2013 Amish Conference: Day Two

Late post today.  First event of the morning was the International Perspectives panel with speakers sharing impressions of the Amish from within their respective countries (Italy, China, Japan, and Belgium).  We learned that stereotypes and misconceptions of the Amish extend beyond North American borders, and that some countries have few publications on the Amish (Italy) and some have quite a few (Japan).

Speakers on the International Perspectives panel

It’s actually been a busy day as I played convener for this and two other sessions.  Convening is not the most fun as you have to cut off speakers if they go over time, or at least corral them in the direction of finishing all the while keeping an eye on the time.  Nonetheless I was able to take in a number of interesting talks including one by Rich Stevick on the implications of Facebook use among youth and another on newspaper photography of Amish schoolchildren in northern Indiana by Denise Reiling.

There are a handful of Amish people at the conference (PA, OH, IN) and numerous Plain people of other persuasions (Mennonite, Brethren).  Tonight will be a treat with a group of Amish people from Lancaster coming to the center to sing for conference attendees.

It’s also been a pleasure meeting blog readers where.  I just got some having dinner with Richard Lee Dawley who has written much on Amish in Wisconsin and often shares helpful info on that page of this site.  I was also tickled when one of my Amish friends from Indiana came after reading about the conference in posts here. I also had a nice chat with Marta Perry today among others.

Valerie Weaver-Zercher is giving a talk now on Amish fiction so time to go again.

Update: Valerie speaking.


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    1. Margaret

      That's Beverly Lewis's book!

      Like it or not I love reading Amish fiction. It may not always be accurate but let me give you an example. I went to PA the first as an adult in 2007. I got to Bird in Hand and stopped at one of the many roadside bakeries. The folks had a team of mule outside. I ask the young if I could take pictures of the mules. That I understood no pictures of people and why. He looked at me like what? You don’t want to take my picture! I told him if I wanted him to respect me, then I needed to show him respect.

      Inside I thanked Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunsetter for teaching me about photos. It made that moment most enjoyable. The young man said it was fine to take pictures of animals but not people.

      When I read Amish fiction it akes me to another place. Like perhaps how my ancestors lived. The things we take for granted today they didn’t have then. Life isn’t always who’s right or who’s wrong but about choices and how we get there.

      I don’t have to worry about cuss words, grown up situations, x-rated written scenes. Life moves along slowly but ever so forward.

      So please don’t hate me because I have authors who’s books I love to read. At least it’s innocent escapism, or it’s meant to be. Far better to read Amish fiction than watch some shows on the idiot box that are really too grown up for me!

      1. OldKat


        Margaret wrote: “So please don’t hate me because I have authors who’s books I love to read. At least it’s innocent escapism, or it’s meant to be”.

        Margaret; why would anyone HATE you because of the authors you elect to read? If they do, they need to get a life.

        BTW: Cool story about the photo.

        1. Margaret

          Gentle response

          I know there was a discussion about this several weeks ago. Not sureexactly but it seemed like some were against Amish fiction because it doesn’t represent “real” life or something to that effect.

          That’s why it’s fiction. It’s made up. I know a number of authors have visited, continue to visit, have their sources–so as to blend realism to their books.

          Since 9/11 I just this world as the crazy mixed up place it is. These books allow me a chance to escape break the PTSD and reconnect with me.

    2. Busy conference day!

      Very interesting panels today, including a discussion on the Amish and citizenship, and one of the Amish beard-cutting case and whether or not it met the criteria of a Hate Crime. The luncheon speakers went into this case in more detail, and it was a fascinating insight into this complex case. Karen Johnson Weiner’s talk contrasted the Swartzentruber Amish ways to those of other groups.

      And Erik did a fine job of moderating the discussion on internet use among various groups!

      Lots of good conversations with folks over meals and coffee cups!

      1. A special singing

        Marta I missed Karen’s talk, unfortunately (though she was convener for my session this morning). But every time I meet her I can understand why she has such a good rapport with the Amish. A very warm and down to earth person.

        One highlight for me was the Amish who came to sing for the groups on Friday night. I have been to various Amish singing occasions before but this one for some reason was particularly moving. I like how Donald Kraybill had the audience join in the last verse of the final song.

    3. Al in Ky

      Thanks for the updates on the conference. I would have been
      interested in attending the session on photography of Amish
      schoolchildren. I get the Local Sugarcreek Edition of The Budget,
      as well as the National (Amish/Mennonite) Edition. Quite often
      there are pictures in the Local Edition of Amish schoolchildren who attend public schools in the Holmes county area. I have often wondered what the ordnung in their districts has to say about that.

      It’s surprising to hear about the number of international people attending. I would think many Amish people would also be surprised
      to know that people from many different countries want to learn
      more about Amish life.

    4. Helen Farrar

      Enjoying conference


      I am at the conference with you Erik and am learning so much regarding healthcare practices of the Anabaptist groups as well as medical partnerships with a variety of Anabaptist communities. I have seen you from afar and appreciate your posts about sessions I have not been able to attend as they conflict with the health related ones.

      I hope your readers have had the opportunity to watch/listen to the streaming options, everything has been great.

      Helen Farrar
      University of Oklahoma
      Nurse Scientist

      1. Helen I am sorry we somehow did not meet in person but it is understandable with the number of people and things going on. It seems to me there were especially many health-related events and speakers. I am just processing the last few days now. I hope you found it a valuable time.

    5. New York State of Mind

      I am very interested in healthcare practices as I am allergic and can’t take many of the medicines that the MD have. I am really interested in the Amish way of medicine. I am sure there are times they go to the doctor, but I also know they have their own ways.


    6. Debbie H

      Sounds like an interesting day. Hope you are able to post more pictures and have time to visit with many friends. I wish I could have gone, but maybe next year.

      1. It was Debbie, hopefully the next time. I do have a few more photos I will put up in a later post. They are not the best quality though as I used the camera on my tablet to take them (tablet was the new tech I decided to adopt, after at least a little thought, a few months ago 🙂 ).

    7. OldKat

      Yep, wish I were there.

      Like Al said; thanks for the updates. Sounds like an interesting event.

    8. Alice Mary

      Darn! I forgot about the streaming yesterday (day off), but can feel some of the excitement of the conference by the postings here. There are so many interesting-sounding topics that I,too,have wondered about. I look forward to more postings from those of you who are in “actual” attendance.

      Erik,what a brave man you are! Convening sounds like something that would make my knees shake (shades of 7th grade “public speaking” in Sister Assumpta’s class). Of course, depending on the “convener”,it could also contribute to a sense of “power” –surely not YOUR motivation,, Erik! 😉

      Note to Margaret: I read Amish fiction for the same reasons you do! I sure don’t hate you for it,that’s for sure! Like you, it also reminds me of how my ancestors lived, since I remember a lot of the same household items, practices, etc. that I remember my grandmothers used, the few short years I knew them (they passed away by the time I was 7 or 8.)

      Alice Mary

      1. No, nothing I relish Alice Mary, having to hurry up some particularly interesting talks. Speakers were generally quite good on time though. Papers were supposed to be a max of 12 pages though which no doubt helped.

    9. ADalton


      Now I’m curious: What are some the the stereotypes about the Amish that people in other countries hear?

      1. Stereotypes

        The Amish are dirty; women are attractive/unattractive; Amish only take showers once a week…these were some of the ones I recall. Unfortunately I couldn’t take quite the notes I would have liked to with one eye on the clock and coordinating q-and-a’s.

      2. Janina

        Stereotypes from Belgium

        As I was at the panel discussion representing Belgium, I can tell you about the stereotypes that I know of.

        I can say that in Belgium I haven’t heard the stereotypes of Amish only taking showers once a week, or the people being dirty. What people here know about the Amish, are the most remarkable aspects like the horse & buggy transportation, the plain clothing, the language. However, I was surprised to find that some people knew about the telephone shanties and Rumspringa.

        In general though, people in Belgium know these “fun facts” that we find fascinating. People don’t understand where the beliefs come from, what the Amish values are, what their history is, etc.

        Most people here in Belgium know about the Amish from TV, film, documentaries. Some have also read fiction about the Amish. Apparently we have a couple of youth novels about Rumspringa available here. Though I can’t say I ever read one myself, a lot of my friends told me that’s how they knew about the Amish and Rumspringa.

        Of course there are also misconceptions about the Amish. One of our newspapers recently published an article about every Amish teenager being on Facebook to plan wild parties while on Rumspringa. And we could also follow “the beard process” in our media. Not much background information was provided though to clarify what the meaning of this was. It was rather published to get sensation.

    10. ADalton

      I always find it interesting to hear what people in other countries think of peoples and things in the US.

    11. stephanie

      What would be the need for an Amish conference? What is the objective?

      1. Purposes of the conference?

        Stephanie this is a big picture question that I had not even considered, but beyond the academic purposes, hopefully the research and information generated by the conference will have benefits for understanding Amish and Plain communities, some of which will lead to their benefit.

        There were quite a few presentations on medical and health topics, for instance. Also on Amish education, the implications of technology for the Amish…for instance the Amish youth on Facebook presentation by Rich Stevick and Chuck Jantzi, and the new book by Rich Stevick which it is tied to, poses questions about the nature of Amish youth involvement online which I think are highly relevant for Amish people to consider (and Facebook/internet is an area most Amish are not well-versed in)…a few days ago I was telling a young family I am friends with that I think this book will be one Amish parents ought to read, even though they might not be comfortable with what they learn.

        There weren’t droves of Amish themselves at the conference, but there was a small representation, as well as members of numerous other groups. It would be interesting to know their opinions.

      2. Linda

        Stephanie, the purpose of the conference may also have a little bit to do with the launch of the new book, THE AMISH, and the research that went into writing that book.

    12. Sandra Kathleen

      Is there a transcript or video of the various meetings/talks that one can obtain?

      Erik, what was the most enlightening aspect of the conference for you?