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Who are these people and what do they believe in?

      One of the good things to come out of The Reformation in the early to middle part of the sixteenth century was the ability for anyone with even half an idea of 'reform' to be able to have a go at it.
      Menno Simons was such a one. A Dutchman, an Anabaptist priest, a writer and a bit of a worrier. His worries that the entire Christian faith was splitting up was justified when the Anabaptists divided into three unequal parts, the Dutch and Prussian Mennonites, the Hutterian Brethren of Austria and the Swiss Brethren.
      One of Menno's followers was Jakob Ammann who for his own peculiar reasons was bitterly disappointed with his own name. The Jakob part was all right but the Ammann bit was too close to the Arab 'Amm' (one of the Arabian Gods) and the Hebrew Amman, the capital of Jordan, for his liking.
      Jakob looked up his name in the German dictionary of the day, found it spelt 'Amisch', dropped the 'c' and decided, in 1693, that the future lay with The Amish Mennonites, soon to become just plain Amish.
      Jakob was a real hard-liner and if he ever did have a sense of humour, he kept it very well hidden. He was very keen on Meidung or excommunication and anyone who displeased him was quickly thrown out of his particular in-crowd and those that were out were not even spoken to by those that were in. There was to be no room in Jakob's world for excommunicants.

      In the last days of the sixteen hundreds in central Europe, the religious guidelines were drawn in very hard strokes and much suffering was felt by all the minorities.
      From 1720 onwards things picked up for The Amish and in ever growing numbers they saw North America as the Great Amish Dream and headed for Pennsylvania and the surrounding states where, they believed, they were going to start a new and ideal life. A start maybe, but it was not going to be ideal.
      Firstly the (real) Mennonites were not far behind them, and secondly the same old rift that they thought they left behind in Europe was beginning to develop between the old traditionalists and new progressives.
      The disputes and in-fighting went on for nearly a hundred years (1850 to 1950) by which time the new wave progressives had either gone back to the Mennonites, started up on their own, or found some other evangelical upstarts to annoy.
The Traditional Amish stood firm and were left with their home made clothes, their unconventional life-style and their pride and of course, their name.

      No one would say that the Amish life is easy. To be a real Amish, 'proper dress' was to be worn by both men and women. This meant no hooks or buttons, no jewellery, and no fancy clothing at all.
      For the men beards (but no moustaches - and only after marriage) were to go with their wide brimmed black hats. For the girls it was conservative bonnets and long dresses, all preferably home made.
      Electricity could be found all over America but it was not for the Amish, and neither was the motor car. Also education for Amish children stopped after elementary school which is a continuing source of concern to the somewhat rigid American authorities.
      On the plus side, the Amish have always been really good farmers, cloth and dress makers and of course particularly good at all things D.I.Y.

      The Amish believe that anywhere and everywhere is in full sight of God and to create one building solely dedicated to the worship of their God would be a real waste of resources. For the Amish there is no evangelical-like fund raising festivals, no tax-dodging conferences, no airport-predators by the young and beautiful. Just a simple and straightforward commitment to their faith.
      However the wise heads of the elders know that commitment cannot be made without choice and living in a closed community without contact with 'the english' (quaintly anyone outside is still 'english') would be asking for trouble.
      So the choice to be baptised into the church must be made by those who have tried and tested what passes for teenage life outside the community and who have indulged a year or so of Rumspringa, roughly translated as 'running around'. And since the taste of teenage America has a lot to do with sex, drugs and rock-and-roll it is a worthy testament to the Amish that over 80% of those young people choose a life of commitment to their god, their family and their simple way of life.
      For the Amish, this simple life is governed by faith, physical work and emotional tolerance which, they say, is the almost perfect combination.

      For a large part of the rest of the world life is governed by prejudice, intolerance and the desire for material gain. All of which is hampered by other people's stupid misunderstandings. Which is of course the complete opposite of the Amish way and which of course, is why the Amish chose it.


Roots:Christian: Protestant, Anabaptists, Mennonites.
Location:Origin: Switzerland. Present Day: North America and Canada (and almost) World-Wide.
Top God:God, the Christian one.
Running Time:Approximately 350 years. From the late 1600's.
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