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Amish Country News

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So, You Want To Be Amish?

From time to time we receive letters from people who want our help in becoming Amish. Do people ever convert to the Amish faith? Yes, but it is relatively rare. I know of one young man who is about to join the Amish faith here in Lancaster, after giving up his car and other aspects of "worldly life." Some Amish wonder if he is really ready, but believe he is sincere.

Why do people wish to be Amish? As our way of life becomes more hectic, we may see a slower, simpler style of living as appealing. Some people leave their high pressure jobs in the urban jungle, move to the mountains, and conduct business via computer, phone, and fax, the very pieces of technology that were supposed to make our lives easier. The Amish lifestyle is seen as a return to nature, even though barely half of our local Amish are actually farmers.

Some readers who write us tell of broken homes, divorced parents, fathers who abandoned wife and child. They view the Amish community as a place were they would be secure and welcome. What many of these people see is just the surface, a seemingly idyllic life. But being Amish involves many challenges for the outsider.

First of all, the Pennsylvania German dialect is something that must be learned. Then come the challenges of leaving behind those necessities of life like television, stereo, electric appliances, automobile, and fashionable clothing. Finally, you might find the many "ordnung" or rules of the church to be formidable. The way of life cannot be adopted without the religion.

Thus, the Amish are reluctant and suspicious of most outsiders who say they want to be Amish. Rather than sitting down and talking about the religion, the sincere "seeker" is usually placed with a family and takes part in the daily routine, picking up what is required of him by the community and the church much in the same way a child would.

Some Amish have left the church to join more liberal churches that also welcome visitors and where English is the language of worship. Some of these people have set up "plain communities," maintaining a simple way of life without cars and electricity. Others, like the Mennonites, lead a more modern lifestyle, sometimes keeping a plain form of dress, sometimes not. There have even been converts to the "horse and buggy Mennonites." Indeed, most local Mennonite churches welcome visitors for Sunday worship, and the Mennonite Information Center on Route 30 was established to help answer visitors’ questions.

While we at Amish Country News are not of Amish or Mennonite background, we understand that some people are searching for answers to life’s questions. But the Amish share many of the problems most of us have, and they should not be seen as an ideal society or the solution to the world’s ills. Like any other culture, however, there may be important things we can learn from them.

Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou (1998) 

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