Scholarly Papers

Deaconess Violet Deeprose (front row right) was on staff at Crosby Girls Home, part of the United Church residential school in Port Simpson, BC 1940

Deaconess Violet Deeprose (front row right) was on staff at Crosby Girls Home, part of the United Church residential school in Port Simpson, BC 1940

Papers on United Church Deaconesses and Related Topics

For a thorough listing of Academic Thesis written by United Church Diaconal Ministers visit Diakonia of the United Church of Canada,


Scholarly papers and other resources on disjoining are here.


Resources on denominations other than The United Church of Canada, including World Diakonia and World Council of Churches are here.


“Alice Chown’s Criticism of Deaconess Education in the Methodist Church”, Diana Chown, Historical Studies in Education, 8 No. 1 (1996) 82-89.  (This is a link to the website of Historical Studies in Education where the article is available for free download.)

Using Alice Chown’s letters in The Guardian (which are reproduced at the end of the article) the author (also a Chown) demonstrates the political view of the Methodist Deaconess movement and school in contrast with a more radical view taken by Chown who argues for social reform and justice not charity and social service.

Training Deaconesses the Manitoba Way, Sherri McConnell, 1998.

An exploration of the history, curriculum and practice of the Presbyterian, later United Church, program to educate women as Deaconesses and Women Workers.  Sherri’s paper is probably the only scholarly exploration of this program ever undertaken.

Canadian Deaconess and Missionary Education for Women – Training to Live the Social Gospel:  The Methodist National Training School and the Presbyterian Deaconess and Missionary Training Home, 1893-1926, Sherri McConnell, MA Thesis, U of Winnipeg,  2003

This thesis argues that through the integration of the late nineteenth century missionary imperative with the newly emerging social gospel movement of the early twentieth century, a unique form of theological education and vocational development was created specifically for women.  The adaptive, practical and socially focused ethos of the training schools meant the training schools became their denominations’ concrete embodiment of the social gospel – an ethos which can be seen in today’s diaconal education/formation.

General History

A Tale of Deaconesses in the United Church of Canada: 1925 to 1964   Mary Anne MacFarlane,  MA Thesis,   U of Toronto, 1987.

A thorough, well documented and interpreted history of The United Church of Canada Deaconess Order from 1925 to 1964.

Called to Serve A Story of Diaconal Ministry in The United Church of Canada, Nancy Elizabeth Hardy, Division of Ministry Personnel and Education, The United Church of Canada, 1985.

A short history of Diaconal Ministry in a narrative style, including photographs and bibliography.

“Faithful and Courageous Handmaidens: Deaconesses in The United Church of Canada, 1925-1945”, Mary Anne MacFarlane,   in Changing Roles of Women within the Christian Church in Canada. ed. Elizabeth Gillian Muir and Michael E. Williams, 238-258. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995.  Permission to reproduce this was denied by the publisher.

Evolving Symbols — Evolving Ministry: An Exploration of Diaconal Symbols in The United Church of Canada, Sharilynn Upsdell, Master of Theological Studies Thesis, St. Stephen’s College, Edmonton, 2015.

This paper is an important contribution to an area not previously researched.  An examination of the history of diaconal pins, with a focus on the Presbyterian, Methodist and United Church Orders, then a detailed exploration of the creation of a contemporary pin for UCC Diaconal Ministers.  Some ecumenical history is included as well information on uniforms.

History of Diaconal Ministry in The United Church of Canada 1925-1991, Committee on Diaconal Ministry, United Church of Canada, 1991.

This history draws on A Tale of Handmaidens (see above) for a condensed version of the history up to 1964 and then uses various sources to extend to 1991.  The later history is more anecdotal.  This book can be reproduced without permission for non commercial purposes.

Specific History (Mission, Geography, Time Period)

Bridges of Friendship, Mae Laycock, 1974.

A history of the Methodist/United Church Mission to Ukrainians in Alberta.   There are other scholarly resources on this work which engage a more critical perspective.  This is a self published history written by one of the women workers.  For a higher resolution copy, contact us at

“Helping the Poorer Sisters”: The Women of the Jost Mission, Halifax, 1905-1945″, Christina Simmons, Acadiensis, Volume 14, issue 1, 1984  Reproduced with permission from the author.

A well done examination of the Mission and the women who ministered there, many of them Deaconesses.

“To Lead them to the Higher Life”: Women Workers at All Peoples’ Mission Winnipeg 1907 1914, Matthew Neufeld, Historical Papers, 1994: Canadian Society of Church History.

Twenty One Years of Mission Work in Toronto  1886 – 1907  The Story of Fred Victor Mission, Fred Victor Mission Society, Toronto, 1907.


Diaconal Ministry in The United Church of Canada, Ted Dodd, Master Sacred Theology Thesis, University of Winnipeg, 2003.

Often diaconal ministry in the United Church is described as function (education, service, pastoral care) or style (mutuality, co-leading, empowering and enabling). In this thesis, perspective — related to elements of diaconal culture such as community, history, ecumenical relationships, justice orientation and integration is offered as an alternative.

Calling or Co-optation? Revisioning Ministry in The United Church of Canada, Kay Heuer,  DMin Thesis, St. Stephen’s College,  1999

This project/dissertation explores the choice of Diaconal Ministers in the United Church to become ordained, from the perspective of a feminist ecclesiology.