Thinking about attending Amish church? You might have an image in your mind of what services are like, but some things might surprise you. Now, a disclaimer: Amish church services vary from place to place, so what I’ve seen may well be different from what goes on elsewhere, but here are 10 things I’d like to share about Amish church:
- An Amish church service is held every other week: Why are the services held every other week? An Amish woman once quipped to me dryly: “If your church services lasted three hours you’d only want them every other week also.”But the real reason for the every other week schedule is rooted in tradition. Having every other Sunday without church obligation allows for more family and restful Sabbath time.
- Amish church is held in homes (usually): typically in the home of one of the members of the church district, with a few exceptions.
- Amish church lasts for about three hours; and consists of singing, two sermons, and prayer. The precise format may differ from place to place. And sometimes a visiting clergy from another district will give a sermon.
- Amish Communion is not taken at every service. It varies from as little as twice a year to more frequently every couple of months. Communion services often last much longer than the typical Sunday service.
- The service is typically conducted in Pennsylvania Dutch, although some Amish congregations may also use English. The preacher stands in front of the congregation and speaks without notes. The sermons are typically about 45 minutes long and focus on the Bible.
- Songs are sung from the Ausbund: After the sermon, the congregation prays together. Then, they sing hymns from a songbook called the Ausbund, the oldest continuously used Protestant hymnal. The hymns are typically sung without instruments, and the Amish believe that singing is a way to praise God.
- Benchwagon: Church benches are one of the few pieces of community property, along with the hymnals, they go from place to place in a benchwagon, a long vehicle pulled by a horse.
- Lost & Found Box: A “lost & found” box usually goes along with the bench wagon from place to place, so if someone lost a glove or scarf or a toy, it is put I there. On one occasion, a cell phone was found at a church service. Those weren’t permitted in that particular Amish church, so when an announcement was made about a lost phone, no one stepped forward to claim it!
- After-service meal: the congregation eats a meal together. The meal is typically simple and home-cooked. The Amish believe that eating together is a way to build community.
- Evening Meal & Singing: Often the hosts of church will invite some people back for an evening meal also. People can go home in the afternoon, take care of any chores, maybe grab a quick nap, and then head back for another meal. Sunday Evening Singing: Usually at the home where church is held, the youth gather in the evenings for a good old-fashioned “Sunday evening singing.” This is a chance for youth to gather, meet other young people, and is often the place where courtships begin.
Above are rare pictures of the wooden cases used to store Amish hymn books known as the Ausbund.
Sometimes the benchwagons are black, in other more progress places, they are white.
More About Amish Church
Amish church services are a time for the Amish to come together as a community and to worship God. The services are also a time for the Amish to learn about the Bible and to pray together.
❓Amish Church FAQ
The horses are usually tied up, on hot days under a shady tree. And boys from the church will tend to the horses during the day,making sure they have enough food, water, and shade.
This may vary from place to place, but 9 a.m. is usually the start time.
Usually the day before services, a big room in a home is cleared of furniture and benches are set up. If you are looking to be comfortable during a 3-hour service, these benches are not the answer. They are typically made of wood and have no backs. They are often arranged in rows, with one bench for each family. Usually men sit on one side of the church, women on the other. Teenagers can sit with one another. Amish church benches are an important part of Amish culture. They are a symbol of the Amish commitment to simplicity and to community.
Often there will be a couple of young moms, or teenage girls who will set up a “nursery “somewhere on the grounds to care for babies and young children, who might not be able to sit through the long service. And for children who do choose to stay with their parents through the service, there’s sometimes a plate of homemade cookies or candy passed around a time or two throughout the service.
The times that I have attended Amish church services, I have found them to be very relaxed in the sense that people come and go, if somebody needs to use the restroom they’ll get up and use the restroom. There will be restless children and their parents and babies coming and going,
Also, they’re usually several women, it’s almost always women, that are starting work on the after church meal during services. Depending on how close it is to where the services are being held, the smell of freshly fried chicken and baked pie may begin to wa intoft the room as it gets later into the service
There’s a real sense of community that binds everybody together these services. Everybody is dressed in the same monochromatic colors.