This past Monday, Sister Frances Carr passed away at the age of 89 from cancer at Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Maine. Carr was one of the last members of the Shakers, more formerly known as the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, a Christian sect founded in the mid-18th century in England. The group immigrated to the United States in the latter half of the 18th century because of persecution in England.
The group became known as the “Shaking Quakers” because of their
tendency towards ecstatic convulsions when worshipping. Persecution continued in America, but that did not stop the growth of the group. By the time of the American Civil War in the 1860’s they had roughly 5,000 members spread across multiple communities in several states.
The group preached pacifism, gender equality, communal ownership, and celibacy. Over time they became well-known for the furniture they built. Beginning in the late 19th century however, their numbers began shrinking (because that is what happens when you are committed to celibacy, duh).
Sister Carr was one of the three last Shakers, and with her now gone there is only Brother Arnold Hadd and Sister June Carpenter left. Hadd is 60 years old and Carpenter is 78, and so the entire Shaker sect is likely only going to continue as long as they are still alive. Once they both pass away, so goes a sect that will have existed for nearly 300 years.
As an atheist, I cannot help but wonder how much longer until we may see other sects, and possibly entire religions, follow the same path to extinction. One can only dream for such a day when humanity finally frees itself from the fairy tales of our intellectual and developmental infancy.
You can visit the Shaker website here if you have nothing better to do with your time right now.