We are now in an Amish country. This post is especially for my dear friend Barbara.
We stop for a few hours and learn more about Amish society and the way faith, family, and community are tightly linked.
We stop at a touristic Amish Village, operated by Amish people, and take a bus tour with a guide.
Amish are anabaptists who believe in the baptism of adult believers. They were persecuted in Germany after the reformation in the 1500's. William Penn the Governor of Pennsylvania in the 17th century offered a haven with religious freedom. The Amish now number over 200,000 and are in 23 states of the USA and in Canada. Their population doubles every twenty years. Families have an average of 7 children.
Families are mainly involved in agriculture and cropping, and also in metal, carpentry and other trades. The farms we saw were all very lush and green. Vegetable gardens tended by the women are bountiful food baskets.
We saw people riding in buggies, on brightly coloured scooters (with two small cycle wheels and a wide foot platform, hopping into vehicles which are driven by English (everyone non Amish is English). A tractor with no rubber tyres was being used as a stationery engine. We stopped at a couple of stalls - Baked goods and a small horse and quilting stall. We were asked to avoid taking photographs of Amish people who consider photos to be graven images.
Little sheds near the road housed a telephone which was to be used for business calls.
Amish make decisions that will preserve their cultural cohesion. This involves keeping apart from the world in selected ways.
Separation from the world is based on
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Homes do not use electricity from the grid but generators and solar panels are used. Propane gas tanks are common and gas is used for cooking, lighting and heating.
The children are educated to grade 8 in one room schools. They are taught by young women who are themselves recent graduates. Children at Grade 8 are aged about 15. That was the legal school leaving age in NZ until about 20 years ago. It is now 16. Children speak Pennsylvanian Dutch at home and begin to learn English at age 6 when they start school. The classroom materials that I saw reminded me of the readers and arithmetic books that I used at school.
The schools are operated by parent groups who also worship together in house church every second Sunday. Cohesion of the society is maintained. Children are trained to stay in their community and about eighty percent choose to do so when they are adult.
In the Amish classroom - Traditions are stressed; as are cooperation and humility, group identity; believing; penmanship; learning is work; memorisation; truth is revealed in the Bible; the child is a future plain person with a soul. This contrasts with public schools where the emphasis is on the individual; schools are run by bureaucracies; favour critical thinking; embrace technology; stress questioning; downplay memorisation and see learning as fun.
Once young men join the church - after a period of 'running around' they may marry. They marry in their early 20s; the brides are younger. The men then grow a beard and wear straw hats. The women remove their white aprons and don a black apron. No jewellery is worn and hair is not cut from infancy.
Typical Amish households are identified by: washing out on a clothesline, a horse barn, a vegetable garden, green awnings, small windows, no flags. The houses are much the same as the other farm houses in the area.
Church services are held in homes very two weeks, wooden benches are shifted from venue to venue. The host family serves lunch to the twenty to thirty families that attend - food for up to 200 people. In the evening young people gather and sing and socialise as a group at the host family home. Alternate Sundays are for visiting. Social cohesion is paramount.
How different this life is compared with most of us whose families are spread far and wide. Urban living has changed the simple lifestyle that is very similar to the farm upbringing that Dick and I, and many New Zealanders, enjoyed. I went to school with cousins and knew everyone in the little country school and went to Sunday school with quite a few of them. Leaving home for further education or training changed me and my own family forever.
We had lunch at Katie's cafe which was operated by Amish.
There was at least a pound of meat, chicken and ham on this chef's salad.
Then it was back to the road and a long slow slog to Allentown.
My Sena intercom emitted a siren sound. I had ever heard it before. When we got to our hotel our phones had texts saying that there was a thunderstorm and flood warning. I am guessing that triggered the Sena. Smart Technology.
We have much to reflect on today.
There is a romantic appeal in the low tech life of the Amish.There is also the obvious strength in family closeness and community cohesion. Life and faith embedded in each other.