Yesterday, I visited Yoder’s Amish farm in Berlin, Ohio. I asked the tour guide if it would be possible to visit a Service an Amish service on Sunday. The Amish used to meet in barns for service. Each Sunday a different family invites the congregation to worship on their farm. They even have “church wagons“ which they use to transport the benches from farm to farm. Nowadays, they use “shops” instead of barns – I suppose the guide meant workshops – where they gather for worship. She had explained that the Amish only learn High German so they can read the Bible in church, they also sing their hymns in High German. Their hymn book Ausbund is the oldest German language hymnal still in continous use. One needs a personal invitation in order to attend a service because it is on a different farm each week.
How would I obtain a personal invitation, how could I meet an Amish who might invite me? Yoder’s Farm also offers a visit to an Amish school. The guide who explained the Amish school system to us, was a school teacher. She teaches around 30 students from grades one thru eight in a single room. The language of instruction is English – except for the High German class. Before and after school they speak a German dialect (Pennsylvania Deitsh/Dutch). The textbook they use for German is in gothic script and focuses on words that are common in Luther´s Bible translation. (They do use the old text, and not one of the revised versions now commonly used in Germany.)
It was really interesting talking to the teacher. After a while I dare ask her about the possibility to attend a service. She regrets she cannot invite me because it would be inappropriate for a woman to invite a man to church but she gives me directions to meet an Amish farmer who loves to talk about the Amish heritage and has invited outsiders to his church. He belongs to the New Order and this group would be more open outsiders. She gives us directions – we have to drive (no telephone to place a call!) to the farm to meet the farmer who might invite us – . “and if you see the chicken house, you have gone too far”, she explains. We can´t find the farm, we miss the chicken house – and I went to an English service this Sunday morning.