What steps do Amish youth go through once they’ve decided to be baptized? Ohio Amish church member Rebecca Miller today takes us through the process.
Rebecca describes the instructional meetings based upon the 18 articles of the Dordrecht Confession of Faith. She also shares what happens on baptismal Sunday, and what it feels like to become a member of the church.
As Rebecca hints below, the most important change is one you don’t necessarily see on the surface.
Rebecca notes that the baptismal services in Holmes County will mostly take place on the last two Sundays of August. So for many youth in the community this important day is just a few weeks away.
A Change Within (Joining the Church)
“And be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind. And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” -Eph. 4:23, 24
A decision has been made. A young person wishes to join the church, so what is the next step? Usually the father of the child will talk to the bishop and let him know of his child’s decision to join the Amish church and be baptized.
Then following Communion either in spring or fall a session will be started for all interested young people to “die Gma noch geh,” translated literally, “follow the church”.
A side note–I titled this piece “A Change Within” as for many it’s more an inward change than an outward change. Especially for those youth who are part of singing youth, there’s not that much to change. For others it might mean giving up their phone, radio, camera, car, etc.
There will be nine instruction classes on church Sunday, when the candidates for baptism will follow the ministers to the “abrot” (ministers’ council room) while the rest of the congregation is singing.
There the bishop will teach and exhort them following the 18 articles from the Dordrecht Confession of Faith (you can find the complete articles here). The Dordrecht Confession is an important statement of our faith written in the Netherlands in 1632.
This will be followed by encouragement from all other ministers present. Youth are exhorted to study the complete articles and the scriptures that support each one. Two articles are used per Sunday and also Bible stories of faithful patriarchs.
Article 1 – Of Faith in God and the Creation
Article 2 – Of the Transgression by Adam of the Divine Command
Here’s the first paragraph of Article 1 to give you an idea:
Since we find it testified in the canonical books of the Old and New Testament that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that he who would come to God must believe that there is a God and that He is a rewarder of them that seek Him, therefore we confess with the mouth and believe with all the heart – in company with all the pious and in keeping with the Holy Scriptures – in an only, eternal, almighty, and incomprehensible God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And none more nor in any other, before whom no God was made or existed, nor shall exist after Him – for from Him, through Him, and in Him are all things – to Him be praise, glory, and honor forever and ever, Amen.
There’s much more, but as they’re very long, I’ll let you look them up elsewhere.
Article 3 – Of the Restoration and Reconciliation of the Human Race with God
Article 4 – Of the Coming of our Redeemer and Saviour Jesus Christ
Article 5 – Of the Advent of the New Testament Through our Lord Jesus Christ
Article 6 – Of Repentance and Amendment of Life
The third time is also when the bishop discusses with the candidates the Ordnung. He will only go over it briefly and give the portions that pertain to them.
Also he will then ask the church members to stay seated for Members’ Meeting after services. He will ask everyone to encourage the youth and if they feel they’re not ready for baptism to bring it before the ministry before the last few times, so things can be resolved and there’s nothing holding up the baptism.
Article 7 – Of Holy Baptism
Article 8 – Of the Church of God
Article 9 – Of the Choosing of the Ministry
Article 10 – Of the Venerable Lord’s Supper
At this time young men are also reminded that when taking the baptismal vow they could also be called into the ministry in later years.
Article 11 – Of Foot washing
Article 12 – Of Holy Matrimony
Article 13 – Of Civil Government
Article 14 – Of Revenge and Defense by Force
Article 15 – Of the Swearing of Oaths
Article 16 – Of Excommunication and Separation from the Church
There is again a Members’ Meeting after church, this time to take a unanimous vote as to whether or not to take in the new members through baptism.
I’ve never been involved in a case where it’s decided not to go ahead with the baptismal services. But it has happened. Usually the erring young person is given a grace period and the services are delayed a few weeks in such case. But it is rare that this happens.
The “Unterricht” (Lesson/Teaching)
This is a gathering of the ministry and baptismal candidates that takes place on the Friday or Saturday evening before Baptismal Sunday. The ministers take turns reading off the articles in German and answering any questions the young people may have.
At this time the bishop also gives them a chance to change their mind, if they should be having second thoughts, and reminds them that the decision they are making is weighty. They will then be encouraged to spend the rest of their evening at home reading scripture and in prayer.
Article 17 – How to Shun Those Who Are Banned and Separated from the Church.
Article 18 – Of the Resurrection of the Dead
Today is a special day for the young people. Many of their friends and family will come for the services. There will likely be many visiting young people and families. Also, so it will be a big day for the host family.
Church services are pretty much like regular Sunday services except that the ministers have a certain path they follow through the patriarchs and also New Testament stories that pertain to Baptism.
The bishop ends up with the story of Philip and the Ethiopian from Acts 9. He will then ask them to kneel and ask the baptismal questions.
Baptismal Questions (Holmes County):
1 : Can you also confess with the eunuch: Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God ? Answer: Yes, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
2 : Do you also recognize this to be a Christian order, church, and fellowship under which you now submit yourself to ? Answer: Yes
3 : Do you renounce the world, the devil with all his subtle ways, as well as your own flesh and blood, and desire to serve Jesus Christ alone, who died on the cross for you ? Answer: Yes
4 : Do you also promise before God and His church that you will support these teachings and regulations (Ordnung) with the Lord’s help’ faithfully attend the services of the church and to help counsel and work in it, and to not forsake it, whether it leads you to life or death ? Answer: Yes
Then there’s the prayer, with the applicants kneeling and the rest of the congregation standing. Everyone else is seated except the deacon and the bishop.
The bishop will hold his cupped hands on top of the applicant’s head and the deacon will pour three times, while the bishop says,”Upon your Faith which you have confessed before God and many witnesses, you are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.”
After each one has been baptized he will offer his hand and a kiss of peace (for males, the bishop’s wife will do the honors for females) and give this benediction: “You are now no longer guests and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.”
Then services are closed following the usual pattern, and a meal and fellowship is shared.
Now that you are a member of the church and therefore considered an adult, there is more responsibility in your life and accountability for your actions. A quote from my journal at the time of my baptism. “It’s hard to explain how one feels, but there is just such a pure, clean feeling in my heart. I hope I can always stay true to what I have promised God today.”
I will close with 2 Cor. 5:17 – Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.
Image credit: cupped hands- amypalko/flickr