They are solid, uncomfortable, and long. What I am talking about? Benches. The Amish generally hold worship services in their homes. This practice dates back centuries to Europe when facing persecution for their beliefs, the Amish were forced to go “under-ground.” Fast forward hundreds of years to today. How do you seat 200 or so people who might attend such a service? The answer: benches. Rooms are cleared of furniture and benches are erected to sort of make a living room into a makeshift “church.” Often the services are held in an out-building instead, that keeps 200 muddy pairs of shoes from shuffling through one’s house. Amish ingenuity devised a plan to store these benches: a bench wagon. After all, with services rotating from place to place, storing benches in one central spot and then moving them to where they are needed every other Sunday would be a logistical nightmare. So most Amish churches have a giant horse-drawn storage-vehicle that carries along all the necessities for services: benches, songbooks, and maybe even a lost and found box in case someone leaves behind a glove or something. At one Amish church service recently a cell phone was left behind, since cell phones aren’t permitted in the district, no one ever came to claim it:) And by the time the homeowner found it, the battery was dead so they couldn’t get a contact number from it.
The benches are not terribly comfortable. I’ve attended several worship services and they definitely get to one’s back side after 3 hours of sitting. I think that’s why it’s not terribly uncommon to see people get up and pace or stretch during the middle of services.
Here are some photos of bench wagons from some Amish church districts. Bench wagons can be found in gray, black, and even white. This first bench-wagon photo is from the ultra-conservative Amish settlement east of Geneva, Indiana. Black seems to be the favored color there for bench-wagons. The second photo is of a bench-wagon from one of the New Order Amish church districts near Belle Center, Ohio (often the wagons will just be parked in an out of the way area until they are needed, since they are so big…in this case it was parked out of the way near a garden). And, lastly, this is a bench wagon in a southern Michigan church district. Interestingly the benches can be inverted and interlocked which converts them into long tables used to service the after church meal.