Members of Amish and four other Lancaster County churches came together for a group singing recently, an event which happens every “couple of years.”
If you’ve ever wondered what Amish church song sounds like, the audio clip below gives you a feel for it.
You’ll hear “As Jesus Christ, the Son of God”, found on page 217 of Anabaptist songbook The Ausbund (note: to listen, you may have to click play once, close the Soundcloud screen, then click play again).
To be honest this sounds a little different from what I am accustomed to hearing in Amish church – possibly due to the number of voices, lack of female voices(?), or generally the acoustics of the recording.
But you hear the song leader vocalizing the opening syllable of each line, the remaining voices crashing in in unison, and the drawn-out notes characteristic of Amish church song.
An Amish leader noted for the Lancaster Online article that that while the hymns Amish sing have historically been sung without written notes, recently a group has recorded the notes:
“We are getting closer and more unified, as a community. We’re singing more and more as a whole and our younger generations are now relying on the notes to keep these tunes preserved,” the song leader says. “Before there was a little bit of arguments: ‘My grandfather always sang the songs right. Sam’s grandfather had a little bit disoriented.’ With the notes, it unifies our community and I appreciate that and most of our people do appreciate that.
The event is hosted by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and Swiss Pioneer Associates. Other churches represented at the singing were:
- Old Order River Brethren
- Groffdale Mennonite Conference
- Weaverland Mennonite Conference
- Church of the Brethren
These churches all fall under the Anabaptist umbrella along with the Amish, with some resembling the Amish more so culturally and in lifestyle, others less so.
For example, Old Order River Brethren dress is quite similar to that of the Amish (though they use English in services; those of you familiar with the late Stephen Scott may know that he was a member of this church). Groffdale Mennonites use horse-drawn transport like the Amish. The Weaverland Conference drive motor vehicles and are also known as “Black-bumper Mennonites”.
Singing style differs as well. For instance, compare the above Amish song with this hymn by the Church of the Brethren, sung in English complete with chorus and harmonizing:
Differences aside, the chance to come together in song was seen as unifying. As another leader put it:
“We’re all different personalities. We’re all different temperaments,” says John Dietz, a local Old Order River Brethren song leader. “Singing is one way of merging that.”
No matter the denomination, singing is an activity that transcends earthly bounds, as David Sauder, an Old Order River Brethren bishop noted:
“For an eternity, singing is significant here and in heaven,” he says. “We want to thank the Lord for the privilege to do something that will carry over into eternity.”
You can read the article and find all five song clips here.