Saturday, February 20, 2010

Have You Ever Been Curious About Old Order Amish?

The Old Order Amish church is a Christian denomination that split from the more liberal Amish Mennonites in the mid-1800’s. The first thing that usually springs to our minds when we hear Old Order Amish is the severe black buggy seen in so many pictures, but there is so much more to the Old Order Amish than their mode of transportation and their unique dress.

There is a large population of Old Order Amish in my home state of Oklahoma. They settled in the tiny town of Clarita, and live among the non-Amish farmers and ranchers as valued members of the community. It is easy to dismiss the Old Order Amish as a fringe of our society, but before we do this, we should try to understand them. The following are a few tips on how to understand the Old Order Amish….

There are Old Order Amish communities in 27 states and Ontario, Canada. They live in close proximity to each other, on large farms usually in isolated areas.

A family might open a retail business that attracts other Amish (such as a buggy shop), the general public (grocery store, Amish furniture store) or tourists (quilt store or Amish bakery, generally on a well-traveled highway).

Although they will not accept electricity or phone service in their homes, the Old Order Amish will sometimes have these in a retail business if necessary.

Most of the Old Order Amish are descendants of Amish who migrated to America in the 1700’s from Germany or Switzerland. The Amish name is taken from founder Jakob Ammann, born in the mid-1600’s in Switzerland, who believed that the Mennonites were going away from traditional teachings. The first Amish settled in Pennsylvania. In the mid-1860’s the Old Order Amish split from the Amish Mennonites over what they felt was an acceptance of modernization by the Amish Mennonites.

Old Order Amish are Christians who use the Bible. They live by a set of rules called the Ordnung, which sets out their way of life and which must be obeyed by every member. Old Order Amish do not accept government payments of any kind, including Medicare and Social Security. They do not buy insurance, use line electricity or telephones in their homes and refuse to serve in the military. They do not own automobiles, and most do not own tractors. Horses provide the horsepower, literally. However, they will ride in automobiles and use battery-powered appliances and gas-fueled generators in their homes.

Old Order Amish have a strict dress code and most do not allow zippers or belts. Most clothing is made in the home.

Family is extremely important to Old Order Amish, and both the father and mother take big roles in child care and nurturing. They believe in spanking children if necessary. Divorce is non-existent, and elderly parents are generally cared for in the home of one of their children.

Education is usually ended after the eighth grade, and older girls generally serve as teachers. Usually a community-built school in an isolated location will serve all of the children. The Amish speak a German dialect called Pennsylvania German as well as English. Pennsylvania German is always spoken in the home and with other Amish – learning English is just for the benefit of communicating with non-Amish.

Normally the Old Order Amish do not build churches but rather hold services in members’ homes. Sunday services are generally an all-day event, with a big community lunch being served on the lawn.

Old Order Amish do not usually allow pictures to be taken of them, since this is considered a sin of vanity. When I take their pictures, I usually take them from the back of the person.

When you see the Amish suffering in the heat of the summer with no air conditioning or shivering in their buggies during the snowy season, it’s difficult to understand why anyone would choose this life. However, they seem to be very happy and content, always smiling and friendly.

There is much, much more to the Old Order Amish than what this article can cover. If you would like to know more, there is a wealth of information on the Internet.

No comments:

Post a Comment