Last night, I returned from another visit with my New Order Amish friends in Northern Ohio. As usual, I left with gifts. There was a box of mint rootings for my garden, dug up by my good friend, 81 year-old Martha. I had been so impressed with the “Garden Tea” her daughter served us, Martha wanted to make sure I could make my own someday. Her daughter, Joanna, gave me a loaf of fresh, home-made bread as I left their home. They are a giving people.
The best gift, though, was being allowed to visit on their front porch late into the night, sipping Joanna’s tea, laughing, swapping stories, and sharing our lives and our faith. It is no small thing to be accepted into the heart of an Amish family, and I am always humbled that they allow me to experience their warmth and hospitality.
I try to reciprocate, but no matter what I do, it never feels like enough considering the hours of patient tutorials I receive as my Amish friends try to help me accurately represent their culture.
A couple weeks ago, I posted something on Facebook about my visit to a New Order Amish school. Several people asked for me to explain the difference between New Order and Old Order.
It is far from a complete list, I am definitely not an expert, but these are a few things I’ve observed and learned from conversations with my New Order friends.
- One of the original reasons for the split between the New Order and Older Order Amish is rooted in a desire for what the New Order people considered a more responsible oversight of Amish youth. For instance, some Amish homes still allow “bed courtship” which is an ancient practice of young, unmarried couples spending the night together in bed. Hopefully chaste and not touching, but still–with no supervision. The purpose is for them to talk and get to know one another. Mothers will even help their daughters sew new, pretty, nightgowns for the event. Supposedly it began back when homes were so cold at night, the only place to stay warm for any length of time was in bed.New Order parents also see themselves as keeping a tighter rein on youth parties—and feel that many Old Order parents are too lax during their teenager’s Rumspringa, or “running around” time.
- Old Order Amish are rarely allowed by their bishops to use an airplane. New Order Amish fly all over the world—frequently engaged in various mission efforts. One New Order Amish carpenter told me he had made several trips to various European countries to help rebuild after various disasters.
- New Order Amish are allowed to have telephones in their homes, unlike Old Order Amish who keep their telephones in shanties outside their home, usually at the end of their driveway.
- New Order Amish men have more Englisch-looking haircuts than Old Order.
- New Order have a sort of sliding door built onto the side of their buggies, while Older Order Amish have doors that roll up and secure with a strap. Why that is an issue, I have no idea.
- Old Order churches meet every two weeks. The “off” Sunday is one in which they simply rest or visit relatives. New Order Amish have formal church services every other Sunday, but on the “off” Sunday, they have Sunday School—where the ages and genders divide into classes. I just recently found out that this is when the children are taught formal German, instead of their mother-tongue of Pennsylvania Deutch. When I attended their Sunday School service a couple weeks ago, they were kind enough to speak in English for my benefit and one other non-Amish visitor.
- In general, I think New Order Amish consider themselves a bit more spiritual than Old Order. More involved in Bible study, more observant of moral teachings. I’m sure many Old Order Amish families would contest that.
- First names of the New Order Amish, in general, seem to be a lot more modern and less dependent on Biblical names. Especially among the children now.
- Not all New Order Amish families refuse to accept or contribute to Social Security. Some do, but it is a personal choice.
- New Order families seem to be much less camera shy. In fact, here is a video I took yesterday of my friend, Martha, reading a few verses aloud from her German Bible. I asked if I could show it to my friends, and she gave permission. Then I warned her that I had a LOT of friends, and she laughed and said that was fine—that it wasn’t as though she was going to get famous from reading a few scriptures in German.
As my husband always said. “God is good. All the time.”