As I drove down Route 340 about 8:30 AM on Sunday, September 16th, 2007 the road was alive with Amish in buggies, Amish walking with their families, and Amish parents pulling their children in wagons all on their way to their own church. The church that I attended was at the home of one of the Market standholders in Gordonville, next to Paradise. I decided to try to look as “Amish” as possible, so I put on black and white clothes and wore my Amish hat. I was greeted by my hosts and then I was shown the barn where the Amish men and boys were waiting for the service to start. The Amish males were all standing in a line shoulder to shoulder and as someone new came in one would go down the line and shake everyone’s hand. (A few of the men actually kissed each other on the lips). As new buggies came in the horses were also put in the barn to be watered. At about 9, one of the Amish elders asked me to follow him into a building which is typically used as a workshop. There were maybe 15 benches in the room with about 8 on one side for the women and 7 on the other side for the men facing towards the women. In the center were 10 chairs facing each other for the elders. I was placed in the center with the elders. When I entered the room with the Amish elders all of the women were in the room, lots of children, along with the Amish men. We still had our hats on until the Amish male teens entered the room and then we removed our hats. The service lasted about three hours, I believe in German. I understood the following words-“Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and Go in the grace of God”. That was it! I didn’t fall asleep although it seemed that many of the men were dozing throughout the service. I think that there were three sermons and some chanting. At times we got on our knees and placed our head on the chairs. I could tell that many of the Amish children were looking at me, this “English” person. They did seem rather curious.
Once the service ended I was instructed to stay in the room as the long benches were transformed into two long tables, one again for the men and one for the women. In between this transformation I went outside to play some basketball with the children. I also asked used to use the bathroom in the house, but was turned down as the women were using the house as their area. I was instructed to go out into the fields. I sat with the elders to a feast of freshly made bread, fresh p-nut butter, cup cheese, some type of apple pie, water, coffee. It was just delightful to be so welcomed into this community so unlike anything that I had been aware of. After lunch the volleyball court was being prepared, but I had to leave for another function, so I was unable to play.
I’m not sure that my description captured my experience , but it really was just incredible! There definitely was curiosity about me, especially what I thought of the service. When I responded that although I didn’t really understand the service, but thoroughly enjoyed myself, there was a definite connection. I hope to be invited to another service so that I can stay to play volleyball!