Editor's Note:I really liked this column from Gloria, because she accurately illustrates the vast variety of views within the Amish church. As a general rule, there is a "spectrum." On one end you have the most conservative Amish, the Nebraska (who don't really live in Nebraska) Amish and the Swartzentruber Amish and on other are the New Order Amish Fellowship (sometimes known as the New New Order Amish). Gloria's church is New Order Amish, and while they are more progressive on some things, I find the New Order more conservative in other areas of church doctrine interpretation. So trying to distill the Amish faith and culture into a single church is impossible. One can only give their own perspective and that is what Gloria has wonderfully provided this week. – Kevin Williams, editor
Scanning over a list of questions I had filed from some readers I noticed that a more frequent one is that of our Amish lifestyle and traditions. If only there would be cut-and-dried answers that would apply to all Amish. This is the catch: Like almost all church affiliations out there, there just is not a one size fits all.
Since I can not possibly represent the hundreds of different types of Amish folks out there I will just take the simpler route of filling you in on more details of our Amish life near the small town of Flat Rock, Illinois. And by the way, we really are people just like you! We just live our lives in different ways.
“What makes people want to be Amish?” you wonder, or “Is everyone required to be Amish for their entire life, with no choice or option on their part?”
OK, so being born into an Amish family is obviously not the infant’s choice. For me, I felt safe and secure in my parents’ love. I was taught, from a young age, not only by words but from an example in day-to-day living about loving the Lord and living for him.
Now, for your question about “rumspringa,” though I have heard of this as a time of Amish youth going out to “try out things of the world” to see whether they like it or not, it is not a part of our custom. There was simply no desire in my heart to leave this safe environment where I felt Jesus in the midst.
Never is anyone forced to stay Amish. In fact, I do have friends who are no longer Amish. Like other Mennonites, they now drive vehicles rather than horse and buggy. We certainly do not claim our plain Amish dresses and the guys’ homemade pants to get us to give us joy or take us to heaven. Only Jesus can fill that role in our hearts.
At the same time, I do value the simple life and abstinence from many things such as the television, internet and radio. That makes our life more low keyed and keeps us from being exposed to dangers or negatives that we really don’t want for our children.
What are other modes of transportation do we use? Enclosed black buggies are our primary style, simply because they are more accommodating in all types of weather than the open buggies. Some open buggies and pony carts are also used.
Ah, these spring evenings are just perfect to go on drives with the children. It’s a perfect way for us to unwind after a busy day. The children absolutely love it. When we come to a stop sign, the youngest ones sometimes make grunting noises, wanting to be on the move again.
Bicycles are also used a lot in our community. I don’t bike as much as I did before we had children, simply because I can’t take them with me as easily. We do have a little bike cart that we pull behind the bikes where a couple of children can have a nice ride. Infant seats mounted to the back of the bike also work well, or I have also used a baby sling while biking.
Tractors are used to haul work-related items or things not practical to be transported with a buggy. When it comes to long-distance traveling we hire someone to take us. For example, here in our neighborhood, we have a couple of drivers who take us to town or even on long-distance trips such as visiting family in Ohio. On overseas trips, we use any type of airlines.
Daniel and the children just came indoors from doing the chores, so I need to run along and get everyone ready for bed. I’ll fill you in more later, and in the meanwhile, I’d be delighted to hear of any additional questions you may have. So pop a note in the mail, and I would be happy to answer it the best I can!
Gloria Yoder is an Amish mom, housewife and writer in rural Illinois. To learn more about the column visit www.amish365.com/about.