A woman elected in a local church to perform functions analogous to those of a deacon. The term deaconess (Greek diakonos , which can refer to either males or females) occurs in Rom. 16:1 , RSV , in a context (compare v. 2 ) that suggests that the office of deaconess may have been established by the time the Epistle to the Romans was written, toward the close of the sixth decade of the Christian Era. Deaconesses cooperate with the deacons in caring for the sick, poor, and unfortunate. They prepare the bread for the Lord’s Supper and arrange the Communion table. They also take care of the towels and basins used in the ordinance of foot washing. They assist the women candidates in the baptismal service and take care of the baptismal robes. In larger churches, a board of deaconesses is form...

From the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Published with permission from the Review and Herald Publishing Association.