Can Outsiders Attend An Amish Church?
Okay, imagine this scenario: You're driving along on a quiet Sunday morning through a typical Old Order Amish community and you stumble upon a field of full of buggies next to a farmhouse. Obviously, you've stumbled upon Sunday services. Now, with most churches, if you wanted to attend, you'd just find a spot in the parking lot, go into the church, slide into the back pew and enjoy the service. Could you do this at an Amish service? While there are no "rules" per se, here are my thoughts:
I've never done the above scenario. Amish services - generally- are held in private homes, not church buildings. But if I had to guess, if you dropped by an Amish church service (so long as you behaved respectfully and dressed conservatively) and just quietly found a spot on a bench to pray and observe, my expectation is you'd be welcomed or at least tolerated/left alone. Chances are, you would not understand much of what is being said anyway since the services would most likely be in German. The Amish are not an evangelical church. They don't actively try to seek converts so their services aren't "advertised" generally. But if someone shows up it would be highly unlikely, in my opinion, that they'd be turned away.
Not every Amish church is alike in this respect. The Old Order Amish church in Unity, Maine is a rare one that has a formal church building for worship. Outsiders are welcome to attend. The church views themselves as 'witnessing' to the rest of the world their ways, so they want to lead by example and if someone is touched by it, all the better.
Gloria Yoder, her column this week, went so far as to invite readers to "drop by" and attend her church. That's an unusual invitation from a horse-and-buggy church, but New Order Amish do "reach out" a bit more than Old Orders. In both the Unity, Maine church and Gloria's in Flat Rock, Illinois, the services will be conducted in English to accommodate outsiders if an outsider shows up. If no one does, then it'll be in German.
So my advice to someone wanting to attend an Amish church service is if it's an Old Order Amish church held in a private home, try to arrange your visit ahead of time with someone. I've found Amish churches in the following settlements to be very open to outsiders attending: Unity, Maine; Smyrna, Maine; Aylmer, Ontario; Manton, Michigan; Flat Rock, Illinois; Oakland, Maryland; Union Grove, North Carolina; Pinecraft,Florida; St. Ignatius,Montana.
I'm sure there are more, but these are just ones I have experience with. I've attend Amish church services, but I have also attended Old German Baptist Brethren services. I always have a soft spot for that church. If you want an authentic Plain religious experience but are a little intimidated by the thought of attending an Amish service, I've found the Brethrens to be very welcoming to outsiders who wish to attend.