Lancaster Amish Outline 5 Points For Re-Starting Church Services

Lancaster County Amish churches decided to suspend worship services over a month ago. How will they resume them again?

We find an outline of a plan in this article in the Mennonite World Review. The article is not just about the Amish. It gives a good overview on how various Plain Anabaptist churches have responded to the coronavirus situation (hat tip to Al in KY).

The churches covered are Old Order Mennonites, Hutterites, Amish, and Bruderhof. It’s an interesting look at some other Anabaptist groups that we occasionally cover, but don’t go into great depth on here.

As for the Amish, the article closes with a list of recommendations from Lancaster County Amish leaders on how to start holding church service again:

In Lancaster County, Pa., Amish leaders have outlined how they will start to worship together with five recommendations:

1. Only members of the congregation should attend the worship service. No visiting between district congregations.

2. If any member of a family is sick, the whole family should remain at home.

3. The meal, called the Gmeh esse, provided by the host family for the whole church, will be canceled.

4. Worship services will not be held in the hosting family’s home but in a machine shed, barn or outside if the weather permits.

5. No hand shaking.

These are obviously not “airtight” rules, but seem sensible.

They are limiting visiting between districts, restricting personal contact by canceling the church meal and handshakes, and advising families with ill members to remain at home.

Moving worship services to more spacious areas or even outside as we move into warmer weather still may not mean adhering to six feet of social distancing.

But it would seem better than sitting packed in a cramped basement. Perhaps households could sit together, with some distancing maintained between families.

There is no recommendation on using masks or other PPE here. Perhaps most importantly, nor is there an emphasis on the high-risk groups (elderly and those with underlying conditions) which make up the vast majority of COVID-19 fatalities.

When will church restart?

When will these Amish churches restart service? Pennsylvania is scheduled to begin a three-phase reopening process on May 8th (articles no longer online).

That aside, religious gatherings are exempt from restrictions in the state anyway. In keeping with the Amish way of doing things, it sounds like the decision will be left up to the individual congregations:

An Amish leader told to me, “We have tried to take what the government and medical people tell us seriously. But we can only encourage and offer our advice. Our people will then need to decide case by case in this struggle against a deadly disease.”

If you view this world as the only thing there is, then you will do all you can to protect your life in it. But if you view this as temporary, as you hopefully pass through on the way to a better place, that can change how you see things.

Amish Church Gathering

Some argue that certain Amish churches take that idea to an extreme. But those churches generally in the “mainstream”, like the Lancaster Amish, seem to try to balance concerns for both physical and spiritual well-being.

Regardless of the particular group, church service is very important for the Amish in living out their religious faith. For those Amish not currently holding church, it will need to restart in some form sooner or later.

How soon will that be? And will the guidelines outlined here prove effective enough?

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    1. Bill Dudley

      Just so you know the backstory, senior Bishop Gid sent word not to hold services yet, but some younger Bishops already have, I know Groffdale did.

      1. I heard from someone else as well that at least some had started already, but didn’t get a sense of how many, do you have an idea? I guess some are more eager to get back to something like regular worship gatherings.

    2. Lorna Klotzbach

      Lancaster Amish Outline 5 Points For Re-Starting Church Services

      This truly is a dilemma–practice worship in the manner one believes is right, even though it puts people at risk of a disease, or, abandon those dearly held worship practices to “stay safer.” It seems as though many Christians gave up their right to worship too easily, without any thought of how to creatively meet differently in order to preserve this precious RIGHT. Online church services are a blessing, and could have been combined with outdoor services–even though they would be missing the comforts Americans seem to require in order to be willing to worship God.
      I hesitate to call the Amish who continue to meet and share their meals–out of the same bowl for men and for women–“extreme.” That which seems extreme to us, is a life-long custom that makes them come together, no matter what the provocation to want to stay apart, in order to get food! It “forces” interaction and sharing, and makes it harder for folks to retreat into hardened, isolated islands of resentment. The rest of us Christians might study this practice for inspiration…. While I worry about my very conservative Amish friends, I respect that their way of handling this COVID19 pandemic might have merit–trusting God, accepting His plans, being careful to stay away from English stores. I respect that they put more of a priority on worshipping God and supporting each other during a frightening time, than on huddling in lonely, fright-filled isolation. (No position, taken to extreme, seems to have merit, as the finally-available COVID19 data are now showing.)

      1. Your comment offers good food for thought Lorna, thank you. Hopefully we can unwind some of the extremes now that time has passed and the picture become somewhat clearer.

    3. kerry

      The Swartzentrubers in my area have been holding services this whole time (Ohio). None of the Amish of any sort are wearing masks here. And there has been no big surge amongst the population, Amish or English, that I’ve seen here. (Of course, many don’t go to the doctor for things so who knows for sure, but they say there’s not). We usually shop at Amish- and Mennonite-owned stores right now because they have everything we need, and it’s been business as usual. No politics here, just interesting to me how things have moved on like always here with daily life.

    4. Stephanie Zito

      Lancaster Amish Outline 5 Points For Re-Starting Church Services

      Amen! I agree with the Amish response towards the Covid-19 and Re-Starting Church Services. Most importantly is what the writer says in this article:

      “If you view this world as the only thing there is, then you will do all you can to protect your life in it. But if you view this as temporary, as you hopefully pass through on the way to a better place, that can change how you see things.”

      God Bless the Amish!

    5. Iowa Amish church

      As of this past Sunday, Amish in the Bloomfield, Iowa community have re-started church services, with some adjustments:

      ‘Bloomfield’s Amish community also resumed church services Sunday, but Delbert Beechy said social distancing was observed and benches were placed six-feet apart. While the Amish typically enjoy a Sunday meal together after their services, that was not the case Sunday. There was no handshaking, and congregants left shortly after the service was over.

      “We were glad to get together, however,” Beechy said.’

    6. Angel


    7. required


      The amish are in a vice. They are the ultimate target of satan’s apocalyptic witch hunt. Hardly inspiring to hear they stooped to this luciferian travesty. I appreciate hearing they are among the few humans left to embrace persecution at least in the case of buggy reflectors. Few humans remain who will do what’s right instead of what’s easy. Now it is known how despondent the tribulation is.