The Holy Ghost is a gift to the Church. Hulda Rees
Hulda Johnson Rees was born in a Quaker family in rural Indiana in 1855. Since the seventeenth century the Quakers have held to the equality of Christians based on their beliefs in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all believers. Any believer, male or female, may minister if they have been truly born again and show maturity in their faith and practice. The Quaker authorities decide if a member may preach with authority based on an examination of their lives and their testimonies.
The Scriptures show that the Holy Spirit is a gift to men and women given to them by Christ during Pentecost. No longer would the female half of the human race be shunted aside. Women were expected to go out and witness for Jesus Christ. They were expected to imitate their Savior by caring for the poor and by proclaiming the Gospel message.
And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
…But this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:
AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says,
‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT UPON ALL MANKIND;
AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY,
AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS,
AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS;
EVEN UPON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN,
I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT
AND THEY SHALL PROPHESY. (Acts 2:1-4, 16-18)
And Peter said to them, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
In addition to the outpouring of the Spirit prophesied by the prophet Joel, Paul declares to believers that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to all Christians, male and female. The Holy Spirit gives the gifts as He wills. There is no distinguishing of gifts based on gender.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:5-11)
These gifts include “word of wisdom through the Spirit”, “word of knowledge”, “prophecy”, and others. Women may speak these words of wisdom as well as men.
Finally, Paul makes it clear that men and women are equal as children of God. In Christ no one gender or nationality or economic group may claim superiority over another group. No one group gets to shirk their responsibility to spread the Gospel because of the old restrictions placed on gender or nationality. In Christ, things are different.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
This is the faith that Hulda was taught in her home as a Quaker child.
Even as a child Hulda manifested strong religious feeling. Her family observed her prayers and deep commitment to Christ, so much so that her grandfather predicted that she would be a minister when she grew up.
Hulda was truly converted at age sixteen during a revival. She immediately began to preach. Initially she was very shy. Several years later she experienced a fuller sanctification as she surrendered her life to God’s control. In 1875, she was recorded as a minister in the Quaker church.
A year later Hulda married Seth Rees, also a Quaker minister. They held meetings together. They had two sons, Byron and Loring. Byron later wrote a biography of his mother: Hulda, The Pentecostal Prophetess. We are thankful that he did because Hulda did not write her autobiography, as did many other nineteenth century evangelists.
Hulda and Seth worked as pastors in Ohio and Michigan for nine months out of the year. During the summer they worked as itinerant evangelists in camp meetings throughout the Midwest and Northeast.
Here is a description of a camp meeting taken from a letter to her sister Jane. This camp would eventually become known as the Portsmouth Camp Meeting. Hulda and Seth were instrumental in establishing the camp in 1891. Hulda served as an executive member of the board until her death. The camp is still in existence in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. This glimpse into her life shows how Hulda worked with her husband and how devoted Hulda was to sharing the light of the Gospel with others.
“…. Tomorrow is the 4th and Seth asked everybody to come to the campground, men to bring teams, women to bring dinner and sewing machines and we expect to get a great deal done getting ready for the meeting. We are to have a large tent. It is such a rest to get away from home and live in a picnic way – 37 tents have been engaged already which with 8 large tents and the large tent Tabernacle which will seat 400 and the cook and eating house make quite a town. Seth has a great part of the responsibility of it all.”
Hulda’s life truly reflected the purpose for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Spirit empowerment is not for the aggrandizement of the believer. The Holy Spirit empowers Christians to witness for Christ boldly and selflessly in works of evangelism and mercy.
Hulda died in 1898 at the age of 43. She was well known in Holiness circles as the “Pentecostal Prophetess.”