On February 4th I presided at a Sydney Deaconess Fellowship meeting for the first time. An occasion I did not look forward to because of my youthful inexperience. My fears were soon relieved, when the senior deaconesses made me feel so welcome. I was taken aback when one of the most senior of them stepped aside to let me go in the door first. I protested. She said, ‘But you are our Head Deaconess now.’
At a morning service on 24th March in St Andrews Cathedral Sister Norma Farley was made a deaconess and I was commissioned as Head Deaconess by Archbishop Mowll. In my diary I wrote that day:
Utterly abandoned to the Holy Ghost!
Seeking all his fullness at whatever cost
Cutting all the shore lines, launching in the deep
Of His mighty power – strong to save and keep.
Utterly abandoned! ‘tis so sweet to be
Captive in His bonds of love, yet so wondrous free,
Free from entanglements, free from doubt and fear,
Free from every worry, burden, grief and care.
I was learning that all things come to Him, who knows how to trust and wait?
One of my main activities was to commence and encourage prayer dynamos and groups – wherever possible for the Church Missionary Society. For to me it was in such groups that power would be generated that would compel the missionary task to go forward.
Mary Andrews in Deaconess House office, August 1968
Again in the diary of that time I wrote:
‘What we do in God’s kingdom is entirely dependent upon what we are, and what we are depends upon what we receive, and what we receive depends upon prayer. This applies not only to the work of God in us, but also to the work of God through us.’
How I crowded so many meetings in a week! I do not know but quite often I had dozens of meetings or services to address a week and I had to travel a good deal.
How pleased Archbishop Mowll was on 4th July 1952 when the Deaconess Council elected me the Principal of Deaconess House to succeed Deaconess Evelyn Stokes. When first asked by the Archbishop to be the Principal I said I would sooner face the bandits in China than the students at Deaconess House. I was promised a Vice Principal, but was asked to wait six months until I could see what kind of a person I needed. I thought to myself, if I manage the first six months without an assistant, I shall probably be doing it for a long time!
In a letter to the Archbishop I had said, “Though earlier I had felt I could not face the task because of the difficulties which surrounded it and the likelihood of becoming entangled in domestic duties which would keep me from the ministry to which Gad has called me.
Deaconess House chapel
“However after conversation with Your Grace, the chaplain Mr Bragg and others, I feel that if a Vice Principal were appointed to care for the internal matters connected with Deaconess House to free me to deal with the more spiritual side of the work I would be willing to accept the position of Principal. If Your Grace and the Deaconess Council feel you can trust such a weak vessel as I am (who seeks herself to be absolutely at God’s disposal) to fulfill the duties of such a position.”
To my amazement I find that most people seem to take for granted that I should be at Deaconess House and every hour brings a deepening assurance that God is calling me to a deeper experience of what union with Him means. The thought that has been uppermost in my mind these days is “The greatest works have been accomplished not by human effort but by human trust in God’s effort.”
This is an excerpt from Mary Andrews’ draft autobiography which she completed in the 1970s. An exhibition featuring significant items from the Mary Andrews collection is currently on display in the Lower Ground floor of the Donald Robinson Library. More information on the collection may be found in the Archives Catalogue.
Deaconess House in Carillon Ave, Newtown