Religion to go.

By way of reddtor /u/Typicaldrugdealer, we now have pre-packaged communion. Grape juice and a wafer for the sinner on the go.

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The top comment from /u/TAU_equals_2PI was… wait for it…

“Christables™ from Oscar Mayer”

Denomination has not been specified.

It may just be me, but this seems to be reducing the core sacrament of the Christian faith to something terribly banal and mundane.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

LDS Humor: Correlations’s Review of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

This piece was originally published in “The Seventh East Press,” a newspaper dedicated to Latter-day Saints who didn’t take themselves too seriously. It is one of the funniest things I have ever seen published there, and at this season of joy and gladness, deserves to be seen. Naturally, Mormons will be most familiar with all of the references, but members of other faiths who think their Church bureaucracies can be a bit heavy-handed at times may appreciate the sentiment. Only one bit of PII[1] has been deleted for the sake of propriety.


15 December 1981

The Seventh East Press

CORRELATION’S REVIEW OF
‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS’

Several years ago this review was read at the Church office building Christmas party. It has circulated privately since then.

TO: Director or the Correlation Committee
FROM: Correlation Review Committee

The Correlation Review Committees have reviewed the attached document titled “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and have found several significant problems as follows:

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, WHEN ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE, NOT A CREATURE WAS STIRRING, NOT EVEN A MOUSE.
‘Twas is an outdated and unacceptable contraction. We suggest — it was. Also, because the idea of stirring one’s form comes from the same word root as the idea of stirring one’s soup, it might be confusing to the reader and we suggest using the word — moving. In addi­tion, we have noticed that a mouse will generally scurry, nibble, dart or quiver, but, almost never, stirs. Also, we think it would be much better to call the house, the home.

THE STOCKINGS WERE HUNG BY THE CHIMNEY WITH CARE, IN HOPES THAT ST. NICHOLAS SOON WOULD BE THERE.
Perhaps the writer should know that unless everyone went outside into the snowy night and hung the stockings (some were probably just plain old socks), it is more likely that they were hung in front of the fireplace than by the chimney. We think it would be well to take note that in some of the developing areas of the Church, people do not have socks, stock­ings, or chimneys. Moreover, the Church does not recognize the canonization of other chur­ches. We feel this man should be called Brother Nicholas — or perhaps, in case be isn’t a member, we should play it safe and call him Mr. Nicholas.

THE CHILDREN WERE NESTLED ALL SNUG IN THEIR BEDS, WHILE VISIONS OF SUGARPLUMS DANCED THROUGH THEIR HEADS.
We must be very careful with the use of the word visions. It might be better to use the word non-revelation dreams. We also suggest that “sugarplums” is a rather archaic term. Wouldn’t Tootsie Rolls or Sugar Daddies be more relevant to today’s youth. In any case, shouldn’t sugar plums be two words instead of one?

MAMA IN HER KERCHIEF, AND I IN MY CAP, HAD JUST SETTLED OUR BRAINS FOR A LONG WINTER’S NAP.
The very idea of a long winter’s nap is contradictory. Webster says a nap is a short snooze, taken usually during the daytime. This really must be changed. We would also like to point out that few really wear headgear to bed anymore.

WHEN OUT ON THE LAWN THERE AROSE SUCH A CLATTER, I SPRANG FROM MY BED TO SEE WHAT WAS THE MATTER.
Around the Wasatch front, you would not have to spring from your bed to see what was the matter. Any clatter at night on the lawn means you are getting T.P.’d. Incidentally, spring­ing from bed by our more senior members could he hazardous to their health. By the way, how do you clatter on a snow-covered lawn?

AWAY TO THE WINDOW I FLEW LIKE A FLASH, TORE OPEN THE SHUTTERS AND THREW UP THE SASH. THE MOON ON THE BREAST OF THE NEW FALLEN SNOW GAVE THE LUSTER OF MIDDAY TO OBJECTS BELOW.
We wonder whether throwing up the sash might he rather indelicate wording, especially after a large Christmas Eve dinner. We would also like to suggest that the writer say, “The moon on the chest of the new fallen snow.”

WHEN WHAT TO MY WONDERING EYES SHOULD APPEAR, DUT A MINIATURE SLEIGH, AND EIGHT TINY REINDEER. WITH A LITTLE OLD DRIVER SO LIVELY AND QUICK, I KNEW IN A MOMENT IT MUST BE ST. NICK.
We would like to commend the author for breaking the stereotype that our “more mature” people cannot he lively and quick.

MORE RAPID THAN EAGLES HIS COURSERS THEY CAME, AND HE WHISTLED AND SHOUTED, AND CALLED THEM BE NAME. NOW DASHER! NOW DANCER! NOW PRANCER AND VIXEN! ON COMET! ON CUPID! ON DONNER AND BLITZEN!
We commend the writer for broadening the cultural base of this document by including the German names Donner and Blitzen. We wonder if this could he broadened further. Perhaps-Now Fifi! Now Cheri! Now Jose and Maria! On Chocho and Tojo! On Donner and Blitzen! We also question all this whistling and shouting in the middle of the night by a senior citizen.

TO THE TOP OF THE PORCH! TO THE TOP OF THE WALL! NOW DASH A WAY! DASH AWAY! DASH AWAY, ALL! AS DRY LEAVES THAT BEFORE THE WILD HURRICANE FLY, WHEN THEY MEET WITH AN OBSTACLE, MOUNT TO THE SKY.
We have noted that throughout this document the author has used rather long, complicated, turned-around sentences. This could he confusing to many of our readers. We suggest he write on a lower reading level, perhaps by using short, straightforward sentences such as “Just like dry leaves blow before the wind?”

SO UP TO THE HOUSETOP THE COURSERS THEY FLEW, WITH A SLEIGH FULL OF TOYS AND ST. NICHOLAS TOO. AND THEN IN A TWINKLING I HEARD ON THE ROOF, THE PRANCING AND PAWING OF EACH LITTLE HOOF. AS I DREW IN MY HEAD, AND WAS TURNING AROUND, DOWN THE CHIMNEY ST. NICHOLAS CAME WITH A BOUND.
Win the reader understand what coursers are? (Could he confused with cursers, after all the shouting and whistling). Also – the cavorting around on peoples’ roof tops sets a very bad ex­ample for our youth (who don’t need any new ideas). Also, the chimney trip is a bit much – ­wouldn’t it be better to just have Mr. Nicholas use the front door?

HE WAS DRESSED ALL IN FUR.
We wonder if he shouldn’t he dressed in cotton or polyester after what was said about killing animals in a recent conference. Perhaps it could he said that he was “dressed in a nice Swedish knit.”

FROM HIS HEAD TO HIS FOOT, AND HIS CLOTHES WERE ALL TARNISHED WITH ASHES AND SOOT.
Perhaps polyester would not be good here because of the problems with ashes and soot. If I were his wife I would get him a pair of OSH KOSH overalls. (Of course the use of the front door would eliminate this whole ashes and soot problem.)

A BUNDLE OF TOYS HE HAD FLUNG ON HIS BACK, AND HE LOOKED LIKE A PEDDLER JUST OPENING HIS PACK. HIS EYES – HOW THEY TWINKLED, HIS DIMPLES, HOW MERRY!  HIS CHEEKS WERE LIKE ROSES, HIS NOSE LIKE A CHERRY!
This somewhat extravagant description of Mr. Nicholas makes him sound like an edible, electrical, floral, centerpiece. We suggest that the writer tell it like it is.

HIS DROLL LITTLE MOUTH WAS DRAWN UP LIKE A BOW, AND THE BEARD OF HIS CHIN WAS AS WHITE AS THE SNOW.
Knowing what the current BYU and missionary standards are, we are very surprised that you would allow Mr. Nicholas to be wearing a beard. If he must have hair on his face, it should be a mustache trimmed well above the corners of his mouth.

THE STUMP OF HIS PIPE HE HELD TIGHT IN HIS TEETH, AND THE SMOKE IT ENCIRCLED HIS HEAD LIKE A WREATH. HE HAD A WIDE FACE-
We were more than a little taken back by this flagrant disregard of the 89th section of the Doctrine & Covenants. There could even be legal implications regarding his smoking in public places.

AND A ROUND LITTLE BELLY THAT SHOOK WHEN HE LAUGHED LIKE A BOWLFUL OF JELLY. HE WAS CHUBBY AND PLUMP, A RIGHT JOLLY OLD ELF, AND I LAUGHED WHEN I SAW HIM IN SPITE OF MYSELF.
It is in questionable taste to describe this senior citizen as being so fat, but then to have the narrator laugh at him seems to me to be carrying things too far. It would be better to say, “I smiled when I saw how well he was doing in spite of his handicap.”

A WINK OF HIS EYE AND A TWIST OF HIS HEAD SOON GAVE ME TO KNOW I HAD NOTHING TO DREAD. HE SPOKE NOT A WORD BUT WENT STRAIGHT TO HIS WORK AND FILLED ALL THE STOCKINGS, THEN TURNED WITH A JERK.
We appreciated this fine example of bard work and industry, in the true tradition of deseret. However, we decry his reference to his associate as a jerk.

 AND LAYING A FINGER ASIDE OF HIS NOSE, AND GIVING A NOD, UP THE CHIMNEY HE ROSE.
See our previous comment about using the door. Also, be careful where you have him put his finger.

HE SPRANG TO HIS SLEIGH, TO HIS TEAM GAVE A WHISTLE, AND AWAY THEY ALL FLEW LIKE THE DOWN OF A THISTLE.
Again, he careful of the dangerous springing. Also, if he were to give every member of the team a whistle, they might make a horrible amount of noise. In addition, after checking with the International Mission, we would like to inform the writer that reindeer have no pockets in which to put those whistles. Also, would the increasing urban membership of the Church understand the image of “down of a thistle?”     ‘

BUT I HEARD HIM EXCLAIM, ERE HE DROVE OUT OF SIGHT, HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.
We feel it would be better to stay with the traditional form of “Merry Christmas.”

Although the document has some major problems, we feel there is enough of worth to justify revising. In the spirit of reduction and simplification, however, we also recommend that the number of lines he cut in half.

IT WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

(Revised)

It was the night before Christmas and in our home, no animals were moving about. Even the mice were still.

Some preparations were made in anticipation of a visit from Mr. Nicholas.

While the children were sleeping soundly, they were thinking about Tootsie Rolls and Sugar Daddies.

My wife and I had just gone to bed.

We heard a noise out on the front lawn and assumed that we were being T.P.’ed.

I walked to the window and pulled back the curtain.

The moon was shining brightly on the chest of the new fallen snow.

Then I saw a tiny sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer.

The little old driver was 50 lively and quick that I knew it must be Mr. Nicholas.

He came very fast. He addressed the reindeer by name:

“Now Fifi! Now Cheri! Now Jose and Maria!

On Chocho and Tojo! On Donner and Blitzen!”        ‘

Just like a snowball striking a brick wall, they came to a stop in front of our home. Soon I heard Mr. Nicholas at my front door.

He was dressed in a nice Swedish knit suit. He had a briefcase full of packages.

He was smiling pleasantly.

He was clean-shaven and his breath smelled of spearmint chewing gum.

He was a bit overweight, but I smiled when I saw how well he was doing in spite of his han­dicap.

He wasted no time with words, but went straight to his work of putting the packages where they would be found.

Then he went out the front door and got in his sleigh.

As he was driving off, I heard him say, “Merry Christmas!”


The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] Personally Identifiable Information – Census workers will know just what I mean.

Dominant Christian Religion by US County

Despite the growing influence of humanism in American society, we remain a country of believers. This interesting map shows the dominant religion in the USA listed by county, according to the 2010 Religion Census. The original map is hosted at the RCMS page.  Click the map below to view it in full size.

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Based on total land area covered, the dominant faiths are Catholic, Baptist, Latter-day Saint, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and United Methodists. By numbers, the five largest Christian denominations are:

  • The Catholic Church, 68,503,456 members
  • The Southern Baptist Convention, 16,160,088 members
  • The United Methodist Church, 7,774,931 members
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6,058,907 members
  • The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members
  • It should also be mentioned that while this map covers only Christian faiths, there are between 5.3 and 6.6 million Jews in America

In comparison, those who have no theistic practices (agnostic, atheist, or “nothing in particular”) as of 2008 numbered around 34 million, or 15% of the population. It is interesting to note that while this group is still small relative to the total population, they are the next largest group after Catholicism.

I’ve long been intrigued by comparative religion studies and the demographics of belief, and so this map caught my attention. More information on this topic can be found in various places around the web, but a good place to start is the Wikipedia article.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

You defile your religion

A new statement by Taliban Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid indicates that the organization is still gunning for Malala Yousafzai, the brave young lady who defied the cowardly thugs and encouraged girls in Afghanistan to become educated, and was shot in the head for her troubles.

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Shahid said, “She accepted that she attacked Islam so we we tried to kill her, and if we get another chance we will definitely kill her and that will make us feel proud. Islam prohibits killing women, but except those that support the infidels in their war against our religion,” he added.

I say the following things to someone who would feel proud for killing a young lady who wants only to raise the condition of her fellow citizens:

“Shahidullah Shahid, you are haram and apostate. You know nothing of Islam and its precepts, you have failed to understand the Qur’an that you claim to revere, and you defile the faith that you profess to uphold. You are a disgrace to good and honest Muslims everywhere.”

For one Muslim’s look at the extremist mentality, I refer you to this previous post.

Apparently, Malala is a serious contender for the Nobel Peace Prize. Nothing would please me more than to see her be awarded this recognition of her immense courage. Whether she wins or no, her bravery serves as a beacon of inspiration for young women around the world who want to better themselves, and she deserves a place of honor in the annals of history.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Avag Co Bepsig: These coins are Evil!

Note: Before you read the article below, please read the following disclaimer, made necessary by some of the comments this post has generated.


These coins are not evil. They are cheap bits of plastic from some manufacturer in China. They have no special qualities, no magic powers. There is no witch named “Avagnanian Coishousness of Bepsigosity” – that’s just nonsense from a writer of satire. He might as well have used “A Vague Consciousness of BepsiCola.” There are no witches in this world. A lot of people who want to be one, and pretend they are, but dark magic and fortune telling and bad luck and the evil eye are all products of people’s imaginations.


Well, let me backpedal a bit.

Somehow, I managed to come into possession of one of these little plastic gems:

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I’m certain it came to me from one of the fraud letters that my mother used to receive when she was alive (and continues to receive years after her death).

At any rate, here it is. Being a linguist by profession, I was curious about the inscription – whether it was sheer garbage or was based on anything real. I found a lovely description, completely tongue-in-cheek, at The Captain’s Blog:

This is a warning for aspiring pirates intent on purchasing a bag full of plastic novelty coins. Be aware that the brand of plastic coins bearing the legend “AVAG CO BEPSIG” are enchanted. That’s right, enchanted….

At our very first PiratePalooza I made the mistake of buying just such a bag of Avag Co Bepsig coins and made a fair show of giving them out whenever possible. Yet, when I returned to port I found that I still had a good many of the coins in me purse. Over the course of the year I continued to find more of the coins. Some in my bed, some in the settee, some in the stern of my autocarriage. Every time I found an Avag Co Bepsig coin I returned it to me leather coinpurse, full in the knowledge that I had them collected, each and every one.

And still I continued to find more, in places I thought I’d looked before. It’s fairly ridiculous how these things seem to breed in captivity, easily outstripping the population of coat hangers rutting in me washroom.

Without a doubt, my collection of these bewitched plastic coins outnumbers my original purchase and I am now consigned to the fact that some day in the future my ship will be awash in these devilish discs of dementia, certain to sink ‘neath their accursed weight and artificial shininess. For now I can only serve as example to those of you lucky enough yet to avoid these shiny promises from the heart of Avagnanian Coishousness of Bepsigosity, for that it what it turns out the name means.

Avagnanian Coishousness be a person… a Bane Witch of terrible antiquity and uncertain designs upon humanity, Cap’n Drew in particular. And even though I now know the source of me curse don’t expect me to take it all noble-like. No, no.

Know this, me hearties: I’ll take no pity upon any of you, so watch your backs. I’ll be certain to try slipping one of me famous cursed coins into your open pockets, purses, pouches and gaping glimpses of cleavage.

You’ve been warned.

Of course, this is all in fun. But the world is so full of a number of things, I suppose we should all be yanking our hair out in frustration if we knew the depth and breadth of human gullibility. Over at Ripoff Report, I found this letter from a dear soul who was so glad she was warned about the evil enchantment that lay on these coins, received in one of these fraudulent “prayer letter” scams:

You have sent me prayer letters. The one I recently opened on Oct. 16, 2011 although you sent it in May 2011. I just came across it . Although the letter was right on in what I was specifically praying for..you placed 2 coins in the letter to put one in my house that fiances will increase in my house & the other to place in my purse for financial increase. Once i did this & went to bed all night I could not sleep God woke me & told me to google the words on the coins they say “Avag Co Bepsig” I googled these words & discovered they are a WITCH”S name. You see I am a born again believer in Christ Jesus He Is My Lord & Savior..He Promises To Not Let His Children Walk In Darkness…I was at my dad’s house who is a Pastor & has won many to Christ. I was going to put one coin in his house but The Holy Spirit kept telling me NO!!! You see I am EXPOSING YOU !!! THis witch turned a man’s coins to plastic…if you people are really of Christ Jesus why would’nt God show you about these coins before you started sending them out??? God Promises Not To Let THose Who Truly Love Him Walk In Darkness…He EXPOSED you to me!!!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure I need to point out that I have a spiritual walk of my own, but I’ve always done my best to temper my faith with reason.[1] Not doing so leads to madness, or to the kind of attitude one sees above, where “if you read it in the Bible, or if you see it on the Internet, it has to be true.” In the end, it’s scary to think the kinds of world views upon which ordinary people, legislators, and national leaders can base their behavior.

In a recorded interview which once existed on YouTube, Richard Dawkins fielded a question from a Muslim who asked whether atheists could judge right from wrong in the absence of an absolute morality. Professor Dawkins proceeded to shred the question simply by making reference to things like the beating of women and punishment for apostasy, and summed up his analysis by saying that if these kinds of things are what absolute morality brings, he’d rather live without it; instead, he favors a morality that is developed and tested and tried and revised by the strength of reason and humanity. I’m put in mind of the four-way test of the Rotarians, used as a guide for business and personal relationships:

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

There’s a lot of wiggle-room in the first one, because among humans “truth” is hard to ferret out, except within the realm of pure science; but the last three ask the same question in different ways, to wit, “will it raise the human condition?”

Whatever we believe, we cannot afford to go through life not asking this question. Religion and humanism have as their ultimate goal to make their practitioners better people. If you’re still a jerk, it’s not working.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


[1] Now don’t jump down my throat about inconsistencies here… one of these days I’ll get my thoughts together in a more comprehensive essay about why I believe what I do, although a brief summary might be extrapolated from this entry. After that, feel free to shred my Weltanschauung if it brings you joy, but I’m pretty certain that the exercise will be entirely academic.

‘Tis the Gift to be Simple – A Visit to Sabbathday Lake

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Shaker barn

Off Maine Street at the crest of a rolling hill, just northwest of New Gloucester, Maine, one finds a tidy settlement of white clapboard houses nestled around a quiet road. If one had not seen the signs, one would not know that this is the last surviving active settlement of Shakers, which now consists of three members.  During a recent vacation trip to Maine to visit my wife’s mother and her family there, we spent some time getting to know this peaceful settlement, largely run by a cadre of volunteers known as “Friends of the Shakers,” who help the last members of the order keep their lifestyle going.

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Map and key of the Shaker settlement, from the historical landmark website.

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Google Earth capture of the Shaker settlement.

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The Girl’s Shop

We were taken on an hour-long tour (which seemed all too short, given the amount of things there were to see) by a friendly  volunteer; we were able to visit the meetinghouse and the ministry’s shop; had we asked for “Tour B,” we would have seen the Girls’ Shop instead of the ministry’s shop. We’ll have to go back next year and do that one.

Sadly, photography inside the buildings was prohibited, because there were 101,000 wonders that I would have loved to record. But it was fascinating to sit in the meetinghouse where men and women would enter by separate doorways, visit the living quarters of the traveling elders and eldresses who formed the upper levels of Shaker leadership, and see a number of places where they worked at creating simple but extremely beautiful (as well as utilitarian) objects for their daily needs.

We learned of a number of Shaker inventions, among which were those little wobbly casters that people put under school chairs, knowing that folks like to rock back on them; the Shaker version was made of wood, and I’ll be dipped if I know how it was done. We also saw beautiful examples of their handicraft, including cabinetry, chairs, tables, clothing, boxes, pegs for hanging everything on, as well as the functional architecture of their buildings. The books… oh, the books. I would have paid large money to be able to examine some of the volumes that were displayed in desks and cabinets around the buildings.

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Volunteers working in the herb garden

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The Shaker Library, back view

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Shaker Library, front view. With an advance appointment, one can visit this building. Next time.

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The Girls’ Shop, front view.

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Meetinghouse, built in 1794, and ministry’s workshop.

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The Herb Garden

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My wife (the Goodwoman of the House) in front of the museum office, which used to be the boys’ shop; exhibit museum on the right, formerly the spinhouse.

After the tour and visiting the museum, we spent (too much) time in the Shaker Store (formerly the Trustees’ Office; the trustees were members of the order who dealt with the outside world and were in charge of temporal matters, and often only associated with the rest of the community during worship services.) We bought some lovely yarn (I’m planning a nice fair-isle hat), some herbs, and a few books.

Much can be learned about the Shaker faith and history at their official website; theirs is a story of quiet faith, diligence, and devotion which has weathered many changes in the world around them. Their motto, “Hands to Work and Hearts to God” has essentially defined their way of life, although it is not their devotion to celibacy that has ultimately fueled their decline, but rather the concept of community over individualism. A well-written article in the September 1989 issue of National Geographic entitled “The Shakers’ Brief Eternity” presents a respectful and intimate look at their history and their present.

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This map from the National Geographic article shows past and present Shaker communities; in 1989, there were two dozen members in two working settlements, the one at Canterbury, NH having since ceased operation with the death of its last member, Sister Ethel, in 1992. (Bangor Daily News, Sep 9, 1992). Despite the devotion to God, there was philosophical disagreement between the communities at Canterbury and Sabbathday Lake; a 1988 article from the Los Angeles Times summarizes the essential point of division:

In 1957, after months of prayer, the three Eldresses [of Canterbury] — Gertrude, Emma and Ida — decided to close the covenant to membership.

In the past 10 years, three men and a woman in their 20s and 30s have become residents of the community at Sabbath Day Lake, but Eldress Bertha does not recognize them as members.

“To become a Shaker you have to sign a legal document taking the necessary vows and that document, the official covenant, is locked up in our safe,” she said. “Membership is closed forever.

“We must live true to our faith and must follow what our leaders say. Our leaders decided it was over, done with. It is sad, but Mother Ann predicted that in time you would be able to count the members on the fingers of your two hands and then the Shakers would be no more. This is where we are now. . . .”

There were words; there were actions. For a while, Canterbury cut Sabbathday Lake off from community funding; after negotiations by their respective legal teams, access was restored. The National Geographic article stated,

Canterbury Shakers accept the quiet ending. They believe Shaker values will endure but in different form. Canterbury slowed down decades ago. Sabbathday Lake chooses a more energetic path. There are sheep to be tended, herbs to be dried, a fence to be mended, meals to prepare. Those seriously interested in the life are sometimes invited to try it. Some stay; some don’t.

The author of the National Geographic article related,

The territory separating the two villages is a minefield of hard feelings. I had been cautioned not to mention my Canterbury visit to SabbathdayLake and vice versa. I ignored the advice with predictable results. At Canterbury there had been a silence when I mentioned Sabbathday Lake. It was an unpleasantness to be swept under the table. At Sabbathday the rancor is blunt, the hurt palpable. “They say Sabbathday was always the least of Mother Ann’s children in the East,” Sister Mildred observes.

While Canterbury functioned, the feelings were hard on both sides. Now that Sabbathday Lake is the last remaining community, memories and feelings may endure, but anyone who will is welcome to explore and embrace Shaker life. According to the tour guides there, the community receives somewhere in the area of two inquiries a week. However, the mean age of the three surviving Shakers is 65, and a fourth member left the community some years ago after he fell in love; the way of the “three C’s” – Celibacy, Community Property, and Charity – is not an easy one to follow.

I was delighted to explore the lives and history of these gentle people. I learned that the Shakers invented one of the first perma-press cloths in existence; that their blue wood stain lasts almost forever; that the finials on their chairs are all different, depending on which community made them; that they wove cloth out of fine wood strips to cover their boxes and other artifacts; and that they were skilled in just about every area needed to be self-sufficient. I look forward to my next visit, and hope that I can learn even more about them in the meantime.

What is the future of the Shakers? No one knows, but the last members put their trust in God as their community has always done.  In a 2006 article in the Boston Globe, Brother Arnold Hadd is quoted as saying,

“I don’t know the mind of God. However, I do believe that if we live in faith – as we do – that, as we have been called and chosen, there will always be others who will also be called and chosen to this life. So, our intention is that there will be more Shakers.”

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A view of Shaker Meeting from 1885. A photographer from the Poland Spring Hotel took this image. The Shakers are seated in the front benches. The spectators and guests from the Poland Spring Hotel are in the back rows. The women’s entrance can be seen at the back; the men’s entrance is just outside the right frame of the photo. In earlier days, a stairway existed at each end of the hall leading to separate living quarters for the traveling elders and eldresses of the ministry. Collection of the United Society of Shakers, Sabbathday Lake, Inc.

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Eldress Elizabeth Haskell (left) and Eldress Harriet Goodwin (right) pictured in their fancy goods workroom at the Ministry’s Shop at Sabbathday Lake in 1899. Collection of the United Society of Shakers, Sabbathday Lake, Inc.

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Sisters and girls, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, ca. 1902
Pictured from left are, back row, Sisters Clara Stewart, Amanda Stickney, Mamie Curtis, Katherine McTigue, Lizzie Bailey, Laura Bailey, Sarah Fletcher, Jennie Mathers, Ada Cummngs and Claire Chace. In the front row, from left, are Rosamond Drake, Ethel Corcoran, Grace Freeman, unidentified girl, Irene Corcoran, Iona Sedgley, unidentified girl, Emma Soule and Emma Freeman. Although organized as celibate religious communities, Shakers still made provisions for the raising of children. By this time, most of the children who entered the community were orphans. They were placed in either the Girls’ Shop or Boys’ Shop, apart from the adults in the Dwelling House. Caretakers looked after the children, supervising their education, work and play. The group is on the front porch of the Girls’ Shop, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village.
From Maine Memory Network.

‘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 gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

“Simple Gifts” was written by Elder Joseph Brackett while he was at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine.

The Old Wolf has spoken.