Thursday, March 7, 2019

Hands to Work, Hearts to God - The Shaker Spirit Lives at Canterbury Shaker Village

Hands to Work, Hearts to God 
The Shaker Spirit Lives at Canterbury Shaker Village

Canterbury Shaker Village

What most people know about the Shakers could be summed up in a few words: cool furniture, practiced celibacy.

But there is a world of interesting things about the Shaker people waiting to be explored at the Canterbury Shaker Village.

Yes the Shaker’s were extraordinary craftsmen creating everything from simple and beautiful furniture to basketry and weavings. But they were also inventors, scientists, philosophers, civil libertarians, abolitionists, songwriters and much, much, more. Did you know that the Shakers invented the washing machine? The circular saw? The clothespin? Did you know that they were horticultural pioneers, developing hundreds of new species of plants and herbs through genetic cross breeding? Did you know that they created hundreds of other time saving devices and have even been credited with developing mass production before Henry Ford made it world-famous?

The Shakers are considered to be an offshoot of the Quakers. The sect originated in Manchester, England in around 1772. Strict believers in celibacy, Shakers maintained their numbers through conversion and adoption. Once boasting over six thousand adherents, today the Shakers, with the exception of a small contingent of people living in Sabbathday Lake, Maine, are but a memory.

Originally and properly called the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, the Shakers, like the “Yankee Doodles” of the same era, derived their common name from a pejorative appellation adopted by the group as a source of pride. 

Moonlight On the Stone House
Under the leadership of James and Jane Wardley, a husband and wife team; and, most notably, by Mother Ann Lee, the group became known for their intense, ecstatic worship including shaking or quaking during religious activities and at times speaking in “tongues” - both of which were considered signs of divine intervention and inspiration.

Today in New Hampshire the Shaker life and legacy and heritage remains alive through the work of the Canterbury Shaker Village. Founded in 1969 to preserve the heritage of the Canterbury Shakers, Canterbury Shaker Village is an internationally renowned, non-profit museum and historic site with 25 original Shaker buildings, including the only intact, first-generation 18th-century Meetinghouse and Dwelling House, both on their original sites. There are also three reconstructed Shaker buildings and 694 acres of forests, fields, gardens and mill ponds under permanent conservation easement.

Designated a National Historic Landmark for its architectural beauty, integrity and significance, Canterbury Shaker Village is dedicated to preserving the 200-year legacy of the Canterbury Shakers and to providing a place for learning, reflection and renewal of the human spirit.

Visitors learn about the life, ideals, values and legacy of the Canterbury Shakers through tours, programs, exhibits, research and publications.

In addition to the daily tours, during the course of the year, the Village sponsors many community events that draw local folks and visitor from far and wide. For example the annual “Wool Day Festival” at the Shaker Village takes place this year on September 23. We detail it in the “50 Autumn Adventures” story elsewhere in this issue.

Canterbury Shaker Village is a treat for the heart, soul and palate. If you haven’t yet been, it should be on your list. If you have been, it may be time to recharge your spirit with another visit.

Editors note: All of the tour guides at Shaker Village are first rate, but as my son Zach says, “a tour with Darryl Thompson (son of museum founder Charles "Bud" Thompson ) is a magical and humorous experience.”

Albert Camus Quote

"In the depth of winter 
I finally learned 
that there was in me 
an invincible summer."
~ Albert Camus

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