Amish schools in Lancaster County have been closed, but church continues on a regular schedule, as do weddings. That’s from a report in Lancaster Online concerning Amish response to the coronavirus.  Here’s their summary of the situation:

One-room Amish schoolhouses across Lancaster County are closed for the week, yet scores of Amish wedding goers Tuesday filled a big tent on a farm near New Holland.

The Amish two days earlier crowded into homes for lengthy worship services followed by communal meals, as is their practice. But hosts had hand sanitizer available, and those with cold symptoms stayed home.

Members of the Amish community are aware of the coronavirus and, like many others in Lancaster County, are starting to take precautions. But with no known local cases yet, they are not overly concerned, according to over a dozen who spoke with reporters Tuesday.

With the exception of closing schools, their routines are little changed.

The article quotes several Amish people on their thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. One woman says that while church services are not being canceled, things could change: “Next week could be a different story. Nobody really knows how to quite handle it.”

Weddings are tough to reschedule and are “likely to go on.” The photo below is from a wedding that took place yesterday near New Holland.

Photo by Suzette Wenger/Lancaster Online

About another wedding, a store clerk said that “I know (the bride) tried to keep the guests to a minimum.”

It sounds like businesses are open, but may be slow, at least according to one anecdotal report from Country Housewares Store.

Amish choice to close

It sounds like the school closing was an Amish decision: “The Amish said they closed their schools for the week more out of respect for the government and the wider public than out of a health concern.”

Pennsylvania’s governor ordered all PA schools K-12 to close statewide Monday, while private schools were “encouraged to close.” So the Amish are going along with this encouragement from the state government.

Dan recently asked if Amish would comply if they were ordered to close schools by the government. I replied that for the most part I didn’t think it would be a big issue. This example shows that Amish, at least in this large community, are willing to go along with it.

However one detail in the above comment stands out – “for the week.”

That suggests that next week they may re-evaluate the situation. Maybe not, but the statement has wiggle room in it. Not sure if that was intentional or not.

Other States

How are other Amish communities’ schools affected by the COVID-19 situation?

In Ohio, public and private schools were closed by the governor’s order on Monday, for three weeks.

In addition to the many traditional Amish schools, the Holmes County community has a significant number of Amish children attending the local public school system. Schools in Geauga County were delivered letters on this several days before the closure.

Other states with significant Amish populations have also shut down schools statewide. They include Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. Some of the orders appear to cover private schools, while others do not.

In Indiana, roughly 200 districts have closed down schools while about 70 remain open. One which has shut down would be in the Nappanee area (Wa-Nee Schools). Northern Indiana, like Holmes County, has a significant number of Amish children attending public schools.

Whether Amish schools are affected by the above statewide shutdown orders is not immediately clear, though in the cases of orders covering private schools, we can guess that the Amish are affected.

Though as I said in my comment to Dan, I’d be surprised if many Amish protest against closing schools if told or recommended to do so. In Lancaster County’s case at least, encouragement was enough.

UPDATED March 20: Church closings; Fasting Days and family worship

I got some comments on the situation from an Amish friend in Holmes County, regarding church services. This is what he shared with me yesterday:

“The situation has changed, though, with so many local businesses closed AND the Amish schools. With Sunday fast approaching, there has been discussion about how to handle church services, with some feeling they should be called off while others feel it’s ridiculous to do so. If our district does have church, I think we will skip it.”

And today:

“There is no word here yet about Sunday church, but in phone conversations with Amish friends in parts of Ont. and Allen Co., IN, regarding canceling tours, I heard church services ARE canceled in their communities and a “Fasting Day” planned instead. I am assuming church will be canceled here. Or regular Old Order churches, at any rate. I assume most if not all families will have a quiet family worship at home as is typical for non-church Sundays and Fast Days.”

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