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Amish Beliefs and Practices

Distinctive Amish Beliefs and Unique Customs

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USA, Pennsylvania, Amish family in horse-drawn trap, boys at roadside
Sylvain Grandadam / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Amish beliefs hold much in common with the Mennonites, from whom they originated. Many Amish beliefs and customs come from the Ordnung, a set of oral rules for living handed down from generation to generation.

Amish Beliefs

Baptism - As Anabaptists, the Amish practice adult baptism, or what they call "believer's baptism," because the person is old enough to choose what they believe in. A deacon pours a cup of water into the bishop's hands and onto the candidate's head three times, for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Bible - The Amish see the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

Communion - Communion is practiced twice a year, in the spring and in the fall.

Eternal Security - Amish are zealous about humility. They hold that personal belief in eternal security is a sign of arrogance. They reject this doctrine.

Evangelism - Originally, the Amish evangelized, as do most Christian denominations, but over the years seeking converts and spreading the gospel became less and less of a priority, to the point that it is not done at all today.

Heaven, Hell - In Amish beliefs, heaven and hell are real places. Heaven is the reward for those who believe in Christ and follow the church's rules. Hell awaits those who reject Christ as Savior and live as they please.

Jesus Christ - Amish believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, was born of a virgin, died for humanity's sins, and was bodily resurrected from the dead.

Separation - Isolating themselves from the rest of society is one of the key Amish beliefs. They think secular culture has a polluting effect and, therefore, to avoid the use of television, radios, computers, and modern appliances, they do not hook up to the electrical grid.

Shunning - One of the controversial Amish beliefs, shunning, is the practice of social and business avoidance of members who violate the rules. Shunning is rare in most Amish communities and is done as a last resort. Those who are excommunicated are always welcomed back if they repent.

Trinity - In Amish beliefs, God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three persons in the Godhead are co-equal and co-eternal.

Works - Although the Amish profess salvation by grace, many of their congregations practice salvation by works. They believe God decides their eternal destiny by weighing their lifelong obedience to the rules of the church against their disobedience.

Amish Practices

Sacraments - Adult baptism follows a period of nine sessions of formal instruction. Teenage candidates are baptized during the regular worship service, usually in the fall. Applicants are brought into the room, where they kneel and answer four questions to confirm their commitment to the church. Prayer coverings are removed from the heads of girls, and the deacon and bishop pour water over the boys' and girls' heads. As they are welcomed into the church, boys are given a Holy Kiss, and girls receive the same greeting from the deacon's wife.

Communion service is held in the spring and fall. Church members receive a piece of bread from a large, round loaf, put it in their mouth, genuflect, then sit down to eat it. Wine is poured into a cup and each person takes a sip.

Men, sitting in one room, take buckets of water and wash each other's feet. Women, sitting in another room, do the same thing. With hymns and sermons, the communion service can last over three hours. Men quietly slip a cash offering into the deacon's hand for emergency or aid expenses in the community. This is the only time an offering is given.

Worship Service - Amish conduct worship services in each others' homes, on alternating Sundays. On other Sundays, they visit neighboring congregations, family, or friends.

Backless benches are brought on wagons and are arranged in the hosts' home, where men and women sit in separate rooms. Members sing hymns in unison, but no musical instruments are played. Amish consider them too worldly. A short sermon is given, lasting about a half hour, while the main sermon lasts about an hour. Deacons or ministers speak sermons in the Pennsylvania German dialect while hymns are sung in High German.

After the three-hour service, the people eat a light lunch and socialize. Children play outside or in the barn. Members begin to drift home in the afternoon.

To learn more about Amish beliefs, visit Amish 101 - Amish Beliefs, Culture & Lifestyle.

(Sources: amishnews.com, welcome-to-lancaster-county.com, religioustolerance.org)

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