The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships that form a subgroup of the Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology. The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann.Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish.
History of Amish People.
The Amish originated with a group of Protestant Christians commonly referred to as the Anabaptists, or "re-baptizers." Baptism is the Christian rite whereby the initiate is symbolically cleansed of sin and is "re-born" into the faith. Infant baptism has become widespread in part because infant mortality has historically been high. The Anabaptists believe that infant baptism is invalid because an infant is incapable of understanding the meaning of the rite. The Anabaptists do not perform baptism until the candidate is old enough to make an informed decision and to accept personal responsibility.
The Amish came into being in 1693 when a group of Swiss Mennonites led by Jacob Amman broke from the main body of Mennonites over differences related to the celebration of Communion (a remembrance of Christ's last earthly meal) -- Amman wished to celebrate Communion twice per year, while the Mennonites celebrated it once per year; the Biblical command to remain separate from non-believers -- Amman wished to adhere to this separatism, while the Mennonites intermingled with non-believers; and the washing of feet (a display of humility) -- Amman wished to practice this ritual, while the Mennonites did not include it in their ceremonies.
Facing persecution from both Catholic and Protestant Christians, Amish in large numbers eagerly took up William Penn's offer of religious freedom in the American colony of Pennsylvania. Immigration to Pennsylvania began in 1727 and continued in earnest through 1770, settlement being concentrated in the Lancaster County area.
The Amish do not have church buildings. Perhaps because of early persecution, the tradition arose of worshiping in the homes. The home that will hold services is selected on a rotating basis, so all homes are equipped for conducting worship services. You can identify these homes today by the large number of buggies present on a Sunday morning.
The Amish settled into farming because this rural lifestyle made it easier for them to keep their distance from non-believers, referred to simply as "The English." Cities and towns have more of a tendency to become melting pots. As their numbers grew, Amish settlements were established in Ohio, Indiana and many other states, as well as in Canada. The establishment of new communities is ongoing.
Amish religious beliefs are virtually the same as that of the Mennonites and other religious reformers. They believe in the importance of individual Bible study and the necessity of living a life free of sin after adult baptism. The Amish are primarily set apart from other Mennonites in their great emphasis on the values of humility, family, community, and separation from the world.
Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of Hochmut (pride, arrogance, haughtiness) and the high value they place on Demut (humility) and Gelassenheit (calmness, composure, placidity), often translated as "submission" or "letting-be". Gelassenheit is perhaps better understood as a reluctance to be forward, to be self-promoting, or to assert oneself. The Amish's willingness to submit to the "Will of Jesus", expressed through group norms, is at odds with the individualism so central to the wider American culture.
Amish lifestyle differs slightly from community to community, and, within a community, from district to district. What is acceptable in one community may not be acceptable in another. No summary of Amish lifestyle and culture can be totally adequate, because there are few generalities that are true for all Amish. Groups may separate over matters such as the width of a hat-brim, the color of buggies, or other issues.
Bearing children, raising them, and socializing with neighbors and relatives are the greatest functions of the Amish family. All Amish believe large families are a blessing from God.
The Amish speak a Low German, similar to Pennsylvania Dutch, among themselves. High German is used for church services, and English is spoken with outsiders.
Amish cuisine is noted for its simplicity and traditional qualities. Food plays an important part in Amish social life and is served at potlucks, weddings, fundraisers, farewells and other events. The Amish Many Amish foods are sold at markets including pies, preserves, bread mixes, pickled produce, desserts and canned goods. Many Amish communities have also established restaurants for visitors.
The use of electricity is fervently avoided by Amish, because it is a prime connection to the world that could lead to temptations and worldly amenities detrimental to the community and family life. There are occasional exceptions to this general ban, such as adding electric flashers to buggies when required to drive legally and certain types of farm equipment such as milking equipment and electric fences to contain cattle.
Bottle gas is often used to operate appliances, even barbecue grills, and gas-pressured lanterns and lamps might be used for indoor lighting. Amish buggies may also be equipped with such modern conveniences as heaters, windshield wipers, and upholstered seats. The New Order Amish permit the use of electricity, the owning of cars, and telephones in the home.
The Ordnung (order) is the set of rules for each Amish community. It contains both religious and civil rules. Because the Amish believe in a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible these rules are created in order to keep their members in line with the laws therein. Amish communities are not centrally governed so each group comes up with their own version of the rule. There are two types of Ordnung – those determined in the early history of the religion by conferences (these are usually written down rules) and those passed verbally within each group. The rules are mostly derived from the Bible but those which aren’t are justified by the fact that they will cause a person to ultimately become worldly and thus breach the Biblical laws.