We read this at the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans – ” I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.”
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” wrote St. Paul to the saints in Galatia (Gal 6:2). He was calling them to bear witness to the Christ who was in them by showing mercy and compassion to those in need. Jesus taught his disciples that a lively confession of the faith must always be accompanied by a life of charity and forgiveness.
Concordia Theological Seminary was founded in 1846 by pastors in order to share the precious Gospel of Christ as biblically and historically confessed by the Lutheran Church. One of those pastors, Pastor Wilhelm Loehe of Neuendettalsau, Bavaria, Germany, was committed to the training of deaconesses for service in the church as a part of the seminary’s mission. In Germany, Loehe supported a thriving group of deaconesses devoted to providing acts of mercy and charity to those broken by sickness and sin. When the seminary began its deaconess program in the fall of 2003, it was simply continuing a tradition begun by Pastor Loehe over 150 years ago.
A deaconess is a woman who is theologically trained and dedicated to sharing the Gospel of Christ through acts of mercy and human care. The role of deaconess finds expression in diverse settings and specializations, whether in a congregation, in an institution, or on the mission field. Serving alongside the pastor, she embodies Christ’s incarnational care in the midst of suffering.