While monasteries with wider church support are a longstanding institution in Christian history, independent, self-sustaining faith-based communes have made their mark in America. Unlike a monastery, not all of them were celibate.
Here are ten.
- Ephrata Cloister. Pennsylvania, 1732-2008. Founded by Johann Conrad Beissel, the pietist group broke off from the German Baptist Brethren (or Dunker) denomination, which largely continues as today’s Church of the Brethren. It had the second printing press in the American colonies. Its celibate emphasis was gradually eliminated.
- Moravians. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (1741), and Salem, North Carolina (1753). The denomination dates to Jan Hus (1369-1415), a Czech reformer years before Luther and Calvin led the Protestant Reformation. The American communities initially had common ownership of all property by the church, supervised housing for single men and single women, and likely other communal aspects.
- The Shakers. Founded by Mother Ann Lee, it settled in Watervliet, New York, 1774, and spread from Maine to Indiana and Kentucky. Best known of the communal movements, in part for its beautiful furniture and architecture. One village remains.
- Hebus Valley. Pennsylvania. Founded by George Rapp, 1824-1906. Christian theosophists and pietists.
- Hopedale Community. Massachusetts, Adin Ballou, 1842-1856. “Practical Christianity” with a Universalist base. Utopian ideals included temperance, abolitionism, women’s rights, and spiritualism. Attempted to be part of the surrounding community.
- Amana Colonies. Originated in Germany in 1714 and arrived in Iowa, 1855. Communal system ended in 1932.
- Bruderhof. An Anabaptist denomination arising from the Hutterites in Germany in 1920, it has communities in Paraguay, Europe, Australia, and the United States (from 1954). Its beliefs are similar to Mennonites – peace, simplicity, adult baptism, and so on. There are currently 17 communities in the U.S.
- Hare Krishnas. The best known of the ISKON (Krishna Consciousness) communities is New Vrindaban, West Virginia, settled in 1968.
- Friends Southwest House. McNeal, Arizona, opened in 1976. I didn’t even know of this Quaker community, much less of its long life.
- Eighteenth Avenue Peace House. Portland, Oregon, opened in 1986. Ecumenical Christian.
Any you’d add to the list?
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