Here in Lancaster County, over 20,000 Amish
(pronounced Ah-mish, not Ai-mish) serve as living reminders of a quieter
time, a time when the horse and buggy was the mode of transportation and
families lived and died in the same small communities.
The first Amish, so named for Jakob Ammann,
arrived in Lancaster County and nearby Berks and Chester counties in the
early 1700s to take part in William Pennís "Holy Experiment" of
Originally called Anabaptists, they came to
America from Europe to escape religious persecution by both Protestants and
Catholics. The county is now home to three Anabaptist groups called the
Amish, Mennonite and Brethren.
In 1525, after the Reformation, a group of
Swiss brethren felt that only adults should be baptized. They met secretly
in a memberís home and confirmed their faith by re-baptizing each other as
adults, even though they had been baptized as infants in the state church.
Thus, they became known as Anabaptists, which means re-baptizers.
Because of their beliefs in adult baptism,
non-violence, and separation of church and state, they were viewed as
"radicals," and thousands were tortured and killed in the
following years. Nevertheless, the religion spread into other areas of
Europe. In time, the different Anabaptist groups became known as Mennonites,
after the greatest of the Anabaptist leaders, Menno Simons.
It was in the late 1600s that Ammann broke
away to form a group that more strictly adhered to the founding beliefs and
practices of the first Anabaptists.
The differences between the various Amish,
Mennonite, and Brethren groups are their interpretations of the Bible, their
uses of modern technologies such as automobiles and electricity, the values
they place on education, their uses of English, and their degrees of
interaction with outsiders.
The Amish believe that
"worldliness" keeps one from being close to God, so they choose to
live without many modern conveniences and technology, such as cars,
television, videos, etc. Rather than use electricity, they have bottled gas
stoves and refrigerators.
They do not live in seclusion from the rest
of the world. Amish farms can be seen interspersed with modern farms
throughout the countryside, and there is much daily interaction between the
Amish and the non-Amish ("English") community.
Contrary to popular belief, the Amish do not
live the same way they did 300 years ago. They have adopted many things to
make life easier, but are careful not to accept new technology without
considering its effects on their community lifestyle.
Amish Country News
Article by Brad Igou
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