Tag Archives: Shakers

23 July: Faith in the city and the New World

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.

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June 15: Today this is my vocation III, from the Shaker Cook Book.

The Shakers were North American Christians who lived in big celibate communities in the XIX Century. I happened on Caroline Piercy’s Shaker Cook Book a couple of months ago, and would like to share this passage about the vocation of daily life as they lived it.

According to the Shaker belief, work and worship are intricately intertwined: ‘give your hands to work and your heart to God,’ was their well-known motto. It is by the fruits of their labour that they became known as craftsmen of great skill and complete honesty.

To the Shakers, or Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, as they chose to call themselves, their sole purpose in life was to establish God’s Kingdom here upon earth. Their hands, their minds, their hearts were wholly dedicated to that end, and therefore their vast kitchens and numerous workshops were as sacred to them as were their meeting houses and assembly halls. Their religion taught that man was put into this world in order to establish ‘Heavens on Earth’ where universal peace, genuine brotherly love and complete honesty reigned.

Caroline B Piercy, The Shaker Cook Book, Not by Bread Alone: Crown Publishing, NY, 1953. p13.

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