Monroe Yoder is an Amish bishop in the Shipshewana area of northern Indiana. In 2018, he invited a tour group into his home and spent time answering their questions, along with his wife Susie.
This was written up on a blog called Midwest Wanderer by someone who attended the occasion. The post was just brought to my attention by a relative of Monroe.
I pulled 5 interesting things from what Monroe shared about his community, and the Amish in general.
Monroe and Susie are actually joined by two other friends. I also added some of my own comments.
If you like this type of post, we’ve got several others in this “5 insights” series – see John Gingerich (Indiana), Reuben Mast (Illinois), and Sam Shetler (Missouri Swartzentruber) – but this is the first from a bishop.
5 Insights From Amish Bishop Monroe Yoder
1. Church service in northern Indiana is rarely held in homes – In this community at least, church service in the actual home is not common. The Amish here usually use utility buildings and workshops for their church gatherings.
The one time I attended church in northern Indiana, this was my experience. I’ve found that to be similar on multiple occasions in Holmes County.
However, the services I’ve attended in Lancaster County have tended to more often be held within a room of the home, often the basement or a large main room.
I don’t know if that reflects size of home or cultural trend or if my sample size would need to be bigger to draw any firm conclusions. Anyway, that’s been my experience.
Another detail – how do Amish know where services in each district will be held?
You would probably easily know where your own district is holding service, but what about if you want to visit another part of the (now 190+ district) settlement?
A bi-weekly paper gives this information along with the scripture readings. An example of this paper in another community is Holmes County’s Gemeinde Register.
2. Five dozen cooks at weddings – Monroe’s friend Irvin says that at the last wedding they attended, 60 cooks were needed to prepare food. This is because weddings can have over 1000 guests. This seems large to me, but maybe that is the way of things in northern Indiana.
Amish weddings typically see guests that come for different lengths of time. Some might be there all day and some just for part of the event. You may have more than one wedding to attend on a given day particularly in places which still stick more closely to a seasonal wedding schedule, like Lancaster County.
3. Page 770 – What is the significance of page 770? This is where the Amish place the piece of paper inside the Ausbund hymnal when selecting a new minister by lot.
Why page 770? This is where you find the Lob Lied, the best-known of Amish hymns and the one sung second at Amish church services. The hymn has been described as “a prayer for the ministers” by a member of this community. The actual procedure of selection can vary in different communities, but follows a similar general format.
4. Amish families are big – That’s not really a groundbreaking piece of information. But Monroe’s family gives a good example of what a large Amish family looks like – one that expands more and more rapidly as the patriarch and matriarch get up in years.
At the time this was posted, Monroe and Susie had 16 children, 98 grandchildren, and 96 great-grandchildren.
Reading that brought to mind an old post “How do Amish keep track of their grandchildren?” When you have close to 200 grands & great-grands, that means another birthday every day or two.
Coming from a family of just 2 children, I have always wondered if children in these larger families feel a want for attention from their parents.
I am going to guess they don’t suffer for that as much as we might think, if at all. Parental attention is certainly supplemented by that of aunts, cousins, brothers, and other family members.
5. Singing youth groups – After the anti-Rumspringa billboard appeared outside Shipshewana, I wondered about supervised/”singing” groups in northern Indiana.
Were they as common or as backed by parents as they are in comparably large communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio? This is how Monroe describes it:
“You know children, they’re all different, and we got some that like to go out and test the things out there, see what’s out there. But we got great big groups, like 200 in a group that get together some evenings. And they come for supper and the neighborhood comes together and helps furnish the supper. They eat, they sing, and then they go home. Then [there’s a] group that we call the wild group, I guess. They got cars, and they go out and… We feel it’s so dangerous to play with that, but sometime they come back.”
I would be curious to know how many are actually a part of the supper & singing groups vs. the “wild groups”. There is no indication of that here. Like with non-Amish youth, Amish adolescent experiences can vary widely.
Irvin adds that of the wild ones, “Most of them come back, and they actually say there’s not anything satisfying out there.” Though, Susie admits, “sometimes you just have to leave them go.”