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Church Involvement: Keeping the Faith

Katherine Ryder Published: May 1, 2011 9:52 AM

There are many myths that follow the Amish faith. One of those myths involves an Amish church service.

As religion and faith are the most important aspects of the Amish culture, attending church is also something that Amish community members put a lot of effort and preparation into.

Trailed through history, the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann. Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish. These followers were originally from three main places: the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, Alsace (now part of France), and the Palatinate of Germany.

In the early 18th century, many Amish and Mennonites immigrated to Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. Today, the most traditional descendants of the Amish continue to speak Pennsylvania German, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch.

However, a dialect of Swiss German predominates in some Old Order Amish communities, especially in Indiana.

The Amish attend church every other Sunday. On, what the Amish community members refer to as "opposite Sundays," they visit churches, distant family and friends in other communities.

Ministers travel a lot. This gives them the opportunity to visit other churches.

The Amish church has been structured this way for hundreds of years and members really enjoy the opportunity. They never know which minister is going to come in and help with the sermon for the week or who they're going to see.

As most people know, the Amish church service is held in a community member's home. The Deacon and the Deacon's wife set the tone of the sermon and schedule whose house the church service is going to be.

This is mostly dependent on availability and space. Because there are approximately 28-35 families on average for each community, each service requires a substantial amount of space for everyone to attend.

Most people have shops and/or large, open basements to allot for a church service. In the older days there were more farm houses and those were usually the place church was held.

After the service a very traditional meal is served.

These meals usually include homemade bread, cold cuts and cheese. Other items can include fruit pizza, Amish peanut butter, pies, cookies, pickled red beets and pickles.

The family who hosts the church service also provides food for the meal.

It's a meal that most families don't have a regular basis and look forward to.

If, for one reason or another, a family does not attend church service on the "opposite Sundays" they spend the day worshiping from home as a family.

This is commonly done at the same time as church would be. The family will read from the Bible and pray.

This is often considered beneficial for the children of the family as they are given the opportunity to ask more questions and have deeper conversations.

There is a lot of interest to join the Amish lifestyle. Most of this interest comes from those who feel they need a drastic change in their own lives.

If someone truly feels they are being called to become Amish, there are steps they can take to do so.

It's a choice, just like children who are raised to be Amish are given the opportunity to decide if it's right for them.

Over 95 percent of youth make the decision to endorse the Amish lifestyle. The remaining decide they want a different lifestyle.

This decision is "made" at the time of baptism. A common misconception is that not all Amish men and women are baptized at the same age.

When an Amish man or woman decides they are ready to follow the lifestyle, that is when they are baptized.

Community members prefer this decision to be made when the individual is old enough to know what he or she really wants and can take the step seriously.

For members who are baptized and then decide, for one reason or another, to "leave" the Amish church they have really made the choice to leave the lifestyle, not the belief.

There are some, very conservative churches who take that very seriously. These are the churches that frequently "shun" their former Amish members.

In scripture, the biblical understanding is that this act is out of love and is a technique used to bring the people back to the lifestyle.

Other churches try to coach an individual through this process by questioning whether they are making the right decision for themselves.

The Christian belief and the Amish lifestyle are very different, however, just because an individual decides the Amish lifestyle is not for them, they can still follow the Christian belief.

This is what most Amish community members want for someone who does decide to leave the lifestyle.


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