There are sizeable communities that exist outside of the profoundly traditional Amish way of life, but that still adhere to a simpler, “unworldly” lifestyle and strict faith. They may have faith creeds that lie outside of Amish beliefs. These groups are often referred to as being “para-Amish,” as they are not Amish but have Amish qualities. They are also sometimes referred to as the “Plain” people, a name which can include Hutterite and Mennonite groups as well.
Amish communities usually grow their own foods on their family farms. The main staple of Amish cuisine is soup – lots and lots of soup. An Amish meal will typically feature apples (which are plentiful in Pennsylvania), potatoes, and chicken. There are no chemicals or preservatives in these ultimate comfort foods. The Amish are excellent farmers and gardeners, and often grow and preserve all of the food their families need themselves. One Amish woman, Elizabeth Coblenz, published popular cookbooks of Amish food.
Much of Amish life, especially religious traditions, are informal but heavily ingrained within the community. One of these practices is the ritual of communion. Many Christians usually have it at a designated time, but Amish elders determine when their churches will hold communion. During the ceremony, men and women are separate from each other. One unique element to Amish communion is the foot washing ritual Jesus practiced, which Jakob Ammann was adamant about including in his vision of Anabaptism.
In Amish communities, retirement is a very personal decision. While the retired person may no longer partake in a trade full-time, he or she usually moves next door to the kids and works full-time as a grandparent. Retired people often stay healthy and active by continuing to work on the family farms. The Amish embody the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, with retired community members helping a great deal with child care.
Often, Christians determine which church to attend after visiting several. They will most likely then pick which one suits them best. For Amish people, however, the congregation that they belong to depends on the geographic area in which they live. Families that live within a specific space attend the same house church, presided over by a bishop, two to four preachers, and a community elder. There is no formal church building, church governing council, or any of the other church structures familiar to modern Christians. .
With half a dozen children in the average family and 90% of children choosing to remain Amish as adults, Amish communities are in no danger of dying out. While many other Christian denominations are shrinking and attempt to grow via conversion and evangelism, the Amish usually tend to their own affairs. While many Anabaptist groups do historically encourage evangelism, the Amish way of life specifically caters to a form of quiet witness of their faith.
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