I need no mansion here below…

…is the title of the hymn we sang the other morning after breakfast at Abe’s.  Abe and his wife Sarah like to sing a song and read a chapter from the Bible before starting the day.

The Amish enjoy music. Last Wednesday, Daniel was out late at a singing at a neighbor’s.  Amish men get together, usually once a week, to practice the high German church hymns which mark the beginning and end of church service.  The youth have their own singings as well, a prime time to become acquainted with the opposite sex.


By last Sunday night I had moved to Abe’s, just a couple farms over from Daniel’s.  Abe’s parents and seven of his brothers and sisters came over and we sang for about an hour in English.  The hymns came from an old songbook and had titles like ‘Heavenly Sunshine’, and ‘Must I Go and Empty Handed?’.  Most dated from around 1900.

While Abe does not get involved with stringed instruments, he does play a mean harmonica.  On my first morning after breakfast he got it out and ran through five or six hymns.  Sarah plays as well, though she was too busy cleaning up to get in on the action.

Even Abe’s son, 18-month old Elam, has his own.  The little guy was feeling a bit under the weather and ended up falling asleep on Abe’s lap that morning as he played.  A few minutes into it, Elam woke with a start–inadvertently sounding out a couple of notes on the harmonica which he’d continued to grip in his mouth and in his little hands as he slept.

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    1. Dave Carrig

      A beutiful picture – thanks for sharing it. And I’m glad they let you be a part of it.

    2. That paints the most lovely picture my friend!

    3. Doug

      Wonderful entry as are nearly all of them. My family background is Mennonite Brethren which as you know is like the Amish in many ways.

      My generation (children of the 1940s and later) are the first not to grow up in the MB Church. My parents “backslid” and we all became Baptists and worse. 😉

      Reading your site has helped me understand many things about our family and it’s traditions. Most of my exposure to Mennonite ways via my grandparents and I see traces of their ideas and lifestyle in your description of the Amish. The at home singing is a particularly pleasant memory from long ago in my childhood.

      Doug K.

      1. Lynn

        Heinrich Frey

        I found recently I’m descended from a man named Heinrich Frey and his Quaker wife, Katherine Levering. So the Amish cultural lesson is quite interesting to me. I understand Heinrich was the founder of one of the Amish communities in Pennsylvania. Would love to know more about this family and their descendants. I’m talking about oral tradition history, not so much genealogy and things already recorded in the history books. But the information passed from one generation to the next.

    4. Thank you x3!

      Michelle and Dave I tried to paint the picture as best I could–it’s one I’m sure I’ll keep in mind for a good while.

      Abe rang me this morning to wish me a safe trip. I was snoozing when the call came in, sometime pre-7am (I have since ‘backslid’ as well to sleeping in a bit). I’m reminded I should give thanks again for wonderful people like him and so many others I’ve had the good fortune to meet, Amish and non-Amish alike.

      Doug that is truly nice to hear. Sounds like you did something like this growing up?

    5. Doug

      >Doug that is truly nice to >hear. Sounds like you did >something like this growing >up?

      My grandparents, being a good deal more “modern” than the Amish, owned several instruments including and upright piano. Family sing-fests were common for my parents as kids but a little more rare for my generation except when Grandpa and Grandma wanted to hear family music. In addition to the piano there was a violin, a mandolin, and..gasp…a banjo! The family jam sessions were not going to win any Grammy Awards but everyone had fun. Music was, of course, limited to old hymns and Sunday school songs, no worldly music allowed!


    6. Reading your post I thought about the singings I took part in at Abe’s–I really appreciate the family element of it, even if there were no Pavarottis in the room–although I would say that they all seemed to have very nice voices, especially the women. Amish church music is something else though. Very powerful with 150 voices going all at once.

    7. David Hathaway

      Reading the Bible after breakfast brought back memories of my days on the farm as a young boy in Delaware County, New York. The Bible was always read after breakfast and then the Lord’s Prayer was recited by all. We would sometimes sing hymns in the evening accompanied by the piano in the parlor.
      I hope to visit an Amish community someday as there seem to be many similarities to my upbringing.

    8. That is nice to hear David. I hope you get a chance to.


    9. Wanda jo

      Would like to meet Amish/Mennonite families
      or those of like mind faith to walk with and learn and live amongst the brothers and sisters
      that follow after the teachings of Jesus Christ
      for I am a believer who desires and longs to leave all the earthy possesions and the world behind to walk and follow the things of Christ