The Amish are known for their deeply rooted and unique approach to worship. Their worship practices tend to differ from mainstream Christianity, just like their interpretation of the scripture.
The Amish church portrays their commitment to its traditional values, simplicity, and community. Amish church services are characterized by communal participation, heartfelt devotion, and focus on Jesus Christ’s teachings.
In this article, we will discuss various details about the Amish church including where they worship, their church leaders, church districts, the Ordnung, Sunday services, religious songs, and baptism.
Additionally, we will discuss the role of men and women in the Amish church. This discussion will give you insight into the Amish faith, their culture, and their need to uphold their traditions beliefs, and values.
Unlike most Christian denominations, the Amish do not believe in having a building as a designated place of worship.
Therefore, they don’t have church buildings. Instead, they hold church services in Amish homes on a rotating basis. The church services are mostly held in a large room in the home. If the home doesn’t have a large room, the service is held in a barn or workshop.
Usually, the Amish move benches from home to home using a large wagon. This way, the host family need not worry about having enough seats to accommodate worshippers.
The Amish believe there is no need to waste resources in building and maintaining a big building solely meant for worship. Additionally, they believe that the church is a body of believers and not a building.
Like other Christian denominations, the Amish have church leaders, usually spread out across church districts.
This includes bishops, ministers, and deacons. The bishop heads the church and is in charge of the ministers and deacons.
His roles range from presiding over marriages, ordaining ministers, conducting baptism, leading voting exercises in the church, among other things.
The ministers preach during church services while the deacons assist the bishops in disciplinary issues and collect alms.
The church leaders are chosen by church members. This is done through a selection and nomination process. Surprisingly, the church leaders don’t receive any formal training. In fact, the only pre-requisite to being nominated is to be a baptized member of the church.
Amish churches employ a system of organization where families are grouped into geographically-defined districts.
Each church district has approximately 30 Amish families that live close to each other. This makes it easy for them to attend church services.
Since church districts are made up of Amish neighbors, they form a very close bond. They take part in various church activities and support each other whenever the need arises.
The Ordnung loosely translates to ‘the order’ in German. It is an unwritten set of rules which governs the Amish day-to-day life. The Ordnung not only aims at ensuring that Amish people live holy lives but also uphold their traditions and way of life.
The rules in the Ordnung are not set in stone and may slightly vary from church to church. The rules dictate various things including limitations on technology, members’ dress code, the need to embrace a simple way of life, among other things.
The Ordnung may have undergone several changes to date, but it still places a lot of importance on community involvement, family values, and upholding their simple traditional way of life. This way, the Ordnung ensures Amish people maintain their unique identity in society.
Sunday Services and other church activities
The Amish have church services every alternating Sunday of every month. On Sundays when they don’t go to church, usually called the ‘off Sunday’, they visit relatives or participate in church activities like devotions.
The Amish church service typically lasts for 3-4 hours. This includes singing, sermons, and prayers. After the church service, there may be a members’ meeting to discuss any issues raised by church members. After the meeting, church members share a meal.
The host family serves simple foods like pickled vegetables, meats, pies, cheeses, peanut butter spread, and coffee.
Besides the church service, the Amish also participate in other church activities. This includes hikes, bible study, and devotion, among others.
The Amish sing songs from their hymn book, commonly referred to as the Ausbund.
The origin of the Ausbund can be traced back to the 16th century. It was compiled by Anabaptist leaders when they were facing persecution in Europe.
The hymns in the Ausbund are written in a German dialect. They generally reflect the religious conviction and simplicity of the Amish faith.
Amish church members sing hymns from the Ausbund without musical or organ accompaniment. They all sing in unison and harmonize as needed. Each hymn can last for approximately 15 minutes.
Amish youth decide whether or not they want to officially be members of the church in their late teens. Once they decide to adhere to the order of the church for the rest of their lives, they are baptized.
During the baptism, the youth confess their faith and promise to adhere to the Ordnung. Baptized church members who break the set rules and refuse to repent are shunned and banned from participating in church services until they make amends.
The Amish take baptism very seriously. Members who are not baptized are not considered ‘full’ church members. The baptism itself takes place in a lake or river, typically during summer months when it is warmer. The new members are immersed in the water and officially declared church members.
After the baptism, the youth are considered adults responsible for their own actions.
The role of men and women in the Amish church
The Amish church is highly patriarchal. Traditionally, Amish men are the head of the household with ultimate decision-making authority while the women are their submissive followers.
This reflects in the Amish church as well where only Amish men can be leaders i.e. bishops, deacons, and ministers.
The women cannot hold any position of power in the church, and neither are they allowed to serve church elders. However, they are allowed to participate in prayers and singing hymns during church services.
Most families attend church services in sets. The children are taught to pay attention and maintain silence during church services.
The organization of the Amish church may seem somewhat restrictive to outsiders, especially the roles of men and women in the church. That notwithstanding, the Amish believe that that is how God intended it to be.
The Amish don’t believe in having a building as a designated place of worship. Their church services are conducted in believers’ homes under the guidance of selected church leaders.
Additionally, the church members strictly adhere to the Ordnung and help each other whenever they need it.