“HANDS TO WORK ♥️ HEARTS TO GOD”
The NMCC motto??? Well, even though it certainly COULD be (!) it is actually the foundational tenet of the SOCIETY OF SHAKERS.
If asked about the Shakers — I am guessing most folks might reply “Weren’t they the ones who made furniture?”
In 1774, “Mother“ Ann Lee set forth from England to create a utopian society of believers in America; they were called the Shaking Quakers — or simply, the Shakers.
Their guiding principle?
WORK HARD AND BE KIND TO ALL… every person wears the face of God!
They also believed in:
God — both male and female in character
Separation of men and women
Gender and racial equality
Sharing of all property and belongings
Simplicity of dress, speech, manner
Creating opportunities for intellectual/artistic development
Yes, they also DID make furniture — known for its efficiency/functionality, beauty, simplicity AND the high quality that was inherent in everything they created — following another motto:
“DO YOUR WORK AS IF YOU HAD 1000 YEARS TO LIVE AND AS IF YOU WERE TO DIE TOMORROW…”
In addition, they are noted for many INVENTIONS — the flat broom, metal pen nibs, a prototype of the washing machine (the “wash mill”) and waterproof and wrinkle free fabrics to name a few. AND — a woman, Sarah Babbitt, is credited for inventing the circular saw — and false teeth!!
Community worship on Sunday was the highlight of their week. It featured DANCING — meant to promote a direct connection with the Holy Spirit and also intended to “shake away” temptation.
Spontaneous at first, by the early 1800’s choreographed dance steps appeared;
lively tunes inspired movement! One melody very familiar to us is SIMPLE GIFTS, written by Elder Joseph Brackett in 1848 and described in Shaker manuscripts as a “quick dance….”
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be …
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight!
When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
‘Til by turning, turning — we come ‘round right.
Though well-known NOW, it was largely UN-known outside of Shaker circles for almost an entire century — until composer Aaron Copland included the melody in his score of APPALACHIAN SPRING, first performed in 1944!
The word “turning” has a double meaning: It refers to the fact that when the dance to that tune is properly performed, each dancer ends up exactly where they’ve started… BUT — is also symbolic of turning our lives in the right direction — toward GOD… toward what we know is “right.” TRUE fulfillment in life is not attained through power or wealth, but through the gifts of humility and simplicity and LOVE — leading us into the “just right” place of joy and “delight!”
Our choir sang SIMPLE GIFTS last Sunday in worship — click here to listen — which is a “delight” in itself!
P.S. Update on Shakers today… The challenging commitments of celibate, communal life have caused the number of Shakers to swindle from several thousand to only TWO — Brother Arnold Hadd and Sister June Carpenter who still live in the Shaker colony of Sabbathday Lake, Maine. They are the only two Shakers left in the entire world.