Have you ever found yourself wishing for a simpler, quieter life? A life away from the stresses and strains of modern society? What about a life of spiritual connection and community engagement, in harmony with nature? You’ve just described the typical day in the life of the Amish.
But becoming Amish isn’t a decision one can make lightly or hastily. So before you sell all your possessions and go running to the countryside, read this guide. You’ll learn all about how to become Amish if you weren’t born into the community.
What this article covers:
- Is it Possible to Join Amish Communities?
- What Steps Are Needed to Become Amish?
- Is Amish Conversion Difficult?
- A Day in the Life of the Amish
- Are "Outsiders" Stigmatized?
Is it Possible to Join Amish Communities?
Is it possible to join an Amish community without any familial connection? Yes, it is possible, and there’s certainly a precedent for it, but you’ll have to adopt a whole new lifestyle and give up many things you probably currently take for granted.
What Does It Mean to ‘Be Amish’?
If your only knowledge about the Amish is that they dress like their 17th-century European ancestors, you’re in for a culture shock. There’s so much more to the Amish lifestyle. But this is probably one of their most distinguishing features from the “outsiders”.
To the uninitiated, it may be difficult to discern between Orthodox Jews vs Amish people. They’re both very religious and dress very modestly and plainly. Orthodox Jewish men even have beards similar to Amish men. However, Amish people are protestant Christians, albeit very conservative ones. They aren’t Jewish.
A common mistake is to refer to the Amish as the Pennsylvania Dutch. The difference between Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish is semantics. Pennsylvania Dutch is the name of the language spoken in the Amish community. You’ll have to learn this language. Despite its name, it's an old German dialect.
‘Amish’ means a lifestyle, a culture, a religion and so much more, but every aspect of Amish life is tied to religion in some way. If you’re not a religious person, you’ll find it impossible to become Amish. And we’ll get to the reason for that, next.
What Steps Are Needed to Become Amish?
So, what steps are necessary when you decide to become Amish?
Confession of Faith
The Amish people’s devout faith in God is what drives all their other decisions. Their traditions, customs, and norms have all sprung from this truth. They seek to honor God in all that they do,
Religion plays a big role in the typical day in an Amish community. Should you choose to become Amish, it will play a big role in your life, too. A mere confession of faith will not suffice. You’ll have to become baptized into the Amish life.
This is one of the top requirements to become Amish. Even Amish-born people must undergo baptism before they can play a role in community life. They can’t even get married before doing so, as both parties must be baptized as Amish, to get married.
Adherence to Amish Ordnung
The Amish abide by the laws set out in the law book, called the Ordnung. This contains guidelines for life on all types of topics. And when you join the Amish, you’ll be expected to follow these rules, too.
A Life of Modesty and Humility
This transcends every facet of your life. Your home will be modestly furnished., You’ll wear simple, modest clothing. No make-up or jewelry will be allowed. You won’t even wear a wedding band if you’re married. And forget about following fashion trends, too.
Is Amish Conversion Difficult?
The Amish’s laws require them to live humbly and dress modestly. Make-up is not worn. Accessorizing is not allowed. And even basic jewelry like wedding bands isn’t allowed.
So, can you become Amish if you have tattoos or piercings? The Amish are forbidden from having tattoos. You’ll have to have your tattoos removed if you wish to be accepted into the Amish community. Piercings aren’t allowed either, but this is easier to resolve, as you can remove jewelry from the piercings.
Even hairstyles are simple and conservative. The women wear their hair long, but pinned up under a traditional bonnet, called a Kapp. The men keep their hair short, but only unmarried men shave. Married men grow their beards out and are forbidden to shave them.
So, would you be able to wear your afro? For that matter, can black people be Amish? Of course, the Amish community will never exclude someone based on race. But you’ll have to abide by their norms for dress and hairstyles, though, within reason.
Are There Options for How ‘Amish’ You Want to Be?
Amish people live isolated from the rest of society. They own their land, build their own houses, and even grow their food and sew their clothes. Self-sufficiency is a big thing for the Amish, but this is made all the more difficult by their prohibition of modern conveniences and technology.
There are many Amish communities in the United States. The majority are Old Order Amish, the most conservative of the Amish settlements. But New Order Amish, the more progressive of the Amish communities, are found throughout the country, too.
The New Order Amish are a bit laxer about certain rules. They may allow a bit more variety in their clothing. And some of them may even allow certain forms of technology. But the basic premise is the same. They live pious and devout lives and uphold the traditions of their forebears.
A Day in the Life of the Amish
Still undecided on whether or not joining an Amish community is right for you? Take a look at the type of day you’ll have after becoming an Amish convert.
Your Day Starts
Picture this. You wake up early, at sunrise or before. Instead of lazing in bed, you get up and get ready to face the day. There’s work to be done! You spend the day attending to your farm animals, gathering the harvest of fresh produce in your hand-woven vegetable harvest basket, and tidying your home.
Community & Family Duties
Speaking of your home, it was built by the men in the community. If you are a man, you’ll be helping them with local community-building projects, or constructing wood furniture for your home. If you’re a woman, you’ll be attending to your husband's and children’s needs.
You’re a single woman? There’s still work to do, to secure an income stream. Fortunately, you’ve learned the time-honored traditions of hand-sewing beautiful quilts and hand-weaving baskets. (Remember that harvest basket, yes, you made it!)
Your home is simply furnished, with rattan storage baskets for shelves and baskets for under-bed storage. There’s no television and no connection to social media or other Internet-based services. You may read, but the books on your shelf are mostly educational or religious.
Of course, you could go into the town for things the community isn’t able to supply. But you won’t be driving there. You’ll cycle and put your shopping into a bicycle basket. Or you could hitch a ride in your neighbor’s horse and buggy.
Don’t stay out too late! You’ll have to cook dinner, from scratch, attend to the animals, and boil water on a wood-fired stove for washing. You’ll go to bed early because you have to be up early again in the morning. But not before you say good night to your beloved pet in his woven dog bed basket.
That’s what your typical day will look like, and chances are you’ll work a lot harder, but you’ll enjoy some exciting and unexpected benefits, too.
Unexpected Benefits of Becoming Amish
- You’ll be healthier
- You’ll be less stressed
- You’ll develop a strong sense of community
- You’ll get closer to God
- You’ll appreciate everything more
- You’ll learn new skills
Are "Outsiders" Stigmatized?
Many people may fear approaching Amish communities and requesting membership, because of the threat of stigmatization.
But the Amish are a very open, warm, and accepting community. They have no prejudice against any other culture. Whatever your background, you’ll be accepted if you have a sincere desire to live as they do.
Can You Still Have Contact with Your Friends & Family After Becoming Amish?
Yes, of course, you can. You’re not forbidden to see them. But if you visit them, you’ll have to continue to abide by the Ordnung during your stay. And if they visit you, they’ll have to respect the costumes and traditions of your new community.
The Amish way of life is very different from most modern cultures.
It will take time, dedication, and patience to become accustomed to the new lifestyle. And things you once took for granted will no longer be available to you. But besides the few modern conveniences, you’ll lose, there’s so much you’ll gain.
A sense of community and fellowship. A life in harmony with nature. And, above all, a richer and deeper connection to God. If that sounds like something you aspire to, then the Amish life just may be for you.
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