Imagine your life without electricity, a formal education past eighth grade, or blue jeans. Sounds pretty tough, right? This is a simple way to explain the lifestyle of the Amish communities that are scattered throughout North America.
For most of us, the Amish are a group of people that are mysterious, like a letter that contains no return address and appears in the mail one day. Most people seem to know very little about the Amish besides their antique clothing and horse-drawn modes of transportation. To understand the Amish better, some key concepts include the history of the Amish, their rules of discipline, and their roles as members of a community and as individuals. Body
Main Point 1: The history of the Amish According to Civilization in the West, the Mennonites, believers in practicing adult baptism, arose from the Protestant Reformation. The Encyclopedia Britannica reports that a Mennonite named Jakob Ammann became worried that the Mennonites were becoming too worldly. He led a band of followers who became known as the Amish in the late 1600s. The Amish migrated to North America beginning in the 1720s, mostly settling in Pennsylvania, according to Encyclopedia of American Religious History.
Main Point 2: Amish discipline and classic lifestyle According to Teen Life Among the Amish and Other Alternative Communities, the Ordnung is the basis for Amish order. It translates from German to mean “order and discipline”. a. The Ordnung is the unwritten code of order, which describes the Amish necessity of separating themselves from the modern world. b. Ordnung sets the guidelines for appearance, use of technology, language, and church practices.
1. The unique appearance of the Amish is known as plain, with styles most of us associate with period movies and history. c. Married men grow beards. (Instead of a wedding ring) d. Women wear aprons, instead of rings. Prayer cap is always worn during lifetime. Main Point 3: The Role of an Amish person in their individual lives and in their community
The Amish usually speak three languages, Pennsylvania Dutch first, then English as a second language and High German third, as it is used in church services and in their version of the Bible. Church services are held in houses of the Amish families, rotating every week, rather than in a permanent church building.
A powerful sense of community and others before self is expressed by the Amish, according to the Encyclopedia of American Religious History. a. An example of this community is the barn-raising, which usually occurs after the destruction of an Amish building, due to a fire or effects of a bad storm. The women of the community begin a wave of mass baking and cooking with recipes for up to 175 men that would make Martha Stewart jealous. The men begin to collect materials and the rebuilding of whatever is the focus of the raising, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. b. A compelling sense of peace and forgiveness exists among the Amish, as is often expressed by outsiders. Rumspringa is an important element of the Amish teen life, a time to explore different lifestyles, along with dating.
a. According to Teen Life among the Amish and Other Alternative Communities, this period of a teen’s life begins around the sixteenth birthday. The teen is given more freedom in their lives during this time. They are allowed to dress as they wish, along with experimenting with the ways of the “English”, or non-Amish. b. 85 to 90 percent of the teens choose to remain in the Amish life, as stated in the Encyclopedia of American Religious History. c. Encyclopedia Britannica reports that if a person does choose to leave their Amish life behind, they may be shunned, or ignored, by the members of their former district. Despite the Ordnung’s rules about shunning those who leave after baptism and joining the church, many families may shun teens that leave during their rumspringa in shame. Conclusion
All in all, the history of the Amish Church, how their strict way of life, and a person’s role in the Amish community are all important contributions to the understanding of the Amish people and community. I’d like to leave you with the wise words of this Amish proverb, “Don’t hurry, don’t worry, do your best, and leave the rest!”