I first stumbled upon the "Lobelville Amish" in Pearisburg, Virginia two years ago. I'm still learning about the Lobelville Amish. The one bit of information I don't have is how long they've been around. The Lobelville group appears to be relatively new (last 10 years, maybe?). The group is named for the town in Tennessee where the settlement started. But now there are Lobelville families in the Pearisburg settlement and in Knox County, Ohio There may be more Lobelville groups elsewhere, but these are the only ones I am aware of. The group seems to attract adherents because of their more evangelical approach. The Lobelville Amish don't even refer to themselves as Amish, preferring the catch-all term "Christian." Most outsiders would see a Lobelville Amish and just think they were "regular Amish." But there are some key differences just below the surface that go beyond pure theology. For instance, there are a couple of people in each Lobelville community that hold drivers licenses. And the settlement has a van for transportation. In that sense the group is trying to strive for more self-sufficiency. No constantly hiring outsiders to drive people around to doctor's appointments to travel to far away weddings. Transportation can be handled within. Photography is also not prohibited in the same way it is in other Amish settlements. I was invited to take photographs, so I did. Note the head-covering in the photo of Mary, maybe not the traditional kapp we think of when Amish comes to mind.
"We don't have a problem with them at all," said Mary Nissley, who was working a produce stand.
The men here do have mustaches, a characteristic you don't find in the vast majority of Amish settlements.
In Knox County there are only 12 Lobelville families. I am not sure how much contact these "daughter" churches in Pearisburg and Knox County have with the Lobelville church. I'm still learning the structure.
Mary told me about a mission church they are establishing in South America, which is a bit more outreach oriented of an activity than you'd find in other Amish settlements. And even I keep calling them "Lobelville Amish", but they aren't really Amish.
"We aren't really Amish," Mary said, "although most outsiders think we are."
Cooking style among the Lobelville Amish is very similar to what you find elsewhere, although perhaps more geared towards organics. Coming soon: a homemade dressing recipe from Mary Nissley, so stay tuned!:). Noe the cast iron cookware and the bowl of freshly picked raspberries, very common characteristics of a Lobelville kitchen.
The Lobelville Amish do home-school their children and you can see this small room set-aside for school sessions for the little ones.
there is an article about Lobelville, mostly written by myself at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Believers_in_Christ,_Lobelville
The community at Lobelville was founded in 1973.
G.C. Waldrep describes Lobelville and other "para-Amish" groups in this very interesting article: : The New Order Amish And Para-Amish Groups: Spiritual Renewal Within Tradition, in The Mennonite Quarterly Review 82 (2008).
Dan, interesting, thank you for sharing. I think I had read the Mennonite Quarterly Review piece, but not the Wikipedia one...how did you become familiar with Lobelville? I first encountered them in Pearisburg and then this past summer met a handful of families in Ohio that also fellowship with them
I'm very much interested in unusual Old Order communities, which are not just traditional, but rather "intentionalist minded", that is communities that try to find out in a deliberate way what's the the best form to live an Old Order Christian live, without mainly living according to the tradition of their group.
The Noah Hoover Mennonites and the Orthodox Mennonites, as well as the "Christian Communities" of Elmo Stoll and the "Caneyville Christian Community" are such groups.
Peter Hoover describes very vividly this radical Anabaptist milieu in his long article “Radical Anabaptists Today”. This online article is very interesting but a little difficult to read, because it is more or less written for insiders.
When I was trying to find out more of these communities, I came across "Lobelville" again and again. What the heck is "Lobelville", I asked myself. So I gathered all information I could find to write the Wikipedia article.
The Lobelville community is one of the oldest of these "intentionalist minded" communities and it seems to be quite stable. Other comparable communities mostly did not survive.
The Noah Hoovers and the Orthodox Mennonites are the other two of these more or less not just traditional groups, that survived. Both look extremely Plain and conservative concerning technology, similar to the Swartzentruber, but their mindset is quite different. Their "firm Biblicism, intense spirituality, and high morals standards have had a wide appeal" states the Anabaptist writer Stephen Scott.
The Noah Hoovers and the Orthodox Mennonites could not just rely on tradition because both have a very complicated history of splits and mergers between different groups, so they had to choose which rules and traditions they would follow.
As you may know the New Order Amish, that are in some ways similar to the groups I described above, are not really successful. Most of their local congregations are shrinking, only few are stable or growing.
The article of G.C. Waldrep "The New Order Amish And Para-Amish Groups: Spiritual Renewal Within Tradition" partly describes that.
For me these fringe groups are the key to "the riddle of Amish culture" as Kaybill calls it. His book was my "entrance" to this question, that since then has gripped me.
Dan, I kept meaning to thank you for this fascinating post. I agree with you that the key to the riddle is/are these "edge groups" as I sometimes call them. I need to make it to Lobelville one of these days. I find these "edge groups" very "organic" and sort of a compelling gateway between mainstream society and the amish.
You make an interesting point about the New Order Amish not growing much....I hadn't given that much thought, but you are probably correct. I wonder why that is?
My sister is a member of this group! Could they be considered among the "intentional" movement with Plain circles?
Hi, Eleah, thanks for the comment, how long has your sister been a part of the group?
Interesting article, and fairly accurate. I used to be a former member of the Lobelville Amish (most of my family is part of the group) Mary Nisley is my double first cousin, we grew up in the same area in Knox County Ohio. Since then I have moved to Alabama and am no longer associated with them though we do go back to visit occasionally.
Thanks so much for stopping by, John....maybe when my life isn't so hectic (I have a 2 and a 5-year-old, the holidays approaching, numerous work deadlines) I'd love to send you an email maybe getting more detail. What, though, if you have a sec, do you think is the biggest different between the Lobelville Amish and the traditional Old Orders?