Amish Church Services in Lancaster County
In Lancaster County, there is a tradition that Amish church services are held in the homes of the congregation. This Amish tradition expresses the simplicity, purity, and community spirit that is so essential to the Amish faith and way of life.
It is believed that this tradition began in the 1500's which was a period of severe persecution towards the Anabaptists. As a result of these persecutions, the Anabaptists were forced to hold their services underground. Since it was too risky to hold public worship services, religious services were held in secret in the homes of the congregation.
Having said that, it is important to note that the Mennonites, who have also grown out of the Anabaptist movement, do not hold worship services in the homes of the congregation. The Mennonites hold their services in church buildings.
Today, the Old Order Amish of Lancaster County meet every other Sunday in one of the homes of a congregation member. Members attend worship services within the district they live. Each district consists of about 25 households. Generally, there are about 75 adults in each district. Counting children, districts may exceed 150 members.
At an Amish church service, the congregation sits on benches and chairs that are spread throughout several rooms of the Amish home. Member of the congregation sit facing the preacher who is centrally located. Services tend to run about three hours.
Amish congregations are led by a bishop, two preachers and a deacon who come from the congregation without any theological training. They do not receive any pay.
The bishop provides administrative leadership over the congregation and officiates at communions,
The preachers are responsible for giving sermons during the church service. The sermons are often one-hour long and are preached without the use of notes or preparation. In fact, each service's preacher is selected by the church leadership only a few minutes before he is required to give the morning sermon.
During an Amish church service, the congregation sings hymns from the Ausbund which is book of hymns that was written during the 16th Century. The hymns are chanted very slowly and they are not accompanied by any music. Some of the hymns may last as long as fifteen minutes.
The Role of Women in an Amish Church Service
women do not serve a very public role during the church services. Although they share in the communal experience of the worship, they do not serve as bishops, preachers, or deacons.
are required to prepare the communal meal which is served at noon in the home of the member hosting the service.
Within the Pennsylvania Amish community, rotating church services from home to home is a strong reminder that religious faith is an essential ingredient of all aspects of Amish life.
Holding a simple service in a location that changes twenty-six times a year emphasizes the importance of pure faith rather than rituals and sacred objects. There are no ostentatious altars or stained glass windows.
Home worship guarantees that the congregation remains small and intimate. When the population of a district becomes too large for services to be accommodated in the homes of the members, new districts are created. As a result, a small but close network of family, friends ,and neighbors is formed.
Members are known by their first name and their absence is apparent at services. Each member is part of an emotional support group that protects each other from falling through the cracks. Family and friends celebrate happy events together and help each other out during tragic events.
To learn more about the Pennsylvania Amish of Lancaster County:
Return to an Introduction to the Amish People of Lancaster County
Return to the Welcome to Lancaster County Home Page from Amish Church Services