For World Religions Class I had to visit a religion I had not before. Through my life I have visited a synagogue, a Hindu temple, a Buddhist temple, and many denominations of Christianity to include a Catholic church and many Protestant Churches. I had not been to a mosque, but I have no desire to walk into a place that teaches violence against others.
I spoke with the professor and he okayed me visiting with the Amish. He wanted me to attend a service in their community, but knowing what little I did about their tightly held community, I felt I may make them uncomfortable with my presence. I decided to interview one of their ministers yesterday. I did not know it before, but the minister I spoke with happens to be a man I have hunted with, cut firewood with, he was part of the crew that replaced my roof after a hailstorm, and I have spoken with many times, I just didn’t know his position within the community.
Attached is the paper I wrote afterwards. I found it particularly interesting how they replace a minister when one dies or moves on to another community. By posting the paper on here, I hope others can learn a little too. The only modification to this paper I made for posting is I have removed his name as I don’t have permission to use it on my blog.
An Amish Community in Iowa
Today, I went and visited with one of the ordained ministers for the recently established Amish Community in Iowa. There at the intersection of two highways, I met with the Reverend to discuss how the Amish community operates.
First I asked what the hierarchy is of the Amish Church. The Reverend informed me that for each well-established community there is usually a bishop, a deacon, and two ministers. He explained that the duties of the bishop are to perform religious rites such as marriages, baptisms, and funerals. The duties of the deacon are to make sure the needy and widows are cared for. The ministers perform the church services and train those who are ready to become members of the church in the needed knowledge to be an active and functioning member of the Amish community. At this time this community does not have a deacon, nor a bishop due to the newness and small size of the community.
I asked whether they more closely associated with Catholics or Protestants. The Reverend explained that they were neither Protestant nor Catholic; they considered themselves Anabaptists. Anabaptists are those who believe baptism is to be delayed until a person confesses their faith in the church. He went on to say that Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites were all considered Anabaptists.
I told The Reverend that I had watched a television show about Amish children that were preparing to become church members. The show talked about how children were allowed to go into the outside world to experience life outside the church. I asked if this was for the youth to experience outside life with all of its temptations before joining the church. The Reverend said that there are Amish communities that do partake of this practice, but this newly established community does not. He stated that rumspringa is a passage that allows young Amish people to see the evil lusts of the outside world for themselves. In his community he said that the youth see enough of the lusts through the contact with outsiders in nearby towns were the Amish often do their business.
We next discussed what a youth goes through to join the church. He explained that usually a person joins the church once they have reached the age of 21. Sometimes, if a person is truly ready and willing, they can become members earlier than 21. The first thing they do is a course of study, The Calvary Road, where the candidates read different preselected passages from the Bible and then write papers on their understanding of the passage. Once they have successfully completed that, they go on to learn the 18 Articles of Faith, which are:
- Of God and the Creation of all Things
- Of the Fall of Man
- Of the Restoration of Man Through the Promise of the Coming Christ
- The Advent of Christ into This World, and the Reason of His Coming
- The Law of Christ, i.e., the Holy Gospel or the New Testament
- Of Repentance and Reformation of Life
- Of Holy Baptism
- Of the Church of Christ
- Of the Election, and Officers of Deacons, and Deaconesses in the Church
- Of the Holy Supper
- Of the Washing of the Saints’ Feet
- Of the State of Matrimony
- Of the Office of the Secular Authority
- Of Revenge
- Of Swearing Oaths
- Of the Ecclesiastical Ban, or Separation from the Church
- Of Shunning the Separated
- Of the Ressurection of the Dead, and the Last Judgment
He didn’t go into a lot of detail on each article, but I found detailed information when I returned home. If a person is interested, detailed information is available at: http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Dordrecht_Confession_of_Faith_(Mennonite,_1632)
After the candidate has completed all of these, and The Calvary Road, it is up to the adult male members of the church to discuss and determine if the candidate is ready to be a member. If the candidate is determined ready, they profess their faith, are baptized and then considered a member of the church. The reverend related that these same 18 Articles of Faith are the same that are used by the Mennonites.
Next we discussed how someone is ordained a minister within the Amish Church. The Reverend explained it is not like in the Catholic or Protestant ministries where they go off to a university or seminary to prepare for the ministry. In the Amish Church, when there is a need for another minister due to the death or relocation of one of the two existing ministers, the adult male members determine who shall be ordained into the office. They look at all the adult male members and determine whether or not they raised their children well to determine if they are able to lead a flock. Then, those who have not been disqualified are looked at to see how well they have handled their finances. If a member is not fiscally astute, they are disqualified from consideration. Out of the remaining adult male members, just like the disciples of Jesus did to replace Judas after he committed suicide, they cast lots just like was written in Acts 1:16-26:
“16 Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.
17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.
18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.
19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.
20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.
21 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,
22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
23 And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.
24 And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen,
25 That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.
26 And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”
On to the next subject, I asked a question about something I’ve often wondered. I said that I often see Amish people helping one another at different jobs. I asked if this was some type of barter system or if they paid each other for services. The reverend smiled and said that the Amish community is a tight knit community, a family. When one needs help, he calls on other members of the church to assist. The other members always help each other. He then showed me the framing in place in front of the store he is readying for open. He explained that next week the cement trucks will be arriving to pour the cement. On the day they pour, he will call on four neighbors and they will help with all the labor involved. Then, later down the road when one of them needs help, he will without reservation go help them. He said “This is what community is about.”
The reverend and I had been in this discussion for approximately one and half hours while his family was hard at work transplanting vegetables out in the fields. Feeling guilty about keeping him away from his familial duties, I thanked him for his time and information, and asked he forgive my interference with his duties.
The Reverend smiled and told me I would be welcome at any time and if I returned after his bulk goods store and bakery is open we can sit down and break bread together and discuss more if I like. He also suggested that if I like to read, I might want to consider two books. The first is entitled The Martyrs Mirror; and the second The Mystery of Christ in Revelations by Ted Bylar. The Martyrs Mirror is available for PDF download from the internet.
With that we parted ways and I headed back towards home. As I drove, I reran the conversation over and over again. I had taken notes, but wanted further contemplation. I found myself thinking about a lot of their lifestyle that I could comfortably enjoy and other parts that I could not. The one thing that I could not or would not disagree with though is how they live their life 24/7 for God.