Shakers - Communalism Under Joseph Meacham

Communalism Under Joseph Meacham

After Ann Lee and James Whittaker died, Joseph Meacham (1742–1796) became the leader of the Shakers in 1787. He had been a New Light Baptist minister in Enfield, Connecticut, and was reputed to have, second only to Mother Ann, the spiritual gift of revelation.

Joseph Meacham brought Lucy Wright (1760–1821) into the Ministry to serve with him and together they developed the Shaker form of communalism (religious communism). By 1793 property had been made a "consecrated whole" in each Shaker community.

Shakers developed written covenants in the 1790. Those who signed the covenant had to confess their sins, consecrate their property and their labor to the society, and live celibate. If they were married before joining the society, their marriages essentially ended when they joined. A few less-committed Believers lived in "noncommunal orders" as Shaker sympathizers who preferred to remain with their families. The Shakers never forbade marriage for such individuals, but considered it less perfect than the celibate state.

New Shaker communities formed in the 1780s and 1790s included Hancock and West Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Harvard, Massachusetts; East Canterbury, New Hampshire (or Shaker Village); Shirley, Massachusetts; Enfield, Connecticut (then also known as Shaker Station); Enfield, New Hampshire; ("Chosen Vale"), at Tyringham, Massachusetts; New Gloucester, Maine (since 1890: "Sabbathday Lake"); and Alfred, Maine, where, more than anywhere else among the Shakers, spiritualistic healing of the sick was practiced.

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