Some people mistake the Amish for Mennonites. Although they are closely related, the Amish are a distinct branch off from the latter. The group is most populated in Pennsylvania and Ohio, although there are groups in Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin. They also have residences in Ontario and Prince Edward Island in Canada. They are known for their Christian pacifism as well as their slow ways of adopting many conveniences offered by modern technology. Their strong beliefs cause them to focus on family time. The population of the Old Order Amish, as of last year, was 342,000. Most families have six or seven children.
Rumspringa is German for “springing around” or “hopping around.” This is a period in the life of an Amish teen, that usually begins at age 16 and concludes when the young man, or, to a lesser degree, a young woman decides they will, or will not be baptized within the Amish church or decides to leave the community. During this time, the youth enters into a more formalized social world. They interact with other teens in this age group in many different settings. This period usually gives the teen enough life experience to function in a normal society while also providing enough time to lead a full life as a member of the community. During this time, the boys, and some of the Amish girls, experience greater freedom. They are not under the control of their parents on weekends, and, since they have not been baptized, they are not under the control of the church.
The Amish are usually baptized between the ages of 16 and 23. If anyone in the community wishes to marry, they must be baptized within the Amish church. Once baptized, an Amish person can only marry within the faith. Church services are held every Sunday in a member’s home.
The rules of the church are called the ‘Ordnung.’ These rules are required to be observed by every member, and they cover most of the day-to-day aspects of living. These include such things as prohibition or limitations on the use of electricity, telephones, automobiles, and rules for proper dress: the Amish value rural life, manual labor, and humility. If a member does not conform to the Ordnung, and cannot be convinced to repent, they are excommunicated. Aside from this harsh treatment, they may also be shunned. Almost 90 percent of Amish teenagers choose to be baptized and join the church.
The Amish dress in plain attire, men wear solid colored shirts. They also wear a broad-brimmed hat. They wear suits that are similar to the particular Amish group. Men grow their beards. This is a symbol of manhood and marital status. They cannot grow mustaches, as these are seen as an affiliation with the military. Due to their pacifist beliefs, the Amish strongly oppose the military. Women can wear calf-length dresses in muted colors. They adorn this with bonnets and aprons. Prayer caps or bonnets are worn as they are a visual representation of their religious beliefs. The color of the bonnet signifies if a woman is married or single. Single women wear black bonnets. Married women wear white. They are not allowed to wear jewelry, which includes a wedding ring. Women in the Old Order Amish are not allowed to use buttons on their clothing.
The Amish typically operate their one-room schools. Children are educated until grade eight or at the age of 13 or 14. Next, until a child turns 16, they are offered vocational training. This is provided by their parents, community, and school teacher. Higher education is not encouraged as it is believed it can lead to social segregation leading to the unraveling of the community. In some situations, an Amish woman can receive additional education to obtain a nursing certificate. This allows the person to provide midwifery services in the community.
The Amish live a simple life, like some other religious groups. They are happy, and they live content along with their fellow Amish people.