Joining the Amish

Anonymous asked: Who do you think would have a harder time joining an Amish community an “English” woman or man?

First of all, it is not easy for an “English” person to join the Amish, whether you are a woman or a man. There are so many barriers. The language alone is a huge one, but that is not the hardest. To go from confined thinking to free-thinking is a whole lot easier than the other way around as would be the case if you were educated in the traditional sense. You would have to fold up all that “knowledge” and store it away to collect dust, for it will do you no good for integrating into an Amish community. Perhaps the hardest thing of all is to learn how to accept the Amish ways without question when you haven’t been taught to do that as a young child. When things get rough, most people know that they have the option to leave the situation they find difficult or unworkable. So, growing up in the outside culture would make it a lot easier for you to say, “Good-bye” and walk away. It is not as easy as that when you are brought up in the Amish way of life. The Amish know all this, and that is why they are reticent to accept “English” people joining their fold.

Having said all this, I would say it is harder for women than men. For one thing, women have to “submit” to a lot more than men do, including deferring to the husband’s authority. Of course this also depends on the nature of the person joining, but one basically cannot be resistant to “submission” of the Amish religion and way of life and still be accepted into the Amish community.

I know of two cases in which someone did join the Amish — in fact both joined the very church district I left. The first involves a woman who joined, the second a man. The woman was married to someone who grew up Amish. They had met and fallen in love with one another when they were both working in a hospital — he was working as an orderly during his years of volunteer service during the Vietnam War, when he claimed conscientious objector status — and she was a nurse. They got married outside the Amish faith and had several children. He found he was pulled towards the Amish lifestyle, yet he and his wife were committed to staying together. She said she would do whatever it took to make him happy. They did join the Amish. This happened only a few years after I had left the Amish and married my husband. My mother kept telling me about this couple and how well they were doing (I found out later she had omitted the difficulties), as a way of inferring that David and I could do the same.

I am not privy to many of the details of the problems this couple has encountered, but I know that one day this woman made a linguistic mistake and was laughed at in a social situation. Her response was to refuse to speak in the Amish language after that. It is hard for me to imagine that the Amish accommodated her by speaking English to her in church services and other social situations, but they did indeed, even when they knew she understood their language and could speak it.

When the oldest daughter in this family started her “rum springa” years (dating period), her mother did not like the dating practices of bed courtship (see “Traditional Amish Dating Practices” of December 29, 2009) and so she told her daughter she may sit at the dining room table with her dates. The Amish women huddled together and said this is not the way it it’s done, and fussed about how they better let the mother know this (as if she didn’t already know it, and had perhaps made a decision to the contrary). it was a ). The women made as if this were a matter of letting her know, rather than accepting that this was a family decision that they shouldn’t meddle in. They were not going to stand for something being done “differently” even though this was none of their business. This is so very typical of the way individuals are kept in line in the Amish community.

The man I mentioned above, joined the Amish and married a young woman from the community. From what I understand, he had a fairly easy time of integrating into the community, most likely because he had Amish in his heritage — even his name is Amish-sounding. If I can get a sense of how he is presently doing, I will post it later.

Overall, joining the Amish as an outsider is a difficult thing because on the one hand, you cannot care too much whether or not you will be accepted or “one of them,” while on the other hand, that is precisely why most people would want to join in the first place — to be part of a tight-knit community. If you have a personality in which being a follower comes naturally, it can be done. You just have to be sure of why you are doing it (and then abandon all other “why” questions after you join).

Below are pictures of Amish people walking home from a church service. I am fairly certain that in the first photo the tall man on the right is one of my first cousins on my mother’s side of the family. Doesn’t he look like a character?

Photos by Sarah Weaver

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17 thoughts on “Joining the Amish”

  1. I wish I could join the Amish.My family came hear from Wales a long time ago,My name is Richard Thompson.I live in Warren OHIO.I’m 32 years old .

  2. Wow, Thank you for this and i still admire them, admire their faith and the simple life style they have.
    I am thinking about it and most likely i wish if i can be one of them.
    dont be shock but am an arab woman, Orthozox.
    thanx

  3. I am married with three small children and we are Muslim- I would not want to join the Amish Church but to be integrated into their society- is this even done? and how? I admire the way the Amish live and believe it is the way God intended us to live, simple,hu
    mble, natural- I don’t want all the media, electronic, materialistic influence on my children- I want a quiet life with people, not things:) We live in Northern IL. Thanks.

  4. I have always wanted to join the Amish community, but now that I am 41, I doubt it could even be possible because I am too old to be courted and almost getting too old to have children. I am a born again Christian with VERY strict values that I believe in and practice in my own life, but I am educated and opinionated, and my concern would be that I may be too “strong” and independent a thinker to be able to be accepted no matter how much my values and choice to be submissive could prevail. (I have always believed that the man is the head of the household and that a woman’s place is in the home, and because of my own personal beliefs, I have never fit into “worldly” society either). I have a question that I would like to receive an an answer on, if that is possible in your blog…? Are there ways for an already religious person to join an Amish church without marrying into it? Are there any Amish men who would be single at age 41? Are people over 40 even allowed to date in Amish culture? From what I have read, the clothing changes at age 40 as if being single over 40 is shunned, as it kind of is out in the rest of the world too. Is this the case? I have never met a man whom I could trust, and I have been in abusive and cheating relationships, so I have not chosen to marry, but I would like to get married and have a family. Is it possible for a person who shares the values of the Amish to become part of the community without being married first?

    1. I am sure that it would be difficult to do. Most Amish women, living in the community would be married and therefore of course not be available. But you should try either way. Have you thought about joining another christian community first? Maybe there you would be allowed to get to know other christian women first, get married to a woman who shares your beliefs and then you could try to join the Amish. It would not be easy but with determination and faith I think you could make it. You´re a very brave man and you should give everything to live the life you know you´re supposed to live. J

  5. I have always envied the pioneers and the pilgrims for their ability to survive without the modern conveniences of today. Would a family of four be able to join the Amish church? I was wondering because I was raised Christian, but have lost my way, I want my children to grow up in a strong Christian faith, and learn that hard work is essential in survival. I am fearful of all these “other” religions claiming theirs is the way and doing it with deadly force! My husband is of Mexican decent, and I am German, Scotch, Irish, my children are still young enough to change lifestyles, 7 and 9. I prefer to be a wife and mother and NOT a bread winner so to speak, I have always wanted to spend time baking, and making thins, learning how to knit, and crochet. I love to cook and farm, my husband is the hardest working man I have ever met, he grew up on a farm. I would love to know if it would be possible? Thanks for all your information.

  6. Why are Amish claiming they don’t understand me when I speak English when everyone else does? Does my having a NY accent cause that?

  7. I wish I was born amish.It took me years to discover that the lifestyle I have been burning to have actually exists. I was even more surprised to find out that the clashes I had with my own religion and feeling about how to be actually are obvious to your religion. I Just turned 29 and unmarried because I refuse the mainstream lifestyle. I feel a call, like I belong there. I long for the relationships, for the home made things, for nature and communion with god NO MATTER THE PRICE. If you can help me LIVE THE LIFE GOD CHOSE FOR ME or have an advice, feel free to get in touch

  8. I want to join an Amish community and church. I am a married mother of 4, we are christians. Would my already being married with children pose an issue? One more question, i am a smoker with issies im trying to work on i have been strongly influnced by the world. I want to change this and live a simple life focused on God. Would the Amish want to help me with this or would they keep me at a distance?

  9. Ive not been on this site before. I posted a question it said it had to be approved, then a minute later said your email comment subscription has been cancelled for this post. I dont understand, did i say something wrong? If i did im sorry!

  10. Hello Kimberly,

    Your question was not deleted… it was just awaiting my approval. It looked like you had a duplicate, so I only posted one of these questions.

    First of all, there is diversity among “the Amish” about how much they would welcome your family into their midst. I can say, though, there is much self-sacrifice and self-discipline required to live their community life… giving up smoking would be the tip of the iceberg.

    I have sent questions to a man who has joined an Amish community. When I get his answers back, I will post those on my blog… so stay tuned.

    Saloma

  11. I just left a bible college to join the amish, I am 18 and am learning German pretty fast. I am headed to Holmes county Ohio. I’m stepping out on faith in hopes that they will accept me if I prove my devotion and sincerity. I’ve read alot but does anyone have specific information concerning the logistics and practical steps once I get there. as much information as possible would be nice, especially the story of someone else who had success converting.
    sehr danke;),
    M. Brockman

  12. I am studying by my self scriptural knowledge of the bible so that I may live my life to the will and purpose of the Lord….I choose not to follow doctrines of today’s societies because I have found many to be false doctrines picked and plucked from the bible to support their beliefs of what they may try to instill upon the congregation…many churches now days rely totally upon being saved by grace but ignoring the fact that we are to repent and show acts of repentance so in hope that God may show us undeserved kindness through the faith in his son Jesus Christ ….he also states we must set ourselves apart from the world traditions and customs and to store up the treasures of heaven and not the treasures of the world…I was wandering if it could be possible to join the Amish community to build a strong foundation for my faith? I am looking to be baptized in holy spirit and make my vow after further study to know what I exactly need to repent for and what is truly expected of me….I will be faithful to my heavenly Father and Jesus Christ…

  13. Having attempted to join an Amish church, I thought I would try to add something to what is already here. I spent 2.5 years with a conservative old order Amish group. Diversity among the Amish is enormous. The most progressive groups and the most conservative groups are so far apart, one wonders how they were ever related. This means that there are a lot of different ways to become Amish, it is not a monolithic religion. Each church district makes up its own rules. Sometimes they agree with others and will become in fellowship with each other. Within these fellowships are Amish that are help minded and others that are not. To become Amish from the outside, you need to find one of these help mind groups. Or a family that is help minded, at least. Some Amish think that the bridge is so great, that you, the outsider, can never become Amish(Luke 16:26). You will not succeed there, move on. For this reason, a couple that converted and joined the Amish recommend not buying property, but only renting, until you are sure you are in the right spot. That can take a while. I would say joining before you are in the right spot might not be a good thing either.
    The Amish are both a religion and a lifestyle. There is a relationship between the two, but separation too. Many Amish have no idea why they do things. They often do not know what scriptures apply to the belief system anymore. Historically, they did, now many do not. In some places, this has created a problem of just obeying the church and never asking any questions of any kind. Asking questions gets you in trouble in such groups, just ask Saloma about that. The concept of Gelassenheit is one of yielding to the group without questioning. As an outsider making a change and moving into a folk society, you MUST not have the attitude that you can fix them, that you know better, that they have it wrong. Such ideas are anathema to an Amish community and you will lose friends quickly, maybe even get kicked out faster than you can believe. The conviction and faith that made you make the change has to be left there, and the ways of the group become your new life. It is very hard to separate all that out and most fail because they did not.

  14. Jennifer Sinclair

    This article was the best I ever read about converting. I love adapting to specific positive parts of the Amish life, but I could never convert. I spend my life “questioning authority”, talking back when necessary, defending myself, defending rightousness. I would be a total failure as an Amish woman!!!!!!!

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