Ministry House

Each of the Shaker Bishoprics’ spiritual lives were overseen by two Elders and two Eldresses referred to as the Ministry. In the New Hampshire Bishopric, the Ministry oversaw both the Canterbury and Enfield communities. In addition, the Ministry also served as the principal link between the Central Ministry at Mount Lebanon in New York and the New Hampshire Shaker communities.

Throughout the year, the Ministry traveled frequently between the two villages bringing messages and religious leadership. Additionally, they traveled to Mount Lebanon and other Shaker communities such as the one at Harvard, Massachusetts. A typical year of travel for a Shaker Ministry Elder or Eldress often amounted to around 1,400 miles per year.

Both in Canterbury and Enfield, the New Hampshire Bishopric Ministry lived and dined separately from the other Shakers. For most of the history of the Enfield community, the Ministry lived on the second floor of the 1793 Moses Johnson Meeting House and worked in a smaller building known as the Ministry Shop. Finally, in 1880, the New Hampshire Ministry moved into a more modern structure. This building, the last constructed by the Enfield Shakers, bears stylistic hallmarks of the Victorian era in which it was constructed representing the confluence between the Shaker and Victorian aesthetics. While a departure from earlier Shaker buildings at Enfield, the Ministry House allowed all four Elders to have comfortable working and living spaces, all in the convenience of one building. While the first floor contained offices for both the Elders and Eldresses, the second floor provided space for their private living quarters.