Alan and I have just come back from a relaxing vacation in Lexington, Kentucky. While we were there we visited the restored Shaker Village. Much of what I knew about Shaker life was more about their furniture than their faith. Although we were unable to get the full experience as the village’s season activities would not begin until a few days after we were there, we did get to learn a great deal about this group. The Lexington group came out of the Cane Ridge revival in 1801 where 30,000 or more people flocked to be touched by God. These camp meetings were a part of the Second Great Awakening that affected America for years. Hearts were changed as people were saved, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and recommitted to God as He became very real to them. The Disciples of Christ denomination was birthed out of this revival. Some men who were a part of the Shaker community in New York recruited many of the revival’s participants to establish a new community near Lexington, Kentucky.
Shakers were called to dedicate their lives to the Lord. They were willing to accept chastity, which meant that if they were married they would come into this church renouncing their marriage and be willing to live as a brother instead of a husband to their former wife. We visited one of the homes that they lived and worked in. It is a large multistoried dwelling made from the local limestone. These buildings are standing as strong today as they were when built so many years ago. The women lived on one side of the hall, the men on the other. They even had separate staircases, but that did not keep them from the joy of the Lord. Although their lives were totally dedicated to the Lord and He was a part of all that they did, it was not a stark or austere existence. The Shakers believed that the light of God should shine in every area of their lives. Their homes contained huge windows that filled the rooms with light. They even found a way to light the closets without the worry of taking a candle in and worrying about fire. They instead cut a huge window in the top of the closet facing the windows of the room and therefore the closet was well lit during the day. The Shakers also believed that their work should represent the Lord. They studied the best farming methods and as a result of their studies and the excellence in their work ethic (all was done to the glory of God) they had the best farms in the area and could sustain not only themselves but could sell to others around them. The women were great cooks and were creative weavers. The Shakers even had a store to sell to outsiders. Their furniture is well remembered. I enjoyed seeing the pegs around every room and how they were just an easy way to take care of lighting and making room in a crowded room by getting things you needed up off the floor until they needed to use them.