Millennial Church, Alethians

General Information

Beginning in England at a Quaker revival in 1747, the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, also known as the Millennial Church, or the Alethians, came to be called Shakers because of the trembling induced in them by their religious fervor. Led by James and Jane Wardley, the so - called Shaking Quakers were a minor religious sect until Ann Lee became the head of the movement.

Mother Ann, as she was known, believed that she had received the feminine principle of the deity. Following imprisonment for her unorthodox views, she experienced a vision and led (1774) a small group to the United States, where they established (1776) a community at Watervliet, N Y Mother Ann made a number of converts, and after her death (1784) they established further communities under the leadership of Joseph Meacham and Lucy Wright. By 1826 there were 18 Shaker communities with about 6,000 members in 8 states. Their peak period was 1840 - 60. As revivalism declined after the Civil War, so did the fortunes of the communities. By 1980 the Shakers were almost extinct.

The Shakers believed in Mother Ann as the source of God's fullest revelation to humankind. Other doctrines and practices included celibacy, open confession of sins, communal sharing of possessions, pacifism, equality of the sexes, and consecrated labor. They rejected Calvinist ideas of predestination and emphasized free will. In their well - organized, self - sufficient communities segregated from the outside world, the Shakers worshiped in unusual ways; dancing, ecstatic shouting, and trances were held to be proof of the Holy Spirit's presence.

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The furniture and other goods that the Shakers made for themselves are remarkable for simplicity of design and fine craftsmanship; they have become highly valued collectors' items.

Henry Warner Bowden

E D Andrews, The People Called Shakers (1953); E D / F Andrews, Work and Worship: The Economic Order of the Shakers (1974); N R Campion, Ann the Word: The Life of Mother Ann Lee, Founder of the Shakers (1976); H Desroche, American Shakers(1971); D Faber, The Perfect Life: The Shakers in America (1974); D W Patterson, The Shaker Spiritual (1979); J Sprigg, By Shaker Hands (1975); A White and L S Taylor, Shakerism (1904); J M Whitworth, God's Blueprints: A Sociological Study of Three Utopian Sects (1975).

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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