Saturday, February 18, 2012

Old Order Amish and Mennonites

While I was writing HANNAH'S JOY, the next book in the Pleasant Valley series, coming in May, I had to refresh my memory as to the differences among Old Order Amish and the various groups of Mennonites. I grew up with several Old Order Mennonite friends, which was actually what led me to introduce an Old Order Mennonite heroine in Hannah Conroy. However, I had a feeling my knowledge might be a little out-of-date.

But I found that not all that much had changed since my childhood. My friends wore dresses which had small print designs which were cut very much like Amish dresses, but Old Order Amish dresses are always made of solid colors. Their kapps were very similar, and they were worn, as my friends explained, because the Bible tells us that women should have their head covered when they pray, and since they might want to pray at any time, they always wore prayer coverings. I realize now that there are other theological reasons, as well, but that was a pretty good explanation, given the ages we were then!

Mennonites generally worship in churchhouses, rather than in homes as the Amish do, and I was able to get some excellent descriptions of the typical churchhouse, including some intriguing details about how horse-and-buggy Mennonites and the so-called black bumper Mennonites, who drive cars, actually share a churchhouse, meeting on alternate Sundays.

If you’re intersted in the subject, Kutztown University in Berks Co, PA is sponsoring a talk next Wednesday:

Comparing the Old Orders
Featuring James Weaver & Benuel Riehl
Wednesday, February 22 · 5 p.m.· Academic Forum – Room 200 (signage will be posted)

James Weaver, a member of the Old Order Mennonite community and Benuel Riehl, a member of the Old Order Amish community discuss the similarities and differences between their religious groups. This moderated question and answer session is meant to clarify the common misconceptions that outsiders may have about the Old Order cultures.

Snow date is February 29.

Sponsored by The Pennsylvania German Cultural Club, Rohrbach Library and the late Dr.Arnold Newman, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University. (You can read more about the event here:

Kutztown is a member university of the State System of Higher Education in Pennsylvania, and the university is doing a wonderful job of trying to preserve the Pennsylvania German heritage of our state, including the Pennsylvania Dutch language. Kutztown is also famous for their great folk festival held in July every year!

In any event, after all my work, the dress on the cover of HANNAH'S WAY didn't turn out quite as intended! Can you tell what's wrong with it? However, it's still a lovely image, and I hope it conveys something of the love story of Hannah and William Brand.


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