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Manitoba Day Award

Dr. Caryn Douglas Award Receipient 2014

Dr. Caryn Douglas Award Receipient 2014

A 2014 Manitoba Day Award was presented to Caryn Douglas in recognition of excellence in the use of archives for the development of the website, by the Association for Manitoba Archives at a ceremony on May 13, 2014.  The award recognizes users of archives who have completed an original work of excellence which contributes to the understanding and celebration of Manitoba History.

How you can contribute

The United Church Deaconess History Project welcomes your input.  This “diakiopedia” approach will enhance and enrich this resource.

If you have any additional information, biographies, pictures, names of missing women, and so on, please let us know.  We welcome corrections and edits too.  Feedback is MOST welcome.   204.487.2076


 Friends gathered with Jessie MacLeod and researcher Caryn Douglas to reflect together on Jessie's diaconal ministry, Baddeck, Nova Scotia 2011

Friends gathered with Jessie MacLeod and researcher Caryn Douglas to reflect together on Jessie’s diaconal ministry, Baddeck, Nova Scotia 2011

Many thanks to the hundreds of people who have taken an interest in this project, particularly to the Deaconesses.  Folks have rooted through cupboards, and poured through photo albums, recalled their own stories, conversed with family to recount the life of an aunt or a grandmother, posted requests for information, interviewed subjects and solicited articles for church newsletters. Thanks as well to those who have reviewed text and provided feedback and support.

Gratitude is offered to:

  • Diane Haglund, Archives, Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, The United Church of Canada
  • Jane Bowe-McCarthy, Archives, Alberta Northwest Conference, The United Church of Canada
  • Bob Anger, Archives, Presbyterian Church in Canada
  • Nichole Vonk, The United Church of Canada Archives, Toronto
  • Blair Galston, Bob Stewart Archives, British Columbia Conference, The United Church of Canada
  • Linda White, Archivist, Newfoundland and Labrador Conference, The United Church of Canada
  • Tom Broadhurst, General Council Offices, The United Church of Canada
  • The Centre for Christian Studies
  • Jean Burgess, daughter of Angolan Missionaries, for her work on the women who served in Angola
  • Peter Kidd for technical support and website construction and tons and tons of patience
  • Betsy Anderson for her mentorship and leadership among the United Church women’s community
  • Cathie Clement, Lee Rye and Nancy Fraser for proof reading and data entry assistance.


This research has been made possible through the support of The McGeachy Senior Scholarship, United Church of Canada, Nancy’s Very Own Foundation, The Barbara Elliott Trust Fund for Innovative Ministry, Diakonia of the United Church of Canada, St. Stephen’s Broadway Foundation and private donations.

The McGeachy Senior Scholarship

The McGeachy Scholarship resulted from a substantial bequest from the estate of William A. and Margaret H. McGeachy, a southwestern Ontario farming family. The intent of chosen scholarship projects is to develop leaders who will provide The United Church of Canada with discernment and direction that inspire and challenge the church towards creative and faithful mission.

The McGeachy Senior Scholar is expected to express the prophetic vision of the church and to interpret Christ’s call to justice and peace in our pluralistic world. She or he will combine reflection and research with practical action, and communicate the results of this work in a form accessible to the wider church.

Audrey McKim (second from right) with the Kenyan Council of Churches in 1962: "We didn't always wear heels! But look at me ... funny when I look at this picture, you forget how things really were then."

Audrey McKim (second from right) with the Kenyan Council of Churches in 1962: “We didn’t always wear heels! But look at me … funny when I look at this picture, you forget how things really were then.”


Deaconess History Project Overview

In proposing The Deaconess History Project in 2010, Caryn Douglas wrote:

In The United Church of Canada we are proud of our heritage of inclusion of women in service.  There are lessons we could learn as a denomination from the stories of these women and their ministries. As First Nation storyteller Thomas King observes, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” 1 Another First Nation storyteller, Jeannette Armstrong elaborates, “I am a listener to the language’s stories, and when my words form I am merely retelling the same stories in different patterns.”2 As we pioneer into this new age of being church, we need to listen so we know, and put into language for today, our stories.

For many years I have been lamenting that someone didn’t interview and record the stories of the Deaconess pioneers 25 years ago.  I do not want to have the same lament offered 25 years from now.  In the spirit of the United Church’s apology to the deaconesses who were expelled from ministry when they married, it is time to bring these stories to light.

I am proposing a project of research into the lives of deaconesses. No one has done this specific and vital work to date. The focus would be on the women who rendered service in the Deaconess Order all their lives.  I plan to combine several research methodologies: interviews, archival digging, collecting and reviewing the small amount of literature that there is.  I also want to facilitate a process of “community biography” as a tool to further strengthen United Church identity as community, with a particular emphasis on the diaconal community.

1 Thomas King, The Truth About Stories A Native Narrative, (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2003), 2.
²  King, The Truth About Stories, quoting, Jeannette Armstrong, Speaking of the Generations: Native Writers on Writing, ed. Simon Ortiz (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998), 181.


Dr. Caryn Douglas, Primary Researcher

Caryn is deeply rooted in the diaconal community and is familiar with its history.  She has been a member of the United Church’s diaconate since her commissioning as a Diaconal Minister in 1989.  Her ministry has included: community outreach in First Nations communities and inner city, congregational leadership in church redevelopment, and, theological education and administration. Caryn became a “story carrier” for the diaconal community during the decade (1998-2008) that she was Principal of the Centre for Christian Studies. Since 1892, CCS and its forerunners, have been the primary school for diaconal ministry education for the United and Anglican churches.  She has taught courses on diaconal history and mentored diaconal formation, as well as participated in international diaconal conferences and meetings.  Caryn’s doctoral project focuses on the story of Deaconesses who were “disjoined” from ministry when they married, and the United Church apology to them in 2006.

Caryn received a B.A. at Victoria College, University of Toronto, a diploma in Diaconal Ministry at the Centre for Christian Studies, a Master of Religious Education from St. Michael’s College (U. of Toronto), and a Doctor of Ministry from St. Stephen’s College (Edmonton).

She lives with her partner and son in Winnipeg.