Baptism in Amish communities differs slightly from other Christian belief systems. In Amish culture, baptism occurs when a person turns 18 and is viewed as an adult by the community.
When an Amish individual reaches maturity, they are given the choice of whether to be baptized into the church or not; an option most of them take.
When the Amish religion formed, the baptism of infants was a major concern. They believed that baptism should be the choice of an adult.
Baptism is seen as the most important decision a person can make. It’s a lifelong commitment to the church and to the Amish lifestyle and religion, so it’s not something the Amish feel should be forced or taken lightly.
If a member goes back on their vows made at baptism and strays from the ways of the church, they’re shunned and cut off from all Amish communities.
Amish baptism is a serious and important step in a member's life, it must be well-understood and respected, which is where this guide comes in.
What this article covers:
Amish Ritual Culture
There are two very important rituals in the Amish religion: baptism and communion.
These two sacraments are the most important rituals in the Amish church.
In Amish communities, communion is a special service held in autumn and spring. Communion is the forgiveness of sins, and it’s only open to those who have been baptized.
The choice to be baptised stems from the belief that following Jesus and the way of the church is an Amish symbol of the commitment to living the right way, according to the bible and the example set by their ancestors.
Those who decide to be baptized attend several instructional classes on Amish values and culture.
In these instructional classes, the candidates study and learn from the Amish holy book and the founding documents. They also familiarize themselves with the specific set of rules and regulations of their church community.
These classes take place over several weeks to give the candidates a solid understanding of what it means to be an Amish child of God.
At the end of the class studying the Amish faith and way of life, the community gets to vote, on whether they accept the candidates one by one, as brothers and sisters of the church.
Before these classes begin, the Amish youth are given a period of freedom, where they’re allowed to leave the community and experience the world, also known as “Rumspringa”.
During this time, the youths aren’t under the authority of their parents or the church and can live freely, as if they weren’t part of the Amish religion.
Many young people decide to travel outside their communities and experience life outside of being Amish. They wear “English” or “western” clothing and do things that aren’t permitted inside Amish communities, such as watching movies, going to parties and nightclubs, and experiencing modern technology first-hand.
Amish Adult Baptism
When the candidates are baptized, it usually occurs during a worship service. Those being baptized are reminded before the service of the commitment and given the choice to reconsider.
In the service, the young adults are asked to kneel in front of the church, and then they’re asked by the church leader if they understand the commitment and are still willing to join the church.
After this, the baptism commences. The church leader approaches each candidate and, as the Amish do believe in Jesus, pours water over their heads three times in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
After the pouring of water, the candidate is given a holy kiss from the bishop, and the baptism is complete making them official members of the church.
Baptism is a very serious event in the Amish community and is often a very emotional service. It’s a serious commitment where new community members understand that going against anything in the eyes of the community can lead to shunning, and members can even be excommunicated if the community deems their transgression to be serious enough.
Leaving the church, or breaking the rules laid out by the community, is considered breaking a sacred promise to God, which is why it’s so important to strongly consider the vow being taken.
If a member leaves before being baptized, it’s not seen in the negative light one might expect. In fact, the community respects the person's autonomy regarding membership in the church and the community.
Amish Women Baptism
In many aspects of the Amish culture, there are different rules for men and women. The Amish do believe that everyone is equal, man or woman, and even handmade Amish dolls lack distinguishable male or female characteristics. However, there are assigned gender roles that the Amish strictly adhere to.
For example, in communion services, men and women are seated separately, with men on one side of the church and women on the other.
There are even differences in dress codes and haircuts. Men work as farmers and craftsmen, whereas women are expected to run the household and weave baskets for families to sell.
Men in the community often run businesses that require hard labor, while women in communities garden and weave baskets for sale to outsiders, from wall-mounted mail baskets to large egg baskets, even bike baskets for cruisers.
However, when it comes to baptism, there’s no distinction between male and female members of the church, everyone is baptized in the same way at the same time.
Young men and women are baptized together and are treated the same on the day of their baptism. It’s an emotional and key part of every Amish member's life, and a further demonstration of their belief that, under God, everyone is created equal.
The ritual of Amish baptism is an interesting and vital part of their religion, where many members have a highly emotional, life-affirming experience.
Being able to join the church as an adult is a momentous occasion for many young adults and their families. While some families are met with the disappointing news that their child may want to leave the community, it’s rare and most Amish families look toward the occasion with immense joy and anticipation.
Approximately 90% of young Amish adults follow through with their baptism, completing their acceptance into full-fledged Amish society.
Devoted to their faith and their belief in the values of family and goodwill, Amish baptism symbolizes their commitment to putting God and the traditions of their community above all else.
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