Community of St Andrew – cataloguing completed

The Community of St. Andrew collection has recently been catalogued and is now available for research. It has taken 4 months to catalogue nearly 50 boxes of archive material and you can search the collection on our online archive catalogue.  The material charts the establishment of the first Deaconess religious community in the Church of England from its beginnings in the 1860s to the present day.

The Community of St. Andrew, or the North London Deaconess Institution as it was called in 1861, moved to Tavistock Crescent in Westbourne Park in the early 1870s where the mother house stayed for the next 130 years.  The community always had a dual purpose of performing prayer and worship for the surrounding community it resided in and performing good works for the community.  The collection contains much material that reflects the dual purpose of the community with many papers documenting the rules that the sisters followed in their daily life and the compassionate work carried out by the sisters.

There is a whole series of papers on ‘The Religious Life’ that contains many papers written by sisters and Mother Superiors in the community which give evidence to the theological motivations for the actions of the community.  Mother Clare who was Mother Superior from 1942-1964 was particularly prolific and the collection contains many addresses that she made to religious conferences during her service as Mother Superior.

There are some records created by the foundress of the community, Elizabeth Ferard, including her Diary that she kept while on Deaconess training at Kaiserswerth in Germany and notes she made during the Deaconess Conference in 1861 where she put forward questions about how she should establish and develop the Deaconess order in England.  An extract of these minutes can be seen below:

Note on deaconess training
Note on deaconess training

The community established many branch houses over its lifetime and there is material that relates to the administration of these houses and the works they undertook.  As the numbers of sisters in the community reduced, these branch houses were closed and sisters who worked there recalled to the Mother House.  The correspondence documenting these closures highlights the effects they had on the sisters involved and how the community as a whole adapted to these changes.

As the numbers of sisters in the community dwindled the need for the larger Mother House at Tavistock Crescent was reduced and the mother house was reduced in size through refurbishment and then finally handed over to the Anglican Communion Office in the early 2000s when the community moved to Verona Court in Chiswick.  They retained an office at Tavistock Road where they still have a presence today.

The collection also has a series of records concerning the Deaconess order in general.  Members of the community were very actively involved in national Deaconess committees and conferences and their activities are documented in correspondence and minutes of meetings.  There is also a sizeable collection of newsletters relating to the Deaconess order.

You can find the collection on the archive catalogue by searching for the order number prefix CSA.  Visit our reading room to see any papers you are interested in.

Women’s ministry – the Community of St. Andrew

The first deaconess community in the Church of England was established in 1861 authorised by the Bishop of London – Bishop Tait. Originally called the North London Deaconess Institution and now known as the Community of St. Andrew, this religious community has recently transferred their papers to Lambeth Palace Library and they reveal some of the rich story of women’s ministry in the Church of England over the last 150 years.

Elizabeth Ferard became the first officially sanctioned deaconess in the Church of England on 18 July 1862. The office of Deaconess was the highest order for women in the church until 1987 when women were first ordained as deacons. The ordination of women obviously had a huge impact on the Community of St. Andrew and some sisters chose to be ordained as deacons whilst others preferred to remain deaconesses. Some of the papers catalogued so far document how the community was affected by women’s ordination to the diaconate and also the priesthood.

The document shown below published in 1862 describes the work of the sisters of the community and shows that the deaconesses operated under the auspices of episcopal authority.CSA Description

One of the most interesting parts of the collection is the diary of Elizabeth Ferard that documents her visit to the deaconess institution in Kaiserswerth in Germany. This institution was established in 1833 by Pastor Fliedner of the Lutheran church and by 1858, 220 Deaconesses had been set apart there. Other English women such as Florence Nightingale gained nursing experience at Kaiserswerth and Ferard writes in her diary that her visit there had a huge impact on developing the deaconess ministry in England. When she returned to England she was resolved to creating a similar institution here.   Her return in 1858 coincided with a discussion at the convocation of Canterbury about reviving the order of deaconess and thus the conditions for the first deaconess institution in England were set.

Selected extracts of Elizabeth Ferard’s diary were re-produced in print by Henrietta Blackmore in ‘The Beginning of Women’s Ministry, The Revival of the Deaconess in the 19th Century Church of England’, (2007). This is available to read in Lambeth Palace Library reading room. You can find it in our online printed books catalogue at http://www.lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/searchcollections.

The records of the community have been very well cared for by one of the sisters – Sr. Teresa who did a lot of work preparing the collection for transfer to Lambeth Palace Library. A list of the collection made by Henrietta Blackmore and later supplemented by Sr. Teresa has been extremely helpful in determining the contents of the archive. An archivist doesn’t often get this kind of help to discern the correct arrangement and content of an archive, often having to sort through huge piles of disparate papers to find the original order. Preserving the original order of any collection is one of the core jobs of an archivist and coming across such a well-cared for collection is gratefully received!

Work on the collection is progressing well with 20 of the 69 boxes already catalogued. Re-packaging of the collection into archival containers is one of the principal jobs to ensure their long term preservation in the stores at Lambeth Palace Library. The collection will be made available to the public for the first time through our online catalogues and should be completed by August 2015.