Most followers of Amish ways are aware that a number of their churches have one community phone that all their members can access if they put a little effort into it. These phone huts or booths are placed in out-of-the-way locations and are meant for emergencies only. I have heard that a few Amish churches have been able to justify cell phones for their people because those phones operate on batteries and are not directly linked to the power grid like traditional phones are. Nevertheless there was a day in Lancaster County when most Amish homes had their own mounted-to-the-wall telephones. That day was a period of time in the last decade of the 19th century.
Once Alexander Graham Bell’s invention became widely available – and wildly popular, just as all communication technology and social media is today – Amish bishops met and prayed and saw no problem with letting their churches make use of the device. Why drive your buggy all the way to Jude Yoder’s farm in the dead of a Pennsylvania winter when you could pick up a phone and talk to him without braving the cold or stressing your horse? So the phone that Mr. Bell created made its way into the Amish communities.
And it was wonderful. Recipes could be shared, Bible verses read to those who needed encouragement, news of births and illnesses and deaths and potential betrothals spread without waiting for a church meeting or making your way through the snow to a neighbor’s house. The Amish embraced the new technology so enthusiastically that years went by without a hitch. Coming up to a decade of having the telephone in Amish homes it looked like Alexander and the Amish would be happily joined to one another for a hundred years or more.
Until one day news came to the bishops that the phone was being used for purposes that did not befit the Christian gospel – gossip, backbiting, slander, and the spreading of outlandish tales and rumors. Once further investigation proved this sort of thing was going on far more than anyone had guessed the bishops met, prayed, and agreed that the Amish love affair with Alexander Graham Bell’s invention was over – kaput. The phones were removed from Amish communities, never to be seen again, until late in the 20th century and early in the 21st century when phone huts were permitted.
For a while Alexander and the Amish got along – until human nature got in the way of the Amish faith and the Christian gospel – something I found out when I researched my book The Wings of Morning.
Murray Andrew Pura was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and has traveled extensively throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Ordained as a Baptist minister in 1986, Pura has served five churches in Canada and headlined numerous speaking engagements in Canada and the United States. He has published over a dozen books, was a contributor to the Life With God Bible, has been a finalist for The Paraclete Fiction Award, The Dartmouth Book Award, and The John Spencer Hill Literary Award, and has been shortlisted for the prestigious 2010 Kobzar Literary Award of Canada.
His latest project is the Rose of Saratoga County ebook series. The third of six installments releases this month.
Purchase Murray’s books here.
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