Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tis the Gift to Be Simple, Tis the Gift to Be Free

'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.

You may recognize this short snippet of the Shaker hymn, which you can find with music at the link in the title. You can find out more about Shaker spirituality at http://www.passtheword.org/SHAKER-MANUSCRIPTS/

The Shakers were founded in the late 1700's on the visions of Mother Ann Lee, and are generally considered an off-shoot of the Quakers. The Shakers were celibate, and have very nearly died out (there are a few new converts at the remaining Shaker houses in the United States). The Quakers were never celibate. The full name of the Quakers is the Religious Society of Friends, and are very serious about non-violence and peace.

My mother's family were Quakers for many generations. In fact, that is why the earliest member of that part of my family shows up in the U.S. Quakers in Britain were "non-conformists." That is, they were not members of the Church of England. That meant they could not own property. They suffered under a number of other legal and social disabilities as well. So that early Harris left England in the early 1700's to come to America. Over the years, about every other generation was expelled from the church when the father would feel compelled to join the current U.S. war effort, usually as a stretcher bearer. That was too much war for the Quaker comunity, and the violator was expelled from the Church. I don't imagine they threw the family out, but the family chose to follow the father. We finally stayed gone after WWI and my grandfather got tossed for being a stretcher carrier.

Both Shakers and Quakers are Protestant Christian sects. Find out more about Quakers at what seems to be their official website: http://www.quaker.org/

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