Growing up in an Amish family, Sunday’s soon became the favorite day of the week.
As with all Amish communities, we only had church services every other week which were held at different homes every month. On church Sunday’s we would all get up early and dress in our Sunday best. My favorite outfit was a purple dress and then the usual crisply starched white organdy apron.
Daddy would hitch Jim to our top buggy and tie him to the hitching rack while Mom would scurry around clearing away the breakfast dishes and check and re check our faces and ears. After everyone was clean enough for her satisfaction John and I would climb into the back of the buggy.
Our buggy had two seats but only one back which was shared by both seats. John and I didn’t enjoy sitting and staring at the the buggy door, so we would turn around and kneel on the seat and look over Daddy and Mom’s shoulders and watch where we were going.
After we arrived at church Daddy would stop at the house and Mom and I would go inside and remove our heavy black bonnets and shawls, and then she’d tip my face up and check it yet again and make sure my covering was tied. We would then go greet the women and girls that were already there and then stood and visited until almost 9 o’clock when we would all file into the room where services would be held and sit on wooden backless benches.
I loved sitting beside Mom and felt very important to hold my hand out to shake hands with the three ministers as the made their way through all the benches shaking hands with the womenfolk.
Once they were done they would sit on the chairs that had been placed at the front of the room for them. The bishop would clear his throat and announce. “Since we’re all gathered together we can start singing in the name of our Lord” There would be a general shuffling as everyone reached for their songbook and the song leader would announce which song to sing. He would sing the first syllable, of the first word by himself and then everyone else would join in and help. When the second line was started the ministers would stand up and go off to a little room by themselves to do whatever they do in those little rooms, pray, figure out whose turn it is to preach, and any other discussions they deem necessary.
Mom would let me share her songbook and I would help sing as she would follow the words with her finger so I know where they are going. It used to take approximately five minutes to sing a stanza with seven lines.
After the first song was over there would be a short pause and then the song leader would announce the page number for the “Lob Lied” which is the second song you sing no matter which Amish church you go to, and I’ve never seen it take less than twenty minutes to sing it.
Usually by the end of that song the ministers would be done with their little meeting and file in and sit on their chairs again. After the last note faded away the first preacher would stand up and preach for half an hour and then we all turn around and kneel to pray. As a little girl, I would try to peek at everybody around me. It was always interesting to see how everyone else was kneeling unless there was a grownup sitting directly behind me and block my view. A nudge from Mom would make me close my eyes and try to listen to the singsong chant of the prayer.
After the second preacher was preaching I was allowed to play quietly with my flowery handkerchief. I would fold it to make a little mouse or twin babies in a cradle. It wasn’t long until I would be tired and lay my head on Mom’s lap and drift off to sleep to be awakened once the preaching was over and the last song was being sung.
After sitting still for three hours it was great to be able to run and find your friends while the men set up tables by pushing several benches together and setting them on a specially designed pedestal thingies. The women would set bowls of mixed peanut butter and red beetsor pickles and stacks of sliced homemade bread along the middle of the table, and then a cup, knife, and fork at each place. The men would sit at one table and the women at another one and after a short silent prayer everyone would reach for a slice of bread and start spreading peanut butter on it. Delicious creamy sweet peanut butter, one piece was never enough, I would ask for more but after four pieces Mom would tell me I had enough and then I’d have to sit there and watch longingly as others were still enjoying another piece.
Once everyone was done there would be another short silent prayer and then we were free to play the rest of the afternoon while the adults visited. The men would set up a few benches for us to slide on and there were almost always dolls and coloring books to play with too. As evening approached Daddy would go hitch up Jim again and we’d head for home tired but happy.
On the Sunday’s we didn’t have church we would often go visit Grandpa Mast’s or one of our aunts or uncles. Other times we would stay at home and sing and play all day long, Daddy used to try to squeeze in a nap somewhere amid all our noisy fun. And several times a year we would have to sit and pose for Mom while she drew a picture of us. We did not have a camera but were some of the lucky few who had a parent talented enough to draw a very real image of their children.
Sunday’s never lasted long enough and it took a whole week before another one rolled around, which to a child is a long time.
Want to read more? Visit Mary Ann Kinsinger’s blog A Joyful Chaos.
Mary Ann Kinsinger was raised Old Order Amish in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. She met and married her husband, whom she knew from school days and started a family. After they chose to leave the Amish church, Mary Ann began a blog, A Joyful Chaos, as a way to capture her warm memories of her childhood for her own children. From the start, this blog found a ready audience and even captured the attention of key media players, such as the influential blog AmishAmerica and the New York Times. She lives in Pennsylvania.