The Amish, by A.M. Aurand, , at sacred-texts.com
Meeting Places are very plain; if it is an elaborate structure, it is an exception; plainness in everything being the general rule. They often are erected in the midst of, or what once was a grove of great trees; long rows of sheds being filled to over-flowing with teams; special stalls are reserved for the preachers.
On entering a meeting house one would see across a sea of bobinet-capped heads to the front, where sat the several ministers, generally among the older members, grey-bearded; their long hair parted in the middle and combed down quite smoothly, ending in curls over the ears. Hats hung on pegs driven into the walls.
Line-Out Hymns.—The preacher would line-out a hymn from a book most generally "Die Kleine Harfe"—a favorite
with the Mennonites. The members would respond with vim and vigor—without the aid of any musical instrument. Organs or anything of a musical nature were strictly forbid-den; suggestions that a musical aid of some kind be obtained, have been known to split congregations wide open. Scripture forbade the use of the organ. Of course these singing methods were familiar from childhood, and frequent use made all of them adepts at singing praises.
After hymns they had readings of selections from the German Bible. The sermons would follow in a language suitable to the majority present—German, or dialect—rarely English. Not every outsider can forthwith apply himself to, or comprehend their "hymn-sings."
Ministers and Bishops are selected by placing a piece of paper in one of a number of Bibles; members are directed to select, and God determines through the Bible containing the slip with the words "This is the lot," who is to be minister among them—called from the plow, or whatever vocation he might have chosen to follow.
These preachers were presumed to have Divine inspiration and to be able to deliver forceful sermons without any preparation!
Each family among the plain people support themselves generally on their own efforts of farming the earth. They pay no salaries for their preachers, for they all are potential ministers among them, hence need to pay, nor titheing for such purposes.
The Mennonites, however, have broadened out to such an extent that they have missionaries throughout the world, with some churches and ministers in India and South America.
Children five weeks old, and up, are old enough to attend meeting, and thus are allowed to mingle with others until attaining an age in life when they are able to determine for themselves that they can accept all teachings of His people, and declare that they are fit for baptism.
Married men sit in a separate section to the right, reserved exclusively for them; their male off-spring sitting at their right side. On the other side of the men, with an aisle generally between them, are the wives and to their sides the younger girls and children of tender years. The older persons, separate as to sex,
you will see usually sitting about the center of the meeting, and apart, as is the custom of the Jews.
Sermons over, men reach for their hats, and women place their black bonnets over their white "prayer-caps," and thus out again into a more or less worldly atmosphere, having just been in the presence of God.
Communions are Celebrated twice a year, following a previous meeting at which it is ascertained that there are no differences existing between any of the members, which would prevent their attending this solemn service. They have preaching in the forenoon followed by the Supper, which is a fully prepared meal. Then in the afternoon they have the feet-washing. Only on such occasions do they have two services in a day, with lunch between the two.
Baptism is Administered four weeks before communion, by trine pouring in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. They are not baptized by immersion, as some would have you to believe.
Ex-Communication.—One of the take-offs of the Amish from the Catholic church, was its right to ex-communicate any of its members for infractions of conduct or church discipline. This was a special point of divergence between the followers of Jacob Ammon, and the other Mennonites, and concerned disobedient members, as taught in I Corinthians v. 9-11; II Thes. iii, 14; Titus iii, 10, and incorporated into their confession of faith.
The Amish applied these to their daily life, while others held these injunctions to apply merely to the communion table. The separation was accomplished about 1698.
Thus, if a husband or wife committed any breach, they were barred from having further social intercourse, such as is natural in life, and it went so far as to prohibit eating together at the same table, and of course, sleeping in the same bed.
These prohibitions are hard for any one to bear, and while it kept many straight, it caused some of them to go over to some other branch that did not suffer them to be quite so circumspect.
Leaders or elders of the Old Order Amish are very strict about the ex-communication ban, and it is very "unhealthy" for the member in good standing to bid the time to any one who is under the ban. Among some of these people, it is a rule for them not to bid the time, nor to note the presence of another, should they be passing on a road, no matter who they are, or where they happen to be at the time. This naturally avoids errors in judgment.
One poor fellow in the middle West went amuck and killed his whole family because the operation of the ban prohibiting him from having anything at all to do with them, finally got the better of his mind, and his rash act resulted.
Holidays.—In the main their holidays are Christmas and Easter, but the Amish observe two days for the celebration, which idea they must get from the Jews, who sometimes are doubtful which day of two is meant to be celebrated, hence they celebrate both.
The two-day observance holds good in Germany and Switzerland today.
Shrove Tuesday before Lent means special attention must be given that day to preparation of "Fasnachts"—doughnuts to you. These may he round, and with the usual hole; square, oblong and quite narrow, or even triangular, some say.
At Christmas they do not give gifts like the rest of the Christian world. It would necessitate laying out money for things not necessary, aside from other reasons which they advance.
Religious Education.—Just about the first care of the plain people is that their children get a good religious education, therefore a place to worship, either private or public; then a school-house, and perhaps later among some of them, a place for higher education. (This does not apply to the Amish sect).
Examples for Peace.—These people certainly set a great example to those who would have peace among men—throughout the world. Their philosophy of refusing to fight for or against others, might set a good example for others to study.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should leave these people entirely to their own devices to work out their own salvation. They might solve a question on "Utopia" without costing the Commonwealth or the Federal government a single cent—besides both would be receiving revenue and no State or Federal expense during the experiment. They certainly appear a good risk from every angle.
The World is Flat.—This is a difference of opinion among some of these people as to the shape of the earth—whether it is round or flat. You will recall that conditions like this confronted even the most learned men up until the time of Columbus. Even since then there are men who will declare that the world, or earth, is flat.
Most maps are drawn in a way to indicate the surface as being flat, and when we have looked at our Bible maps and
others, not globularly arranged, most any person would take it to be flat, because it was that way in the Bible!
Many people outside the Amish and Mennonite beliefs, are ready to believe that "everything" in the Bible, from cover to cover, is true—and you may be sure that one who is firmly convinced will interpret all passages according to his understanding.
Dinners.—At the dinners served at "meeting time" at the homes of members, when as many as two hundred gather at one time, it requires food and plenty of it. Naturally no one is prepared to serve food on two hundred different dinner plates, and when many extra settings are necessary those awaiting the finishing of the previous table are already pretty hungry.
"Moon Pies."—Those attending these meetings are fed on "moon pies." The lower crust is rolled out to the usual pie-plate size, and the uncovered part of the crust laid up over the "contents." This forms a secure "pocket" for this type of content and is called a "moon" or "half-moon" pie. Hundreds of these are prepared on the Saturday before meeting.
To save time, as soon as the men are called they will pile into the kitchen, dropping hats one after another, more alike than two peas, on a window sill, and approach the table.
When they have been served the next table is accommodated, with the same plates and utensils, and cups and saucers as the first, most times without the formality of washing, and so on until the several tables have been served. In many homes today among non-Amish the common drinking-cup and perhaps other utensils are used time and again by different members of the family, without washing for days at a time.
Silent prayer is offered before any diner begins his meal, and again at the end.