Ephrata Cloister

9/16/14 Tuesday in Lebanon,PA (Hershey Campground-TT)

Last night Susan got their site pretty much packed up and Bill had a good night. They’re thinking they can get on the road today and continue their path with Larry/Gail, as originally planned. RV people are TOUGH. So it was that we said good by to Larry/Gail and about an hour later to Bill/Susan. Even when you don’t have the responsibilities of a job you still may have to push on.

Since Shady Maple Smorgasbord is near the Ephrata (EH frah tah) Cloister we thought it would make the trip worthwhile to combine the two. By seeing the Ephrata Cloister first we could make our lunch late and maybe not need supper.

The nearby town of Ephrata was named after this Cloister, formed by the mystic Conrad Beissel in the 1730’s. In Germany, at 24, he had a spiritual awakening and seeking religious freedom came to Germantown, near Philadelphia. He was a leader of a congregation, then sought solitude in the forest. Elements he felt were important were not what other’s in his congregation had in mind: Saturday for worship and forgoing earthly marriage. Others followed him, forming the Community of the Solitary at Ephrata that numbered 80 by 1750. They were partially supported by Householders (married with families) living on nearby farms.

Their life was quite regimented, to ensure closer union with God: one vegetarian meal a day at 7 pm, work in the fields, with manuscripts and singing along with many solitary prayer times. Their bed was a small plank (everyone was pretty thin) with a wooden block for a pillow because they were not to sleep, just rest. They also got up for a couple hours at midnight for prayer. They operated a printing press which included the largest book printed in America: “Martyrs’ Mirror”, for the Mennonites.

ephrata 11

They also created musical compositions and German calligraphic writing. They were charitable, making the Cloister a site of a Revolutionary War military hospital.

Our guide wore the white garb that the Brothers and Sisters wore. The doorways were small and low, to remind them of humility. Brothers lived in a separate building from the Sisters. This is the Sister’s home, attached to the Meeting Hall. By the way, they called the houses of Ephreta Cloister “Skyscrapers” because, at 4 and 5 floors tall, their roofs seemed to “scrape the sky.”

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Their Meeting Hall was once divided by a wall to separate the Brothers from the Sisters.

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Conrad Beissel lived alone in a building in his later years. Music was important (he led the choirs), even writing much of their compositions. He wrote and published America’s first book of original compositions. He and his followers believed the Second Coming would happen before he died. When it didn’t, Peter, his successor decided to loosen the rigorous demands, since it was not possible to live that way as one got older.

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Images from the museum:

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Shady Maple Smorgasbord was, naturally, lots of fun and so filling. They even had a Turkey Hill stand there this time, so we enjoyed their ice cream. After purchasing some produce at Shady Maple Market, we headed home. We did stop to record this street sign. Remember, this is where many German people settled and Elser is German. John found about 12 Elsers in the Ephrata phone book.

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This is beautiful country, filled with rolling hills and small farms.  We saw this on our way home:

farm 1

When we got back home we had to take a walk. Then we enjoyed a quiet evening at the end of a lovely fall day.


About Patricia Elser

I've always loved the loose, flowing, transparent look of watercolors, of Chinese paintings and their calligraphy, but alas, no watercolor classes were available when I was in school, so that interest remained buried until my children were grown. Even then, I was afraid that I couldn't really paint, so upon my sister's advice, I actually started to take classes. I signed up for every class available, determined to learn no matter how afraid I was. I came upon a teacher, Stan Miller, who inspired me, who opened the door to success in watercolor. I love to look at beautiful images. I want to capture them forever. All my life, photography was how I gathered images of the beauty I saw. Thanks to all that photography, I enjoy composing pictures, especially up close. Watercolors allow me to add more of me in their translation of that beauty. My paintings reflect my love for music and dance, with their rhythm and flow. I am fascinated by the play of light, so it appears in my pictures as drama for they are filled with darks and lights. Maybe it's the challenge, maybe it's the beauty, but now, when a work comes together, it fills my soul.
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