The Amish are a conservative sect descended from German Anabaptists who migrated to the U.S. because of religious persecution. They reject modern technology, wear plain clothes and drive horse-drawn wagons. They practice a form of Christianity that rejects the high church traditions of Catholicism and even Lutheranism, and attempts to restore the church to early Christian practice. Their Communion traditions are a reflection of what they believe the early church was like.
The Amish have Communion services twice yearly, in fall and spring. Individual Amish communities set dates for their Communion services. They reject the frequent Communion services customary in Catholicism and some Protestant sects. This is consistent with their rejection of many other Catholic rituals, including last rites or infant baptism. Children may not participate in Communion because they have not yet made an official commitment to the Amish community.
Reason for Postponement
The Amish view Communion as a celebration of unity in the congregation, as well as its commitment to following Jesus. They oppose framing Communion as an event that symbolizes an individual's commitment to God. Because they view Communion as a collective event, they prefer to settle personal disputes prior to the event. In some communities, congregations postpone the Communion service if conflicts have not been reconciled.
The Communion Service
Amish Communion services take place in a member's home, as other Amish church services do. Communion services last nearly a day, or about six to eight hours. They focus on the rejuvenation of the community and its unified commitment to God. During the service, members confess their sins to one another and promise to live according to the Ordnung, a list of rules that governs each member's behavior and binds members together. In addition to consuming wine and bread for the act of Communion, services include a foot-washing ritual, preaching and a shared meal.
Distinctions from Catholicism
The Catholic Church upholds a doctrine called transubstantiation, which holds that members consume the actual flesh and blood of Jesus during Communion. They believe this takes place due to a miraculous act of God. According to the Catholic hierarchy, only priests may administer Communion. The Amish reject transubstantiation and instead stress the symbolic aspects of Communion, as well as remembrance of Jesus' death on the cross. The Amish do not have an ordained priesthood granted special authority to conduct Communion rites. Communion is administered instead by male ministers and leaders within the church.
- Elizabethtown College: Amish Studies - Religious Rituals
- Amish Country News: Amish Religious Traditions
- Amish America: What Are Amish Church Services Like?
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- BBC Religions: The Amish - Introduction
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- Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online: Amish
- Welcome to Lancaster County: Amish Religion
- Everyculture.com: Amish
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