Anyone who has attended many of my performances has heard me perform the Shaker dance song, ‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple. I have spoken and written often about the impact of A Shaker Worship Service. Lately I’ve had the opportunity to recall some of those memories. Although I’ve not had the chance to return to the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill yet, I hope to soon.
The Shaker Village, especially the meeting house, lingers in my memory. Similar to sanctuary of the Metamora United Methodist Church, decades of singing and worship ring within the walls. The meeting house is holy ground for me. It is “the place just right.” When I finally return, I expect it will bring both emotional experience and spiritual renewal.
The Shakers chose to escape the worldliness of their day by isolating themselves in villages like Pleasant Hill. They lived simply, worked hard, and worshipped with fervor. When it seems that each day brings a new report of aimless, senseless, and cruel violence, temptation lures us to create our own isolation. However, we will not find peace or community in shelter or isolation but in choice.
We choose how we live. We choose how we relate to others. Being in a mutual relationship is hard work, but it takes root in the choice to be kind. I can only change the world by changing my choices. I will bow and be simple; I will bow and be free, and I will choose to be kind.
‘Tis the gift to be simple.
In June, I returned to Lexington to meet with Renee Collins and Warren Cobb of Room 17 Productions, also former Choristers. We met at the studio of Michael Breeding. I recalled a few memories of being a part of the Choristers and being myself a Room 17 production.
I am grateful to Michael for capturing this professional video of my arrangement of the Shaker dance song, Simple Gifts. It stirs up the memory of A Shaker Worship Service and the Shakertown experience. Meanwhile, it also expresses my own longing for a simpler day, for a simpler life.