our patron saint

Apparently one morning in the late 18th century, American evangelist extraordinaire Jemima Wilkinson led a group of followers to a lakeshore. She preached to them on the powers of faith. As she built to a fiery conclusion, she proclaimed that she was going to walk on water …

“Have ye faith that I can do this thing?”
“Yea, we believe!”
… “Then there is no need for any vulgar spectacle.”

And with that she turned around, got into her carriage, and rode off.              

[based on prevailing folktales accounted by ‘Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation’]

One of the first if not the first female visionaries of religion and women’s rights in the United States, Jemima Wilkinson or Public Universal Friend (as she preferred to be called) is one of our earliest American versions of a divine messenger. Born to a New England farming household of Quakers, as a young woman Jemima Wilkinson was plagued by a debilitating illness. That illness grew to a fevered state one particular day, Jemima slipping in and out of delirium. Eventually her breathing grew faint and her pulse slowed. Bedridden and in a comatose state, onlookers state that she was near an imminent death. Although immobile and in a near-lifeless state (again, onlookers) she abruptly returned to consciousness to describe dreams of heavenly realms with angelic inhabitants. Confidently claiming that she was a holy vessel, destined to deliver the oracles of God, she told her family as well as the gathered throng that she would respond to no other name than Public Universal Friend. From that day forward and the remainder of her life, she roamed the northeast preaching and spreading the teachings… in her trademark cape and wide-brimmed hat.

Her appeal now, as then, is characterized by an almost total lack of hardened doctrine. She relied upon a simple do-unto-others ethic, the lessons of scripture, the virtues of punctuality, and, good-neighborliness.

Jemima Wilkinson aka ‘Public Universal Friend’, 1758-1819

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