Do you know who’s under the weather in your community, who just had a baby, or where to get a good deal on a sewing machine?
If you were Amish and received the church newsletter, you’d have all this information at your fingertips.
While wider-audience papers like the Budget and Die Botschaft have multi-state and national reach, papers such as the Lancaster Gemeinde Brief (covering Lancaster County and some related settlements) or The Grapevine (Iowa churches) provide news and useful information for a tighter web of churches.
The Ohio Gemeinde Register
For example, the Gemeinde Register describes itself as “A bi-weekly church paper serving the Amish community of Ohio.” The one I’m holding right now, from February of 2013, is 16 pages long.
It contains sections including “Notices”, a Youth Singing Schedule (for seven groups), and a “Showers” section for those with health problems, accident victims, widows, or others in need of cheering (there are over two dozen shower suggestions in this issue).
The Notices section includes information on lost items, a blood drive schedule, info on gatherings such as a special education teachers meeting, and rides/riders-wanted requests.
The largest section, with six pages, is the church report, including information on where services were held the previous two Sundays (for 200+ church districts), Bible readings, and which ministers were visiting.
There are also over five pages of Classified Ads in the back. This is the place to look to find everything from Mutza suits to disaster relief supplies to 24-ton log splitters for rent. You can come here to hire a 15-passenger van & driver, find someone to prepare your income taxes, get a rebuilt Maytag wringer washer, or rent a wedding trailer.
My favorite of the ads: during 2013, New Bedford Care Center celebrated its 10th anniversary. In recognition of the milestone, throughout the year, “the 10th birth of every month will be free.” If you’re wondering, regular price is $1,800 if paid in 10 days (food costs extra). That’s quite a nice deal.
The last page also contains a “Thank You Notes” section. This is where recipients of showers and other kindnesses can express their gratitude.
Three sections have German titles. Geburten announces births, listed by church district. Krankheit & Unglück shares illnesses and accidents, and Sterbefälle, deaths (interestingly, only these three “cycle-of-life” sections are titled in German).
This issue also contains two religious/inspirational sayings, tucked into spare space at the bottom of columns: “It is better for me to die on behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth” and “It is good to teach, if he who teaches also acts.”
Tying together a community
I’m not Amish, but I can see how these newsletters would help tie together a community.
The churches listed are not just those of one particular affiliation in the Holmes County settlement. The listings of illnesses, injuries, and shower needs reminds the reader of the fragility of life and how we must depend on one another. The births section heralds the newest generation of future church members. Not to mention the useful nature of the classified and notices sections and the causes and business relationships they promote.
We often admire the Amish for their sense of community. Building and maintaining a meaningful community takes a lot more than putting out a newsletter. But it certainly doesn’t hurt–especially once your community numbers hundreds or thousands of members.
Note: Scam Alert & Sterbefälle sections from different Gemeinde Register issues, photos by ShipshewanaIndiana