I’m thankful to have a wonderful Amish friend who helps me with my research for my books. Nearly two years ago, I had the privilege of attending a church service at her home in Pennsylvania. Although I’d read about Amish church services through my research, I learned much more by attending one in person.
The Amish host church services in their homes every other Sunday. Each family in the church district (their congregation) takes turns hosting, and they follow a yearly schedule with each family hosting twice a year. The service is usually held in a barn, but sometimes the service is held inside of the house if there is enough room for the congregation. The service I attended was held in my friend’s barn.
The family spends weeks preparing for their turn to host the service. They work in their garden and plant flowers, and they clean both their house and the barn where the service will be held. The wooden benches on which the congregation sits are delivered in the bench buggy a few days before the service. The family arranges the benches in the barn the day before the service, so that the barn is prepared.
Before the service begins, the women gather in the kitchen and stand in a circle, outlining the room. As a woman enter the kitchen, she greets each woman with a kiss and handshake. They talk until nine o’clock when they go to the barn and prepare for the service.
The Amish do not have instruments or an altar at their services. The barns are bare, except for the backless wooden benches and a water cooler with cups located at the back.
The service begins with the congregation singing hymns very slowly in German. A male song leader starts the first syllable of each line and then the rest of the congregation joins in. The married men sit on one side of the barn, facing the married women. Young unmarried men and women sit in separate sections as well. Many of the youth are gone during the hymn singing while they meet with the bishop for their baptism class.
The bishop, deacon, and minister talk in private during the opening hymns to discuss who will preach that day. When they return, the hymn singing ends and the bishop begins the service. The youth members who have been in the baptism instruction class also join the congregation when the ministers return.
The three-hour service is spoken entirely in Pennsylvania Dutch and German. The service includes two sermons with one lasting an hour. There also are two prayer times, and the second is a fifteen-minute kneeling prayer. After the kneeling prayer is over, the congregation sings another hymn.
When the service is over, the host family sets the luncheon, and the benches are converted into tables in the barn. To make a table, two benches are fitted into a stand. Once in the stand, the benches become picnic tables, and the other benches are used as seats. The congregation eats in shifts, with the men eating first and the women second. The host family eats last.
The women help deliver the meal. Since no work is permitted on Sundays, the food is prepared the day before. The meal includes coffee, placed homemade bread, lunchmeat, Amish peanut butter spread, cheese spread, and pretzels. For dessert, they have homemade pies. After lunch, the families return home.
I was so honored to have the opportunity to attend the service at my friend’s home. The service gave me more insight into the beauty of Amish cultural.
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Amy Clipston has been writing for as long as she can remember. Her fiction writing “career” began in elementary school when she and a close friend wrote and shared silly stories. She has a degree in communications from Virginia Wesleyan College and is a member of the Authors Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. She is the author of the bestselling Kauffman Amish Bakery series and the Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series with Zondervan, which is part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, mother, and four spoiled rotten cats. Her latest release is A Life of Joy.
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