Words of Encouragement & Hope
Submitted by Judy Hodgins
Tis the Gift to be Simple
Earlier this week, I was driving home from the grocery store and a hauntingly familiar tune came out of the radio. The song was largely unknown outside Shaker communities until Aaron Copland “borrowed” it for the score of Appalachian Spring.
The tune was written in 1848. The song's composer is said to be Elder Joseph Brackett of Alfred, Maine. A lifelong resident of the state, he first joined the Shakers at Gorham when his father’s farm helped to form the nucleus of a new Shaker settlement.
Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free.
Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be.
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
to bow and bend we shant be ashamed
To turn, turn, turn will be our delight, by turning we come around right.
Some Shaker manuscripts indicate that this was a dance song. But “turning” is a common theme in Christian theology. Several Shaker historians interpret it, “Turn, turn, turn to God.” In these unusual times let us be reminded to turn to God in all things.
The song was sung and danced in their worship ritual. Simple Gifts expresses the hopes and dreams of an imperfect people, profoundly thankful to be free from oppression. The Shakers realized that “simple gifts” of freedom, hope and faith come to each of us through God’s providence.
Let us sing this song in heart and mind without ceasing this week. Turn, turn, turn to God in all things.