Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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Amish Communion Service - Part 2

Around the time of the story of Abraham and Isaac, I leaned my elbows on my knees and put my head down and thought about how I would rather be out in our “autumn woods” on a walk. My sisters and I had different parts of the woods surrounding our house that we would take walks to, depending on the season. Our autumn woods had some of the brightest-colored red maples around, with a natural spring bubbling up out of the ground. There was a giant oak right next to it, and I loved sitting there, listening to the sound of the water bubbling, the birds singing in the trees, and the scurrying feet of the squirrels and “fence mice” (chipmunks). I tuned out the sing-song narration from the preacher. Slowly his voice faded as I allowed sleep to overcome my thoughts in the stuffy room, crowded with people. Sleep was my escape whenever I became depressed with the family life I had at home. Sleep had also become my escape from the sermons at church services. Most of the sermons had to do with instilling a fear of Hell, so that we would do anything to avoid going there. In all of that swirling fear, there was no room for me to form my own idea of God meant to me and decide where my spiritual path would lead. All I knew is that I felt closer to God when I was out enjoying Mother Nature than I did when I sat in a church service. 


I awoke with a start when everyone around me turned around and kneeled by their benches for the first prayer. The first prayer in each service was always quiet. It gave me several minutes to rest my head and come back to the waking world. Then everyone stood, and a minister began reading Scripture. Several young women began filing out, and I followed them. This was normally the time young people would take a break during church service, and I knew we all needed it more than ever — we still had a long way to go to the end of the service. 


The Gingerich sisters and I took our turn in the bathroom, got a drink of water at the sink, and then headed back to our place, standing by the benches. The minister commenced his reading, and everyone took their seats again. A different minister got up to begin his sermon. I don’t remember which part of the Bible the second preacher would start with, but I remember the dread I felt as I thought about the long day ahead. I reached into my packet and took out a stick of gum. Chewing gum gave me something to do, at least, and maybe it would keep me awake. I looked around at other people’s expressions, and realized they were probably as bored as I was. 


Sometime before noon, several women left the service to put lunch on the table. Unlike regular church services, when the men would eat together at one long table, the women at the other, this day we would all eat in shifts. After a while, a small group of older men filed out, led by Al Miller, who was the oldest man in our congregation. His wife, Ada, led the small group of women who left. The clock on the shelf of the living room struck every fifteen minutes. It struck twice before the two groups came back. Several minutes later, a new group of men and a new group of women left. 


As the third group left, my ‘sitter’ was getting so numb and sore, I wondered how I was going to make it through the day. My stomach was growling, and I wished it would be our turn to go and eat. But I knew that those of us who had just been baptized four weeks before, the youngest of the women at the service, would have to wait until the very last. 


Just when I thought I could sit no longer, it finally became our turn to go for lunch. The last eight of us filed out, and stood around a round table in the wash house. It was cold there, so we couldn’t stay too long. We had the usual fare (you can read about that here), followed by cookies and the other young women had coffee. I did not like coffee (and still don’t), so I ate my cookies and drank water. Then we visited the bathroom again before heading back into the service. 


As I took my place on the backless bench, I told myself I should stop resisting it, and just listen to what the preacher had to say. I wished I could be like the other young women, listening demurely as they slowly chewed on their gum. 


To be continued…
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