Traveling through Amish settlements you may notice something like this:

amish suv

Not an Amish SUV. A church wagon waits outside a home near Dover, Delaware

That’s not a Plain people hauler, nor the caboose of some sort of horse-drawn train.  This bulky vehicle is a church wagon, and you’ll see them throughout Amish America.

Each Amish church district will have its own wagon, used to transport benches from one location to the next.

The benches are mainly used as seating for the twice-monthly Amish church service.  Benches are set up in two groups of facing rows, one for men and one for women, wherever church is being held (basement, shop, or sometimes barn of the hosting family).

After the service concludes, they will be re-arranged in the same space for the fellowship meal.  Church benches are typically built to be fit together to form an impromptu table.  This simple innovative design cuts down on the need to lug around bulky tables.

big valley amish church wagon

Church wagon in Amish-heavy Big Valley, Pennsylvania

Along with benches the church wagon will contain the song books used at Sunday service, each marked with the district’s initials–for instance, UMP for “Upper Middle Pequea”.

(On that note, Amish are big on initialing their personal items–everything from tupperware to board games to clothing–and you would be too if 30 other people in the room happened to be wearing your hat).

You can tell who’s about to have church (or just had it) by the presence of the church wagon outside the home.

And it probably goes without saying, but to move one of these bulky wagons takes more than your average buggy-ready Standard Bred.  A pair of powerful draft horses are usually enough for the job.

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