Interesting Religious Sects The Amish Part 1

About the interesting sect of the Christian Church the Amish, history, size, and tradition of the Mennonite denomination.

SOME INTRIGUING RELIGIOUS SECTS

THE AMISH

The Amish are more a denomination of the Mennonite Church than a cult or secret society. They live spiritually rich and peaceful, but materially austere, lives, most of them refusing to make use of technological advance and modern farming techniques. They are basically a rural, agricultural people. Their horses and buggies are unique, quaint, and familiar sights along the country roads of Lancaster County, Pa., one of the areas of greatest Amish concentration.

Birth: Led by Elder (Bishop) Jakob Amman, the sect that came to be known as the Amish broke from the South German Anabaptists-Mennonites during the period 1693--1697. Amman strove to induce the Mennonite elders of Emmental, Switzerland, to practice a strict Meidung, or shunning of excommunicated persons. Amman insisted that those who lied, for example, should be excommunicated, and he questioned the belief that all true-hearted persons could gain salvation. He forbade attendance at state churches and instituted communion twice yearly (as opposed to the Mennonite yearly practice). He declared those ministers who disagreed to be excommunicated.

Growth: Persecuted as pacifists, the Amish migrated to the lands of enlightened European rulers, who recognized their reliability and farming skills. Amish numbers once in Europe cannot be estimated, but none have been there for decades. The first Amish came to Pennsylvania in the 1720s. They are now in 20 states, Canada, and Central and South America. In 1900 the Amish numbered 8,000; in 1950, 33,000; in 1970, 70,000; and in 1977, 85,000.

Practices and Beliefs: The Old Order, as they became known in 1845, have clung to the spirit of Amman. Living in districts, they take turns holding services in their homes. Each district has a bishop, two of more assisting preachers, and a deacon, chosen by lot. The Old Order baptize qualified applicants approaching adulthood by affusion (pouring). As the newly baptized person stands, the bishop gives his hand to a male applicant and greets him with a "holy kiss." He also shakes hands with a female applicant, who is then kissed by the bishop's wife. The holy kiss is also exchanged among ordained men on Sunday mornings. Footwashing, the handshake, and the holy kiss are observed separately among men and women at the communion of bread and wine, still practiced twice yearly. Amish services, in German, take several hours, and their hymns, sung in unison without accompaniment, may last 20 minutes or more. Backless benches are taken by wagon from home to home as needed. Infants and children attend, and a modest meal follows the service.

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