Who are the Amish? What is their history?
The Amish are a farming community in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country and go back to the Protestant Reformation in Europe. They lead a simple life and their families and their farms are their top priorities, second only to God. They operate their farms only by using horses and do not use machinery or automobiles. They are very much devoted to their faith and believe in the literal interpretation and application of the scriptures and believe that they are the word of god. Biblical preaching’s and commands to keep a distance from the things of the world are taken seriously. They believe worldliness can keep them from being close to God, and can introduce influences that could be destructive to their communities and to their way of life.
How are they related to the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Mennonites?
One group of people wanted to return to the purity of the New Testament Church. They rejected the concept of baptizing an infant child and were known as the Anabaptists and later as Mennonites. This group only wanted adults who had confessed their faith to be baptized. They also believed in excommunication or cutting all social contacts with people who were unrepentant and not ready to accept the faith and this was restricted to the Communion table. A group of people called the Amish and lead by Jacob Amman, believed that the unrepentant people should be totally shunned by all. This difference caused the Amish to split from the Mennonites.
What distinctive cultural features have they retained?
These people do not use automobiles to run the farm but use only horses. They have little or no radio and television, A group of orthodox Amish called the Old Order do not even allow electricity or telephone. They wear simple plain dresses. Old Order Amish women and girls wear modest dresses made from solid-colored fabric with long sleeves and a full skirt (not shorter than half-way between knee and floor). These dresses are covered with a cape and apron and are fastened with straight pins or snaps. They never cut their hair, which they wear in a bun on the back of the head. On their heads they wear a white prayer covering if they are married and a black one if they are single. Amish women do not wear jewelry.
Do their children go to school?
Yes, the Amish children go to one-room schools. They send their children to school till the eight grade. By a Supreme Court ruling, the students are exempted from compulsory attendance after the eight grade. The children are taught reading, writing and arithmetic and due importance is given on teaching about community and cooperation among the members. Strong efforts are taken to restrict worldly influences that can corrupt or divert the mind of the children.
One of my fondest memories of my childhood in my small town where I grew up was our postman. Back then, when you ‘got mail’ it was delivered by the postman and we kids would hang around on the porch waiting for the postman to arrive and rush yelling inside when we saw him. It was really wonderful to receive a letter from relatives who lived far away. The letter was folded and stashed away in a folder and reread by other members and it was discussed among the neighbors who were always eager to get the news. In my current life, the mail is just a click away, is accessed in a few seconds and it takes a few minutes to read and is forgotten or deleted. During a recent visit to my grandfather’s house, it was a bit of a pleasant surprise for me when I opened the door to find a gnarled old postman smiling at me and holding out a letter, asking about my grandma. Well, my grandmother called him right over for a hot cup of coffee and they chatted for a few minutes while he told the local gossip. It would perhaps take him the rest of the morning to get around to deliver the letters around the community but the gossip would linger for days. Life was slow, peaceful and pleasant back them and no one really felt rushed.
Well the times, how they have changed, in my apartment in the city, I have never seen the postman and don’t know how he looks and anyway, I don’t receive much mail, only the stuff sent by the courier. When I speak of mail. It is always the electronic mail and it is aseptic and conveys only information without any feelings or emotions. Well, I have to check my mail again; will just take me a few seconds….
Amish. (2007). The Amish & the Plain People. Web.