The Holy Kiss

I’ll admit it’s a little odd to see an Amishman plant a kiss on his neighbor.  But it’s a common-enough sight, one you’ll see before Amish church service.

The holy kiss is a practice with Scriptural basis (more on that below).  As with other Amish practices, the way it is done varies.  In some groups just the ministers exchange the holy kiss.  In others, baptized church members also participate (common in New Order churches).

Before Amish church service, men and women gather in separate places (usually the men somewhere outside, such as by the barn, and the women inside the home).  It is traditional for new arrivals to walk down the line, to shake hands and exchange greetings.  This is when the holy kiss may be exchanged as well.

Amish Holy KissThe holy kiss is also given at baptism, from the bishop to new male church members.  The bishop’s wife will do the same for females (see The Amish Way p. 50).  It is also a part of Communion service and ordinations.

Where does the holy kiss come from?  The Truth in Word and Work is a publication of the New Order Amish of Holmes County, Ohio.  The booklet outlines areas of belief and provides Scriptural support for key practices.   Here is what The Truth in Word and Work has to say about the holy kiss (p. 57):


The holy kiss is a Christian greeting commanded in the Scriptures.  It is a token of love and fellowship with one another and with the Lord.  It is to be practiced regularly by all Christians as they meet and fellowship together, as a brotherhood.

The Scriptural teaching that we are to greet or salute one another with a kiss, is understood as a command.  It is mentioned in the following Scriptures.  “Salute one another with an holy kiss….” (Rom. 16:16)  “All the brethren greet you.  Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.”  (I Cor. 16:20)  “Greet one another with an holy kiss.” (II Cor. 13:12)  “Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.” (I Thess. 5: 26)  “Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity….” (I Pet. 5:14)

Brethren are to greet brethren, and sisters to greet sisters.  It is also to be performed in purity and respect, for it is a holy kiss of love.  “Greet them that love us in the faith….” (Titus 3:15)

As the bread and the cup are empty symbols in communion if the communicant does not partake in the spirit of communion, so also the holy kiss is a mere form of greeting if the participant does not walk in true holiness and righteousness, loving one another with a pure heart fervently.  (I Pet. 1:22)

It must always be borned in mind that the holy kiss was not, nor is, a mere cultural or customary greeting, nor can it be replaced by such in our day.

So we see in this statement of faith numerous examples where the kiss is commanded in the Bible.  Today some Christian churches share a sign of peace, though I’m not sure how many other churches regularly exchange a literal kiss as the Amish do.

An aside: At a church service while in Pennsylvania, Izabela had an awkward experience with the holy kiss.  As she gathered with the ladies of the congregation before service, while greeting and the holy kiss was going on, she was told, “You don’t have to.  It’s up to you,”  by one of the women.  This rather terrified her in the moment.  She’d been “warned” the night before about the practice, and told that it was just for members.  Now it sounded like she could join in if she wished.  In retrospect the lady probably just meant that she could come in and shake hands.  We had a chuckle about this later.

The holy kiss is not a peck on the cheek, but a full-fledged smack on the lips.  Customarily, Amish men and women don’t show much physical affection in public (one reason this practice stands out).  And as noted above, the holy kiss is not exchanged between men and women.  The kiss is rather a  “token of love and fellowship” shared among “brethren” and among “sisters” of the church.

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    1. LeeAnn

      I can understand Izabela’s feeling awkward with this kind of moment. I wouldn’t feel comfortable myself having another women kiss me on the mouth. I have seen many different cultures where the same sex or both kiss each other on the mouth, but Im just not comfortable with that. Just like I wouldn’t feel comfortable if a man who is not my husband or boyfriend came up and kissed me.

      Many feel as you said this is a show of brotherly love, but some of us were not raised this way. It took me a long time just to feel comfortable to allow others to give me a hug.

    2. Alice Mary

      Awkward, indeed!

      I’m with Izabella and LeeAnn. The Amish “holy kiss” is just not something we “Englisch” are used to. Growing up Amish in a community where this is the usual practice, the holy kiss is no big deal (and yet, as a biblical command, I guess it really IS—no disrespect intended!). It’s really what you’ve become accustomed to or not that makes for an awkward moment. For those of us who might not have the greatest immune systems, the “holy kiss” could be detrimental to our health (I wonder if it actually helps or hinders the Amish immune system?) My guess would be that the Amish would see any illness that was spread in this manner to be the will of God (at least the older order Amish).

      A winter or two ago, when the swine flu was making its rounds in my area, my sister (Catholic) told me her parish made “the handshake of peace” optional, so as not to spread illness throughout the congregation—and ample hand sanitizer was available, too.

      Alice Mary

      1. On the one hand I wouldn’t be surprised if people found it surprising that the Amish do this. It’s not easy to really picture Amish people doing unless you’ve seen it.

        Though as you point out, looking at it from a Biblical standpoint, it makes perfect sense that they do. I believe in other churches it is used more often in special circumstances or has morphed into something else. The Amish still uphold this Biblical directive in a literal sense.

    3. Lance

      Having been to over 60 Amish church services, this no longer bothers me, but it did at the beginning. Many of the men just touch lips together, a few give real smackers. I had to learn to say ‘nee'(no) real fast as I had several not pay attention to who was in front of them. For all who do it, it is a challenge to do this and not knock your 4″ brimmed hat off.

      Our bishop was asked to oversee a group of Amish that broke off from the Swartzentrubers. At that time, they were not participating in this Holy Kiss. When our bishop tried to bring this into their church, one woman in particular was in steadfast refusal. When asked why, she said ain’t no way I am kissing her! pointing at another woman. So, the Amish are not all that different from the rest of us. They have skeletons in their closets too. Yes, they did adopt the Holy Kiss and those two did kiss without getting too bent out of shape.

      1. Valerie


        So, did you ever give NM a Holy Kiss?
        Or is this only practiced at church?

        We give hugs, guess that isn’t even scriptural 🙁

        1. Lance

          In our group, only members in good standing with the church participated in the Holy Kiss and also with people that we are in full fellowship with, if they are visitors. All members participated at every church service and I did see visitors do it occasionally upon meeting, even though it was not at church. When we enter church, the men walk past the young women(junge)and shake hands and then we do the same with the seated married women and their children. So, we still greet everyone at church, both male and female, however, you do not greet the people you came to church with that day. There are no cross gender kisses.

          Valerie, in direct response to your question, no, NM and I never did this as a) I am not a church member and he was and b) we were in very different fellowships. Now that he has left the Amish and I am headed back, it probable that it will never happen.

    4. Robin Wyatt

      With all the new flues and germs that have come in to our lives in the last few years, I wouldn’t do it on the mouth, on the check would be fine. As being Sicilian and Portugese, it is in my nature to hug and kiss on checks.


      1. Mary Yoder

        Holy Kiss

        You say not on the mouth but on the cheek, if you want the true holy spirit and blessing of the Holy Kiss, why not do it in the true way and receive the added inner feeling of unity?

        I am not recommending a wet smack, just a conservative peck on the mouth with a nice smile on your face.

        Now about sharing an illness, why would we worry about getting sick when we are following what we feel is God’s word? I feel we are protected when we share in His word, same as visiting the sick and being a caregiver. This much said out of a need to verify what the Holy Kiss means to us.

        1. Leanna

          Mary Yoder said ‘You say not on the mouth but on the cheek, if you want the true holy spirit and blessing of the Holy Kiss, why not do it in the true way and receive the added inner feeling of unity?’ TRUE WAY? I don’t see a verse in scripture that says that is the true way. It is more important to stick to the principle and not get caught up with the application.

    5. I grew up with handshakes and hugs, not so much kisses. So can understand how that would feel awkward. For some Hutterite families kisses are common though, but they’re mostly for family members.

    6. Forest

      This is also practiced by some conservative Mennonites. Our Southeastern Conference does it.

    7. Mary

      The Holy Kiss

      In my early preteen years I had the unique opportunity to be somewhat “fostered” by an Old Order Amish family. Oh the pranks they played when I was new to all things Amish. All in good fun though! The kids did use to tease me about The Holy Kiss. I couldn’t wait to experience it. Until I realized that the cute Amish boy I had a crush on would not be participating with me!
      I thought it was a lovely tradition and miss that close connection these days.
      There are no Conservative groups nearby so I don’t get to go to church anymore.

    8. Don Curtis

      My son Marks' view

      I read this post to my son, Mark, who joined the Amish. He related that when he saw the “Holy Kiss” practiced the first time he visited an Amish church service he was somewhat taken aback, as well. I know that I’ve never kissed another man on the lips, not even my sons. But, Mark says that he’s gotten used to it and appreciates what it signifies. It is a symbol of brotherly love and acceptance. The kiss is only practiced, in Mark’s church, among members in good standing of the Amish church. They greet English visitors or visitors from Mennonite or Plain car churches with a handshake but the Holy Kiss is reserved for Amish brothers, only. Mark thought the description “full-fledged smack on the lips” could have been more respectfully worded . He explained that the Holy Kiss is preached and taught to be a dry kiss. A non-sensual greeting of brotherly love. It is in no way to be a slobbery or sensual kiss. Mark said he would really miss it, now, if the church didn’t practice it. Also, he said that witholding the kiss to an erring brother is one of the forms of church discipline. It also became an issue in the New Order Church, Mark related, that some of the youth were passing by in greeting and totally missing the other person. Just inclining their head and passing on by. They were calling it “the Holy Miss.” This was brought up in the New Order Minister’s Meeting and was absolutely forbidden. The Holy Kiss was to be the Holy Kiss. Anyway, these are Mark’s thoughts. I go to a Methodist church. We have a time in the service when the folks go around and shake hands. I don’t go around. I’m doing good with my walker to just get to church. But folks come over to greet me. One lady, every Sunday I am there, comes over and kisses me on the top of my bald head. But I don’t figure the Amish will be practicing that any timem soon.

      1. Don, thanks for this explanation from Mark. Please let him know that “full-fledged smack” was not meant to convey anything slobbery or the like (that’s not how I read the word “smack”, anyway), but rather just to emphasize that it is not a peck on the cheek (or a half-kiss, or “simulated” kiss, or whatever).

        I half-intended it in a sense of humor, perhaps not unlike “the Holy Miss”, I’m assuming, was meant to be funny (at least it made me smile 🙂 ).

        I think this is a topic not everyone is comfortable thinking about, but…it is what it is. I guess the young “Holy Missers” in Mark’s church take some getting used to the idea too.

        1. Don Curtis

          Holy Kiss

          I called and read your response to Mark. He wanted you to know that the youth boys in question were not from his community but were visiting from Holmes County. Also, that the ministers and the adult members of Mark’s church did not take this “Holy Miss” greeting lightly. It was referred to as sacreligious, disrespectful, verging on blasphemy. It was brought up before all of the New Order Amish bishops and ministers at a meeting in Holmes County and was strongly condemned and forbidden unanimously by all of them. It was never to happen, again. I guess a lot of the Amish take this really seriously.

          1. Thanks Don, I appreciate the response. I should say I think I misread the first post–now I understand the boys themselves were calling it the “Holy Miss”, not others (adults) in the congregation.

            Well, I do not intend to make light or be disrespectful of anything here, so my apologies to Mark that it came across that way. I appreciate the fact that Amish take this practice seriously and maintain it as an important demonstration of love and unity. I hope this post as a whole at least got that point across.

            Thank you for following up.

            1. Tom Geist

              We get it...

              I am non Amish and so understood and appreciate your point about the smack versus peck Erik. Plus I got a chuckle out of the “Holy Miss” line. That shows me some Amish have a sense of humor. The fact that the leaders got so bent out of shape tells me something about them as well.
              This is a good topic. (Holy Kiss) When, why and how questions are normal. Mature understanding of the subject with a little nervous giggling thrown is is par for the course.

        2. David Stinnett

          kiss..your comment

          thank you for explaining the holy kiss practiced by Amish… your comment “smack on the lips” was an answer to my silent question. I did not take it as a disrespectful comment but a clarification. I suggest others did as well… just wanted to share my thought.
          I am researching Near death Experience (NDE) … one person responded her (NDE)experience with a “kiss on the lips’ in her experience … I was stumped by the act …lost for understanding. but you helped me clear it up as a practice not uncommon with biblical times… thanks

    9. Ed

      Wikipedia has a good article about the holy kiss, with scriptural references. Apparently in some Eastern Orthodox churches it is exchanged among clergy during the Mass.

    10. Don Curtis

      Holy Kiss

      I’ve talked to Mark, again, and he said I’d better explain this fully. When the youth boys from Holmes County were confronted, a little, by the Belle Center boys about their not greeting with the Holy Kiss but just inclining their heads as they went by they laughed and said, “Oh yeah, we call that the Holy Miss.” To Mark and to many of the other Amish this smacked of serious disrespect and maybe even a little insolence. I have never been to an Amish church service but Mark says that the Holy Kiss is taken very seriously. It is not something that is joked about. It is like calling Communion the Holy Snack or the like. To the Amish it is something special. To me, in my church, the greeting is just saying hello and shaking hands. Mark says that to the Amish, the greeting before going in for church is a true symbol that you are accepted as a brother and member of the Church. It is not just saying, “Hi.” It is a symbol that you are a part of the Body of Christ.

      1. Don, thanks again for taking the time. And please tell Mark we appreciate him explaining this.

    11. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      The other religious 'intimacy' thing

      I wonder/hope if/that the practice of Foot Washing among the Amish will be discussed, I would imagine that there are people out there who are uncomfortable with that ancient Christian practice. This topic, Holy Kiss, was very well done, even if there was a little bit of an “ick!” factor to it, and the replies have been educational and enlightening. Thanks Erik and everyone.

    12. LeeAnn

      In my church many people will come up and shake hands or hug. I think this is common with those that know each other well, and in greeting visitors or new members

      I respect the differences in religions and how people greet others. I just don’t feel comfortable in hugging or kissing others. I do see in the bible where it talks about the holy kiss.
      I took it, that it meant only between those preaching God’s word.

      Enjoyed reading the difference responses and appreciate Mark in explaining further the Amish way and doing the Holy Kiss. I also took the “Holy Miss” to be a joke and a boys way to playing around, but can understand how another church district might take offense to this.

      Thanks for posting Erik! As for the Foot Washing, that also would be a good topic to bring up and see how others would feel about it. For me, that is what the Apostles of Jesus did long ago for him and each other as a means of respect and that is something I wouldn’t be put off with.

      1. Shom and Lee Ann I agree it would be a good topic. As it’s a part of Communion it’s never something I’ve seen (or experienced). As a demonstration and reminder of humility I think society in general could use a good foot washing 🙂

    13. Don Curtis

      Foot Washing

      If you’d like me to ask Mark about the foot washing part of the communion service I can do that. Just let me know. I’ve never been to Amish church let alone seen foot washing. I would be interested myself.

      1. If he wouldn’t mind sharing, I am sure I and others would appreciate hearing about it, Don. Thanks for asking.

    14. Alice Mary

      Long ago, while attending Catholic parochial school, I remember foot washing occurring at the Holy Thursday services (always my favorite service—not only foot washing, but a chunk of time was set aside for the lights to be turned off and the church only lit by candles, with the priest/servers walking around the church with the “incense burner” puffing away—so, different smells, too–very intriguing to a kid!) Anyway, that foot washing was more of just pouring “holy water” (I think) over the priest’s feet. I’ve read of the “Amish” version, and they seem to “get into it” more. I’m really interested to hear Mark’s description! (Is soap used, for instance? Any special kind?)

      Alice Mary

    15. Lattice

      In Biblical times, because the feet were exposed to dusty roads and other aspects of nature, the Jews had servants whose first responsibility was to wash the feet of the occupants of the house when they came in. It was a nasty, unpleasant job. Jesus, setting the example of servanthood, surprised His Disciples by donning a towel and washing their feet.

      I think the reason for “foot washing” today, to follow the example of being a servant to your brothers and sisters, is a noble effort, but I do not think that it has nearly the same meaning as it used to. My guess is that, on the day of the foot washing service, people probably have the cleanest feet they’ve had in six months.

      I was trying to think of something in our culture today that would represent the same thing – being a servant to your brother/sister – with the same meaning that it did in those days. I really can’t think of anything comparable.

    16. Don Curtis

      Foot Washing

      Well, I asked Mark about the foot washing. He said that it is the very last part of the communion service. After the taking of the emblems (bread and wine) there is zeugnis. Mark says zeugnis occurs after every Amish church. Starting with the ministers and then usually visiting Amish, the men are asked to reflect back on what has been said, to comment on it and to bring up if anything has been unscriptural.
      Then, Mark says they have the foot washing. The deacon has gone out and returned with big galvanized pails like those used to feed horses. These are filled with warm water. Also a stack of towels. The ministers begin. They remove their shoes and socks. One person sits on the bench and the other kneels. The person being washed extends his foot over the pail and the other person puts their foot into the water and then raises it up and with his hands gently sloshes water over the foot. The foot is then taken out of the water and dried off with the towel. Then the same thing is repeated with the other foot. Then the two people exchange places and the washing is repeated. When both individuals have had their feet washed they stand shake hands and give the Holy Kiss and sayd “Gott segne dich.” (God bless you.)After the ministers a number of pails are disbributed a various points in the room and the members male and female begin pairing and as a pail becomes available another set of folks takes their places. It goes remarkably fast. Men wash men’s feet and women wash women’s feet. While this is going on, those waiting to have their feet washed or those who have already done it are singing one of the slow hymns out of the Ausbund that specifically focus on foot washing. Mark says there are several hymns that focus more on foot washing. Mark says that it is a very special and touching service. It really makes you feel close to the other brothers in the church. After everybody has had their feet washed, church is dismissed. Benediction has already been said.

    17. Valerie

      Foot washing

      Thanks for sharing that Don, quite facinating really. It’s very symbolic, it seems and very humbling. I can see how it would enhance the feeling of “brotherhood” and “servanthood”.

      My husband said that on one of the men’s retreats couple years ago, the men washed each other’s feet. I don’t think it was near that detailed, it was a first time, and he said it was kind of awkward as in not used to it.

      I wonder how they pair up?
      See Don, we like to give you reasons to call your son, we know you both love it anyways! 🙂

    18. Don Curtis

      Foot Washing

      I asked Mark how they pair up. He says that it’s just kind of a random thing but usually done with the person sitting next to you on the bench. Mark says in Amish church, the folks sit in order of age. I his church the youth boys from about the age of 11 on up until they are married sit in order of age. Then the older men. Mark sits with them because he is 60. Next the middle aged men. Then the marrieds with young children and at the back the just young marrieds. If he wanted to Mark could sit with the youth boys as he’s unmarried but he chooses to sit with the older men although he does do a lot of activities with the youth.

    19. Brittany

      Growing up I was taught that the Holy Kiss was a kiss on the forehead. Is there a reason they kiss on the lips?

    20. ptt

      I know the Bible says to greet each other with a Holy kiss, but it doesn`t say to plant one on the mouth. The whole idea of kissing on the mouth with someone who is not my spouse literally turns my stomach. I actually saw this practiced once in a Catholic church that I visited. The priest said “greet each other with a holy kiss” and everyone was planting sloppy kisses on the mouth (man with man, woman with woman, man with woman, adult with child, and parent with child). It was not little pecks. It was fully planted kisses. I was 13 and I knew I didn`t want the middle aged woman next to me planting one on my mouth, nor did I want my friend that I want with planting one on my mouth, so I got real stiff, stared forward, and slowly sat down thinking “nobody notice at me!!!!!”) It was just gross to me and I never went back to that church again. I could handle a European peck on the cheek, but not a plant on the mouth. Yuck!

    21. vivian

      The Holy Kiss

      This was just brought to my attention , about the Holy Kiss . I am bapticostal…lol..My pastor does kiss our men often , but not all the time. If they turn red of course he really enjoys kissing them ,on cheek though…I see this in the bible and it amazes me ,that we are not practicing what God commands. Yes, including myself !! Since it is in the bible , it is for all of us not just the Amish .
      So glad this new friend brought this to my attention . I then decided to look on line and found where we can leave a comment here.
      I so enjoyed the different comments. Thanks for making it available !!

    22. George

      I feel that the holy kiss is when kissing one or both cheeks, not on the lips. If I wanted to kiss a Christian, I would do it on the cheek(s), not on the lips. I feel that kissing on the lips is reserved for married couples when they greet.

    23. Cable Flame

      Being raised Roman Catholic, we exchange the Sign of Peace every service. The words from the service are “share some sign of peace.” In my family, my parents always kissed me and each other on the lips (as well as gave a hug), but we shook hands with other people around us, including children, and waved at people we could not reach nearby, esp. friends. While doing this, we say “peace be with you” (or “Christ’s peace be with you”, “The Peace of Christ be with you”, etc.). At the Old Catholic church I attend, we all hug while stating “peace be with you”. I kiss my boyfriend with a chaste kiss when we attend together.

      Recently, I was quite sick on Palm Sunday but really wanted to attend church anyway. I was wondering what I’d do about the Sign of Peace, but I just waved at people and gave them the greeting.

    24. Jim Battle


      I have read all the biblical commentaries I can find and no one has given ANY scriptural proof that a “holy kiss” is “a smack on the lips”. If the Bible does not make it clear that it is “a smack on the lips” then why should anyone believe that it is. Even if there is historical proof that Jews and/or pagans kissed the same sex on the lips this does not prove that this is what the scriptures means when it commands Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss.

      So since no one today really knows what a holy kiss is, I think that it would be wise to be on the safe side and just give a smack on the cheek instead on the lips. This way, we will not unnecessarily make a visitor very uncomfortable. In our society, only very close blood relatives and homosexuals kiss someone of the same sex on the lips. And most times even children with the same father and mother don’t kiss on the lips unless they have an incestuous relationship.

      So I don’t think it is wise to kiss someone of the same sex on the lips when it may cause an unbelieving visitor to think badly of us since there is no scriptural evidence that we are commanded to do so. Can anyone give me a scriptural reason why a holy kiss can’t be a kiss on the cheek? If not, we should do what is wise and best for the gospel’s sake.

    25. Lewis


      I heard the men would kiss about as fast as a rooster pecking . I just kiss my hand and say good morning to all or greeting . I ain’t kissing no man , brother or sister in a church . And i dont eant my wife kissed by another women . Thats junk aint right .