Shaker Studies

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Modern-day Shakers PDF Print E-mail
Membership in the Shakers dwindled in the late 1800s for several reasons. People were attracted to cities and away from the farms. Shaker products could not compete with mass-produced products that became available at a much lower cost.

Shakers could not have children, and although they did adopt up until the states gained control of adoption homes, this was not a major source of new members. Some Shaker settlements, such as Pleasant Hill community in Kentucky, and Canterbury, New Hampshire, the latter of which died with its last member, Ethel Hudson, in September 1992, have become museums.

Believers have continually looked at the story of Ann Lee as a cornerstone of the theological architecture that has distinguished their church from other American religious groups. Shaker theology, its manifestation in material artifacts such as furniture and oval boxes, and the Ann Lee story have continually drawn the attention of outsiders either fascinated or repulsed by them.

Although there were six thousand believers at the peak of the Shaker movement, there were only twelve Shakers left by 1920. In the United States there is one remaining active Shaker community, at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, which as of 2008 has four members. The Sabbathday Lake community still accepts new recruits, as it has since its founding. Shakers are no longer allowed to adopt orphan children after new laws were passed in 1960 denying control of adoption to religious groups, but adults who wish to embrace Shaker life are welcome. This community, founded in 1783, was one of the smaller and more isolated Shaker communities during the sect's heyday. They farm and practice a variety of handicrafts; a Shaker Museum, and Sunday services[6] are open to visitors. Now Mother Ann Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of August. The people sing and dance and a Mother Ann cake is presented. There is a legend that one of Mother Ann's predictions states that there will be a revival when there are only five Shakers left. However, there is no evidence to suggest Mother Ann stated this.

The daily schedule of a Shaker in Sabbathday Lake Village is as follows:

  • The day begins for many at 7:30 a.m.; the Great Bell on Dwelling House rings, calling every one to breakfast.
  • At 8:00 a.m. Morning Prayers start. They may read two Psalms and then read from the Bible. Following this is Prayer and silent prayer, concluded with the singing of a Shaker hymn.
  • Work for the Shakers begins at 8:30.
  • Work stops at 11:30 for Mid-day prayers.
  • Dinner begins at 12:00. This is the main meal for the Shakers.
  • Work continues at 1:00 p.m.
  • At 6:00 it is supper time, the last meal of the day.
  • On Wednesdays at 5:00 p.m. they hold a prayer meeting which is followed by a Shakers Studies class.

Information found at Wikipedia