Even More about the Illinois Amish (5)

Is it true that the Amish place a small mistake or imperfection in a quilt or other handmade item?

It is said that many years ago sometimes a scrap of fabric that didn’t quite match was used inconspicuously in a patchwork quilt to give it identity. We question whether this is true. We don’t know of any quilters who would do that today. Amish quilts are all band quilted; stitches are very small and uniform. But, no matter how hard one tries, the stitches are not all identical and perfect. A quilt may have an imperfection, but it wasn’t on purpose.

Do the Amish play any form of musical instrument?

No. Musical instruments are forbidden by the Old 0rder Amish community. Playing an instrument would be worldly. It is contrary to the spirit of Glassenheit (humility), and would stir up the emotions of those who are involved.

Can an outsider join the Amish church / community?

An Amish man remarked that you do not need to move to adopt a lifestyle of simplicity and discipleship. You can begin wherever you are. Yes, it is possible for outsiders, through conversion and convincement, to join the Amish community, but it seldom happens. First, the Amish do not evangelize and do not seek to add outsiders to their church. Second, outsiders would need to live among the Amish and demonstrate a genuine conversion experience and faith that results in a changed lifestyle. Third, it is extremely difficult for anyone who has not been raised without electricity, automobiles, and other modern conveniences to adjust to the austere lifestyle of the Amish. Also, one would need to learn the Amish dialect in order to be a true part of the Amish community.

I think some of my ancestors might have been Amish. How can I find out?

The best source of that kind of information would be the Mennonite Historical Society, which maintains an extensive genealogical library. Their address is 2215 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17602. Telephone: (717)393-9745.

What do the Amish think of tourists visiting their area?

Amish people want nothing more than to simply be left alone. However, for the most part they have accepted the influx of tourism as something they cannot change. So far as their lifestyle, tourists have not changed the Amish. It is true that some have moved away, partly because of tourism, but also because of the high cost of land. In the Arthur area, available land to farm has become expensive an scarce, leading many Amish families to adopt a trade. Others have opened small shops and are now realizing profits from the tourists. However, many Amish prefer it if the family can be buffered in some way from the direct influx of tourists through selling wholesale to “English” shops, or remaining somewhat remote out in the countryside.

As far as we can tell, this information applies to the Amish people in the Arthur area. However each Amish community sets “rules” as interpreted by each individual bishop who, in turn, coordinate their “rules” across the local community in regular “policy” sessions to adjust, adapt, or reject new concepts or outside influences that enter into their world. A good example lies in telephone usage. While phones are not permitted in houses in the Arthur area, for fire and emergency and to some extent necessary business use, local families get together and place a phone in a booth out by the road or between two or more family farms. The communal phones are shared, and any toll calls placed are written in a notebook in the booth and paid by the user. This sort of interpretation of the inclusion of a modern technology in the Amish world is a local decision in each community. Amish people are not backwards, nor “stuck in the past.” They are continually adjusting to the pressures of the world and striving to maintain their belief and culture.

Selected references for additional reading

Source of these FAQ’s:
National Committee For Amish Religious Freedom
15343 Susanna Circle
Livonia, MI 48154
Phone (734) 464-3908
Email: amish@holycrosslivonia.org