I was talking to a friend last night when he let drop a most interesting fact about his upbringing… he grew up in New Hampshire living next to a Shaker community. While they numbered only in the thousands in their heyday, and there are only three left now (three people, not three thousand), they’ve left quite a mark on American culture. In fact, the physical therapy place that I go to has a sign in their lobby “hands to work, heart to God,” which was a Shaker slogan. Besides that, they are fascinating to study.
My friend stated that sometimes the Shakers are perceived as having been kind of nutty people who lived in beautiful houses with beautiful furniture, but he experiences were the reverse. He thought their furniture was sparse and well-worn, but they were exceedingly loving and kind. In fact, he referred to one of them, a Sister Alice, as one of the most loving people that he had ever met.
I show my sociology of religion class a documentary about the Shakers. Here’s a clip from it.