore and Elizabeth Ferard: restoring the ancient order of deaconess

Today Saint Laika’s honours the memory of two women who, in serving Christ, helped restore to the Church the ancient order of deaconess. Although Saint Paul mentioned deaconesses in his epistles, and Saint John Chrysostom considered the model appropriate for both sexes, the order vanished for hundreds of years until revived when Theodor Fliedner founded a deaconess community among Lutherans in Kaiserswerth, Germany in 1836. Episcopalians in Baltimore, Maryland, started similar work in circa 1855. The nineteenth century deaconess movement involved women living in community while carrying out traditional deacon ministries, especially teaching and serving the poor in industrialising cities.

Isabella Gilmore (1842–1923) was recruited by the Bishop of Rochester, to revive the female diaconate in his diocese. Her initial reluctance, based on her lack of theological training and her lack of knowledge of the deaconess order, was worn down by the bishop. At the end of October 1886, she felt she received a calling during Morning Prayer.

She later wrote, "It was just as if God’s voice had called me, and the intense rest and joy were beyond words."

Gilmore and the Bishop of Rochester proceeded to plan for an order of deaconesses where the women were to be “a curiously effective combination of nurse, social worker and amateur policeman”. In 1887, she was ordained a deaconess and a training house for other woman was put in place, later to be named Gilmore House in her honour. Isabella served actively in the poorest parishes in South London until her retirement in 1906. She had personally trained at least seven other head deaconesses for other dioceses before she died in 1923.

Elizabeth Catherine Ferard (1825-1883) was encouraged in her vocation by the Bishop of London, particularly her visit to deaconess communities in Germany after the death of her invalid mother in 1858. Ferard founded the North London Deaconess Institution in 1861. The women who joined her dedicated themselves to the Church, to teach and care for the sick, but without taking formal vows. Ferard was ordained a deaconess on the eighteenth of July, 1862. She went on to found a community with the dual vocation of being deaconesses and religious sisters. She died on the eighteenth of April, 1883.

Scripture. In the "Letter to the Philippians," chapter four, verses two and three, we read:

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.


We pray...

... for peace in the world.

... for deaconesses and lay women called to serve God in their local community.

... for those who have died recently and for those who mourn their passing.

... for those who are unwell and for those caring for them.

... for those, both close to us and far off, who we hold in our personal prayers.

... for ourselves.


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.


From "The Problem of Pain" by C. S. Lewis:

It would, no doubt, have been possible for God to remove by miracle the results of the first sin ever committed by a human being; but this would not have been much good unless he was prepared to remove the results of the second sin, and of the third, and so on forever. If the miracles ceased, then sooner or later we might have reached our present lamentable situation: if they did not, then a world thus continually underpropped and corrected by divine interference, would have been a world in which nothing important ever depended on human choice, and in which choice itself would soon cease from the certainty that one of the apparent alternatives before you would lead to no results and
was therefore not really an alternative.


Almighty God, you called Isabella Gilmore and Elizabeth Catherine Ferard to restore the ancient order of deaconess to your Church. Bless all those who are answering that call to serve today, so that through the ministry of women, many may come to know Jesus Christ, and to give glory to your name; through the same Jesus Christ your son, our saviour and lord. Amen.

May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.


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