We met the Shakers briefly when we were reflecting on Vocation in daily life, in particular the life and work of women in this 18th and 19th Century American community. But they started off in Manchester, about 1747. Faith in the city!
The shakers were influenced by the Quakers, they had been known as the Shaking Quakers, and a leader emerged in the person of Ann Lee, the illiterate daughter of a blacksmith. She was however a person of great spiritual intelligence, as well as the desire to know God and carry out his will. Her devotion led her group to accept her as a second embodiment of Christ, and she was known to them as Mother Ann.
There was still a great intolerance of religious dissenters in England at the time, which led to her leading a small band of Shakers to North America in 1774 to restore the Apostolic Church there. This was at the start of the American Revolution, and they were treated as spies for the British government and thrown into prison. After their release they set about establishing the Kingdom of God, and war-weary Americans began to join the movement, and the Shakers made room for them all. Communities of Believers in Christ’s Second Coming were thus established in rural areas, trying to live by the law of love, but celibate, as Jesus had been. A far cry from the mills of Manchester’s Industrial Revolution.
See Caroline B.Piercy, The Shaker Cook Book, New York, Crown Publishers, 1953, pp16-18.
The following extract is taken from the Newsletter of the Canterbury Society of Friends, describing events last year:
I had been asked to give a talk in the sermon spot – and from the pulpit, on the subject of L’Arche and Rogation Sunday. Carol was also absent from Friends’ worship in order to attend the service and the subsequent beating of the bounds procession to the Glebe. Whilst I was figuring out how to climb the pulpit, David walked in and to the organ. One of the clergy remarked to me ‘oh good, it’s David, it’s exciting when he plays. It is also his birthday, upon which David started playing ‘Happy Birthday’ and we all sang along.
The procession after the service was a delight – in warm sunshine and with nearly all the congregation coming down to beat the bounds and for the seed to be blessed in the Glebe.
It struck me that a lovely example of the interaction between our places of worship had occurred and community spirit was experienced at its best.
Editor’s note: I really enjoyed the tea and cake provided by the lovely L’ Arche community, their families and volunteers in their tranquil community garden after the service and on my birthday in glorious sunshine.
Blog editor’s note: there were Catholics as well as Anglicans and Quakers present at this celebration! (I’m tempted to say, spot the difference.)