ABSTRACT: A remarkable number of women leaders and teachers in the history of Christianity have relied on the ‘‘supernatural,’’ spiritual authority received through extraordinary religious experiences. Among them were the Finnish ‘‘sleep-preachers,’’ laywomen who felt called to preach and prophesy while asleep. This article introduces the most famous of these preachers, Helena Konttinen (1871-1916), and through her story discusses the phenomenon of sleep-preaching in turn-of-the-century Finland. Links are made to similar individuals earlier in Christianity, such as medieval mystics and Victorian Spiritualists, and to evidence from other women-led religions. Special attention is paid to the issues of gender and authority as related to religious experience and empowerment in explaining these pioneering women's rise, emancipation and contributions as lay theologians and unofficial ministers who significantly influenced grassroots religiosity in Finland.
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