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The Gospel of Mother

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Message for worship at West Richmond Friends Meeting, 25th of Fourth Month, 2021

Speaker: Hoot Williams

Scripture: Mark 16:12-13

After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Public Domain: Spiritual History of the Shakers, 2015.

I wonder in what other form Jesus appeared to the two disciples as they walked into the country?

We are not told. In Luke’s gospel, the same language is found describing Jesus' face and his dazzling white garments. But as is true with much of Mark’s gospel, we are left with little detail.

Whatever form Jesus took on for the two disciples, the other nine disciples didn’t believe these two witnesses.

Imagine their shock and awe when the risen Christ appeared to them all as they lay around the dinner table, chastising them for their unbelief, their hardness of heart.

Luke’s gospel speaks of the disciples' disbelief ‘in their joy and marveling,’ and a hungry Jesus.

He says, ‘Have you anything to eat up in here?’


How do you imagine the risen savior?

How have you experienced the living Christ?

I wouldn’t blame you if you were afraid to tell us. After all, the other nine didn’t believe those first two witnesses. Christ Himself had to show up later to remind his disciples about hospitality:

‘Have you anything to eat up in here?’

... and to carry the Message to all the world.

When Welling Hall was brave enough to tell us about her numinous dream, my tears reminded me that I, too, have a job to do, a message to deliver. I understood my tears as a sign.

And then when Pastor Brian spoke on witnessing, I was reminded that doing so is not only our history, but also a basic Christian responsibility. I felt another holy nudge.

And again when Katie Breslin reminded us that it was okay to bring our true selves to community, that to risk being vulnerable - and even broken - was right walking in integrity, it was confirmed in me through these accompanying signs that it was my turn - to shine. Not for myself, but through the wonderful news of what Christ is doing, and creating anew.

So today I breathe in faith - and breathe out fear.

Breathe in faith - breathe out fear.

The last time I was invited to bring the message, I told you about my Quaker baptism - during waiting worship with Brooklyn Monthly Meeting. The Holy Spirit brought me Living Water, a new life in Christ, and a Gift of tears.

Today I’m called to tell you about a second numinous appearance.

The United Society of Believers, commonly called Shakers, was founded in 1747 in Manchester, England. They were called, in derision, "Shaking Quakers" because of their ecstatic worship. To this group of separatists came a remarkable young woman named Ann Lee (1736-1784). In 1770, she was imprisoned for her religious views.

During this time she experienced a series of visions. From that date on Ann Lee was acknowledged as their leader and known as Mother Ann.

In 1774, a decision was made to remove to America. Mother Ann and eight of her followers boarded The Mariah in Liverpool. They landed in New York City on August 6, and immediately set to work and found employment.

Several went up river to a place outside Albany then called Niskayuna. They began to clear the land and erect buildings. In 1776, the little band of Believers began Community life together.

Having arrived on the eve of the American Revolution, and being not only British, but pacifists, the Shakers kept a low profile. However, the events of May 19, 1780, the famous "Dark Day," brought their testimony to the public.

Soon, hundreds of people from New York and Massachusetts were coming to see this peculiar people.

This new awareness brought not only converts, but persecution as well. The Shakers were harassed, beaten, stoned, driven out of towns and imprisoned all for religious reasons. This bitter persecution brought about the early deaths of the three English leaders, Father William, Mother Ann, and Father James.

By 1787, the Church was headed by the American converts. Under the able leadership of Father Joseph Meacham and Mother Lucy Wright, the Shakers began to gather into "Gospel Order." The first Community was at New Lebanon in New York. Eventually eighteen Communities were established in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia and Florida. The Community reached its numerical height of some five thousand souls, during the decade preceding the Civil War.

Today, there are two living members of the Shaker, or Millennial, Church.

I have had an awareness of the Shakers since early childhood. My father, who loved antiques and

hauled the Amish in his retirement, passed on to me an appreciation for religious sects and Americana.

Over the years I have studied the Shaker faith and found it in need of reformation, although I never would have believed it was I who would be called to do the reforming.

Until September of 2015.

I had a numinous experience along with vision of a Reunited Society of Believers:

I was swimming in a crystal-clear creek below a small waterfall outside of Ellenville, NY, in the Catskills.

As I turned my face toward the sun that poured through the canopy of trees above me, everything changed.

Reality shifted from my previous, worldly experience and now I was surrounded by a palpable presence of divinity in my midst.

This time it was Mother’s Work.

Just as all children recognize the sound of their mother’s voice, I too was both comforted and awe-filled in Mother’s invisible yet all-encompassing, transcendent presence.

I felt both rescued and wanting to run.

In those glorious moments, I heard the singing of worshipers walking towards the water.

I saw, through the eyes of the eternal now, figures dancing to an invisible drumbeat, being baptized in Spirit and in Truth while bathing in dazzling white robes below the waterfall.

My eyes flooded with tears. A feeling of fearful awe and ineffable joy and gratitude.

Here was Living Water!

I have no idea how long this experience lasted.

It was somewhere between a minute and a millennia.

That day I made a promise to Mother, God, beside that Living Stream: I would rebuild Her Church.

For this is what I knew my Redeemer was asking of me.

I tried to assent to Her in my mind, but I felt she wouldn’t let me go or let me rest until I promised from my mouth.

“Okay, okay, I promise, I promise,” I prayed through my tears.

I’ve tried to make good on that promise over the years without much success.

It has been a lonely road, and I’ve suffered many losses.

Honestly, I’ve let many fears overrule my faith in the Gospel of Mother,

Until perhaps today,

That Christ has come to teach His people Herself.

♬O the Gospel of Mother what blessing it brings;

A substance obtained not in all earthly things,

But richer and better by far!

But richer and better by far!

♬O the Gospel of Mother what blessing it brings;

A substance obtained not in all earthly things,

But richer and better by far!

But richer and better by far!

♬O, I will make it mine!

I will labor and pray.

It is a rich harvest, it is ample pay,

For all we may suffer in time.

♬O, I will make it mine!

I will labor and pray.

It is a rich harvest, it is ample pay,

For all we may suffer in time.

For all we may suffer in time.

New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This document is protected by U.S. and International copyright laws. Reproduction and distribution without permission from the author is prohibited. © 2020 Hoot Williams. All rights reserved.

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My mother and I had the joy of visiting a Shaker Community near Richmond, Kentucky. It's called Shaker Village--they have animals, original buildings, and some demonstration of their arts and crafts. They have a wonderful restaurant as well: ~Katrina Harris-Tyner

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