An American healing evangelist, preacher and female revivalist, Maria Beulah Woodworth Etter is one of the key figures in the early Pentecostal movement and an inspiration and figurehead to both scholars and those within the faith today.
Born into relative poverty, Etter didn’t have an upbringing within the church but became a Christian through a local Disciples of Christ organisation which met near her home. She had wanted to become an evangelist but being female, was prohibited from doing so whilst a part of the Disciples of Christ. At a local Quakers meeting, she experienced what Pentecostals refer to as the ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’ which gave her both the determination and annointing to carry out the evangelical ministry she set up.
Her books, such as Marvels and Miracles God Wrought in the Ministry, are considered by many Pentecostal and Charismatic christians to be essential reading and some have even placed those books at a near importance to the bible itself.
Her ministry was one that was characterised by signs and wonders and she is considered by many to be one of the most important players within the birth of the modern-day Pentecostal movement. In 1885 she began praying for the sick, something which was considered revolutionary for its time, but something she believed would be a key part of her ministry. Signs and wonders followed with many claiming to be healed and many more experiencing convulsions and other phenomenon such as being slain in the spirit.
Etter’s reputation and ministry grew and soon she was being invited to preach by ministers throughout the country. She purchased an 8,000 person tent but soon this wasn’t enough to hold the large crowds she was drawing and the meetings became a matter of first come, first served.
Although her meetings would reach 8,000 people at a time, through her books she would reach hundreds of thousands of other people, spreading the Christian message in a way that was characteristic of that in the Acts of the Apostles.
Before her death she founded what is now refered to as the Lakeview Church of Indianapolis, Indiana and continued to preach within various Pentecostal circles. Although the church’s membership dipped slightly after her death, the church still continues and her ministry and work is still remembered, with many fans of her writing coming to visit the church that she originally founded.
Although Etter is no longer with us her ministry is considered to be one of the most powerful demonstrations of Pentecostal Christianity and many hold her as their source of inspiration in getting themselves started in the ministry.
Jane Meighan is a faith and spirituality writer with a strong interest in Christian history, particularly that from the American Pentecostal movement. She has written extensively about revivalists such as Maria Woodworth Etter, William Seymour and Kathryn Kuhlman.