Faith and Culture Combine
Stroll into the small farming community of Shipshewana, Indiana
and be surrounded by a culture rarely found anywhere. The
town of around 536 people hosts about 500,000 visitors each
year. What is the big attraction? This area of Northern Indiana
is home to many of the Amish faith. Tourism has been encouraged
by residents of Shipshewana, attracting people come from far
and wide to experience the simple, beautiful life led by the
The basis for the Amish religion is found in the Bible. Matthew
6 warns individuals from placing their hearts on riches. Amish
make conscious choices to live simply, and not get caught
up in material things. Wearing simple clothes and using no
electricity or cars is their way of keeping life simple. Work
is an important part of the Amish lifestyle. Arising by 5
am, family members start their morning chores. Children understand
their chores are necessary for sustaining the farm. In mainstream
American culture a child may be asked to take the trash out.
Sometimes it is done, and sometimes it is not. On an Amish
farm however, chores get done.
Looking for an Amish church to visit? You won't find one.
Amish services are performed in the barns and homes of the
members. Congregations are formed according to geographical
areas covering a one to two mile radius. The leader of each
congregation is called a Bishop, and he makes decisions regarding
specific rules. For instance, a Bishop can give the congregation
permission regarding use of cell phones or modern farm equipment
like Bobcats. One congregation may be allowed to use cell
phones, while a neighboring one may not, depending on their
Bishop's ruling. Church is not held every other Sunday allowing
members to visit relatives on off-weeks. It is common to have
many visitors on Sunday. When the congregation gathers at
the designated home they wait outside until the barn doors
are opened, the signal to enter. By tradition, men enter first.
As in many religious communities, practice is not based on
doctrine alone, but often is established by tradition. While
doctrine contributes to daily practices and beliefs, members
are affected equally by culture and tradition.
One way in which tradition has molded Amish lifestyle is
in the education of children. Amish children do not usually
continue schooling past the eighth grade. In the past, families
owned more land and children were needed to run the farm.
Although farms are much smaller now, children still complete
their education in the eighth grade. They are not required
by law to attend beyond that because of their religious beliefs.
Today children do not work on their family farms when they
have finished their schooling, but rather they go to work
at the local factories. Occasionally an Amish child may decide
to continue attending school. They will stay in the home of
a host, or "English" family for their extended schooling.
Amish tradition runs deep and is reflected in daily life.
Family life is at the center of these beliefs--working, worshiping,
and fellowshipping together strengthens ties and keeps their
faith constant in a world that has changed around them over
for over a century.
About the Author:
Rob Daniels is a long term practitioner of Yoga and Pilates
additional articles available at Religious Podcasts http://www.religious-podcasts.net
and Religious Beliefs http://www.religious-beliefs.com