M Fredericks sewing machines

Ministry Eldresses were often engaged in tailoring.

The spiritual life of each Shaker community was overseen by two Elders and two Eldresses who together constituted the Ministry. The Ministry of the Hancock Bishopric had spiritual oversight not only of the Hancock community, but also of Tyringham, Massachusetts, and Enfield, Connecticut. The Ministry regularly traveled among the communities in their bishopric, using the upper stories of the Meetinghouse for their lodgings. The Ministry Shop served as a workspace for the Elders and Eldresses, who were under the same obligation to perform hand-labor as the brethren and sisters under their care.

The Hancock community had an earlier Ministry’s Shop that was located on the south side of Route 20. It was moved to the north side of the road during 1829 to make way for the Brick Dwelling. Hancock apostate David Lamson noted in 1848 that there were two Ministry’s Shops in use—one for the Elders and Ministry Shopone for the Eldresses. One of these structures was in use until 1873, when visiting Canterbury Elder Henry Blinn noted: “After breakfast we accompanied Elder Thomas

[Damon] to the Ministry’s shop, which was moved from its foundation & now rested on blocks. This old building they intend to sell & will immediately commence the building of a new shop on the spot where the former one stood.” A community Day Book noted in 1873 that the “Ministries new shop and wood house joining.”

The Hancock Ministry was formally abolished on June 18th, 1893. The Ministry of Mount Lebanon, New York took the Hancock community under its care—spending the months of January, February, and March at Hancock. By 1921 the Ministry’s Shop had become a home for Shaker sisters who had been relocated from the Enfield, Connecticut community after its closure in 1917.