Holmes County, Ohio lodging establishment ask us why the Amish worship in homes when most of the world worships in church buildings or synagogue. When I have asked that question of my Amish friends I usually get an answer like, "We've always done it that way" or "It is tradition...our parents, grandparents and greatgrandparents have always worshiped in homes". A few years back I met a local woman who had taken a tour that originated in Switzerland and traced the steps of the Amish to when they migrated to Pennsylvannia and then Ohio. She shared the real reason for worship in homes . . . The Amish are Anabaptists, meaning they believe in adult baptism. Many years ago churches in Switzerland and Europe didn't like "those people" who were Anabaptists because they didn't believe and worship like they did. They came up with a plan that if they eliminated all of "those people" then only the "normal" religions would exist. Amish were drowned, burned, and killed in other ways by those "Christians". Their faith in God kept them from stopping their worship. Instead they changed how they worshiped. They met in basements, barns, forests, and other unusual places. They would bring a dish to pass so that they could share a meal after worship. When religious prosecutors saw the people walking down the road with food dishes they assumed that they were having a meal or party so they left them alone. When the Amish came to the USA they heard that it was a land of religious freedom but they didn't want to take the chance of religious persecution so they continued the tradition of meeting in homes.
The Old Order Amish worship every other week. Each member of the congregation takes a turn at least once a year to hold church in their home. Men and women sit on opposite sides of the room. The church service usually begins with singing, followed by preaching, and then a lunch meal. Since Sunday is a day of rest the meal is simple. It may include foods such as bread, peanut butter spread, pickles, beets, soup, cookies, and pie.
When visiting Holmes County, Ohio you can learn more about the religious persecution and how the Amish live by touring Behalt at the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center in the Berlin area.
Written by Carol Steffey, Garden Gate Get-A-Way Bed & Breakfast, Millersburg, Ohio (330) 674-7608 www.garden-gate.com