In Nappanee, Indiana and beyond, each Amish settlement is broken up into districts. The bishop in each district decides on the rules for the Amish people that live there.
For instance, the Old Order Amish in Nappanee, Indiana would have different rules to follow than the Amish communities in Ohio or Pennsylvania–even differing from the town right next door.
Old Order Amish Life
Interestingly enough, the Bishop isn’t voted in. When a new Bishop is needed, after the death of the previous Bishop, eight Amish men will each choose one Bible. Whomever takes the one with a slip of paper inside of it is the new Bishop…for life!
All Old Order Amish do have a few things in common: No cars, no posing for photos after you have been baptized, and no ornamentation or buttons.
The Amish in this small Indiana town ride bikes everywhere–unless they are heading into town, in which case they hook up the horse and buggy. Apparently the Amish treat their buggy like many non-Amish men, or “English” as they call it, like to treat their cars: With pride! The insides might have plush velvet and are very comfortable (not to mention expensive).
Once upon a time, the Old Order Amish in Nappanee weren’t allowed to have rugs, pictures, or even curtains. But judging from the whisper of fabric peeking out of many windows, the current Bishop has allowed curtains. He will decide what color curtains are allowed.
The Times They Are a Changin’
Our guide let us in on the fact that the Bishop here had also allowed photos of the kids. While grandparents don’t have entire walls covered in them, they do have one or two images of their grandchildren. Children are allowed to have their photos taken because they have not yet been baptized.
As you can see from the photo, the Amish here have their own schools. Much like their homes, Amish schools don’t even possess shutters, which is considered “too fancy.” You can see they do have playground equipment like swings, teeter-totters, and slides. I was kind of surprised by that.
The schools are usually run by two teachers. Amish students attend up to 8th grade but when they turn 16 their education is considered complete. Even if they want to, they are not allowed to continue on in their education. Old Order Amish do not believe in higher education.
Old Order Amish and Church
Every other weekend, one Amish family will have church and furnish lunch for the members of the district (here, in Nappanee, there are 33 Amish families).
They sing a cappella, conduct the service in High German, and after the three hour service–they share lunch. No work is done on Sunday except for feeding the animals. All meal preparation for the Sunday church service is done the day before.
At the end of the lunch, whomever is going to host church the next time will take the white supply wagon back with them.
Even Amish cemeteries stick to the “less is best” ideal. Located every few miles, no one headstone stands out over the rest. Names and dates are the only things on the tombstone. No flowers, wreaths, or anything of that sort. It is uniform and very, very tidy.
Farms of the Old Order Amish
All the farmers have giant workhorses. These massive animals have shaggy patches near their hooves and are quite tall. They work in groups of eight, making two trips up and down the field. Then that team will rest while the farmer switches the large animals out for a fresh team.
You can imagine how long it would take to get a field completed without using a tractor!
As much as it may seem like they try to live without modern amenities, even the Amish have given in to a few creature comforts. Bad things can happen to anyone and the Amish do take advantage of a few modern conveniences when it comes to protecting their own–or their business.
When you toodle around Elkhart County, you may notice little buildings at the bottom of every driveway. These are actually phone booths! No, they aren’t for chatty Amish teens–the phone inside is used only in case of an emergency. Some Amish men will also use computers in order to grow their businesses.
It can be quite a culture shock the first time you see someone so plainly dressed. But even the Nappanee, Indiana Amish like to hit yard sales on Thursdays and Fridays, eat out at the local pizza joint, get groceries, and use the Laundromat!
Sounds a lot like you and me, don’t you think?
Small Towns: Destinations, not Drive-Thrus! I’m Jessica Nunemaker and THIS is little Indiana!
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