ESR Geraldine Leatherock Professor of Quaker Studies Stephen W. Angell delivered a version of this essay as a lecture for the Gathering of Adult Young Friends in Plainfield, Indiana, on November 8, 2013.
This essay proposes to examine the life of first-generation Quaker Mary Fisher
as a lens to examine issues relating to Quaker engagement with interreligious, intercultural, and intra-cultural dialogue, as well as issues relating to God’s progressive or continuing revelation over time.
So, who was Mary Fisher? She was an unmarried servant in her late twenties when she first heard Quakers preach in 1652 (the first year of mass Quaker convincements) in the north of England. Convinced along with her master and mistress, she rushed out to prophesy. Admonishing the local parish minister to “come down, come down, thou painted beast, come down. Thou art but a hireling, and a deluder of the people with thy lies” occasioned her arrest for what was to be the first of many imprisonments. Her broader point, whatever her particular disagreements with her local minister, was that the Christian churches had declined significantly in fidelity of witness to the original Christian vision of Jesus and the first generation of apostles.