Preface of Apostles and Ordinations
PRAYER (traditional language)
Holy God, thou didst choose thy faithful servant Harriet Bedell to exercise
the ministry of deaconess and to be a missionary among indigenous peoples:
Fill us with compassion and respect for all people, and empower us for the
work of ministry throughout the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord who liveth
and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
PRAYER (contemporary language)
Holy God, you chose your faithful
servant Harriet Bedell to exercise the ministry of deaconess and to be a missionary
among indigenous peoples: Fill us with compassion and respect for all people,
and empower us for the work of ministry throughout the world; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Lessons revised at GC 2009
Return to Lectionary
Last updated: 21 November 2009
DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY
(8 January 1969)
Harriet Bedell, missionary and friend to the Seminole Indians of Florida,
was born in Buffalo, New York on March 19, 1875. She was trained as a
schoolteacher but was inspired several years later by an Episcopalian
missionary who spoke at her church describing the many needs of missionary
work. In 1906 she applied to, and was accepted by, the New York Training
School for Deaconesses, where her one-year course of study included instruction
in religious matters, missions, teaching, hygiene, and hospital nursing.
Following her training she was sent as a missionary-teacher to the Cheyenne
Indians at Whirlwind Mission in Oklahoma.
Bedell's duties at the Whirlwind Mission were many. She cared for the
sick and the poor, organized social services for the tribe, performed
the duties of the rector in his absence, and provided education for the
women and children. She provided religious instruction, hoping to win
the confidence of the Indians and convert them to Christianity.
Because of her experience in both teaching and working with Indians,
in 1916 an Episcopal bishop requested that she consider an assignment
in a remote area of Alaska. Saddened by the prospect of leaving Oklahoma,
she nevertheless accepted her new assignment in Stevens Village, Alaska.
While there, in 1922 she was finally made a deaconess in the church,
instilling in her a new and profound dedication to her vocation. The
mission at Stevens Village was moved to Tanana so that a boarding school
funded by church members' contributions could be established for the
children who could not travel in the bad winter weather. However, by
1931, funds were so scarce that Deaconess Bedell traveled to New York
to plea for more contributions. Because of the Great Depression, there
was little available money, and although the church paid off the school's
existing debt, there was little reason for Bedell to return to Alaska.
Through speaking engagements following her service in Alaska, Bedell
was invited to visit a Seminole Indian reservation in southern Florida.
Appalled by their living conditions, she began her campaign to improve
the quality of life among the Mikasuki-Seminole Indians by living and
working with them, not merely teaching them. She sought to revive the
doll making and basket weaving skills which had become nearly extinct.
She encouraged the incorporation of the intricate patchwork designs made
by Indian women into articles of clothing for both women and men. Sales
from the arts and crafts store at Blades Cross Mission helped to provide
improved income for the Mikasuki-Seminoles.
Bedell emphasized health and education rather than religious conversion
in her work with the Seminoles; their spiritual and physical comfort
was more important to her than religious conversion, and her work and
friendship with the Seminoles of Florida reflected those values.
from the Florida Memory Project