Friday, June 8, 2018


At its peak in the early 1800’s the Shaker community in the United States had 6000 believers but by 1920 there were only twelve Shakers left and as of 2008 there were only four.  Who are the Shakers you are asking.  The name ‘Shakers’ was originally an uncomplimentary term applied to this Quaker fringe group who were known for the emotional religion involving singing, trembling, dancing, shaking, speaking in tongues. The composed thousands of songs and dances. Elder Joseph Brackett in 1848 wrote the lyrics of a one verse song that had the music of a quick dance, and the song was entitled, ‘Simple Gifts.’   

'Tis the gift to be simple,
'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
till by turning, turning we come round right.

In the course of a lifetime in our western urban society we move gradually from a simple childhood with meals, clothes and shelter provided and a few toys that we each call “mine,” to the amassing of a house full, and a garage full of possessions and a mortgage and a wish list for other belongings. Perhaps occasionally we vacation away from all of these things and we mutter “this is the good life, the simple life.” That exclamation is a confession that the accumulation of all this stuff which appears to make us happy is not really successful. We concur briefly with that Shaker composer that it actually is a gift to be simple. It’s a gift to be free. It’s a gift to come down where we ought to be. 
And if it is a second nature enticement to complicate the simplicity of life, it is equally true that we can obscure a simple faith with an excess of performance, of additional expectations, rules, and duties. This is spiritual seduction.

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