Mary Lekoshere Illustrated

An Unusual Sunday
November 8, 2009, 6:47 pm
Filed under: Octboer 31 Project

Friday, my aunt came. She is a former missionary to Panama who now lives in Michigan and has a ministry to the Amish. She is full of interesting stories and information about this people group that we, at least I, know very little about.

Today she took me to one of their churches here in VA. What an experience. I drove up beautiful country roads, stepped out of my modern-day car, and entered another century. A big, unfinished house acted as a church. We climbed a steep flight of stairs to the second story and entered a long, rough room with a plywood floor and a wood stove. The room benefitted from the bright sun through windows and two skylights, but was still dim. Pews lined one side, and chairs the other. My aunt and I headed to the back accompanied by stares. The women sat to one side, the men on the other. This was not the church of the community. The church of the community is in a light airy school building, where more black dresses are seen and pinafores are everywhere. This church was “liberated” Amish–they teach from the scriptures Jesus Christ and His free salvation not of our works but of Himself alone. While they still live the Amish life, they are not so tightly bound as their neighbors. Three curious sisters sat in the pew ahead of me. Four year old twins and their older sister. Beside me sat Rebecca, who was five. Her bonnet framed a sweet face with beautiful eyes. Her rumpled black-stocking legs and scuffed shoes stuck out in front of her on the old van bench. Lucky us got the old seat, very soft and comfortable. We were in for a long sit. The service began by singing or prayer–can’t remember now. The Amish singing is like that of a bagpipe, slow, swelling and falling with a general melancholy. The big black notes mapped out in the hymnal represent only the melody. My alto voice joined occasionally by my aunt, was alone. Harmony is forbidden in the Amish churches, except here in this liberated church. We sang on slowly, for half and hour. The wood stove kept things warm. The smell brought back to me Kenya. Maybe it was the stove and the crude room. Maybe it was that and the bodies of people of a less “western” existence. The twins fell asleep, their little heads resting on the pew, their dark lashes still against their baby faces. Next to me, Rebecca’s small finger traced up and down my skirt, feeling the strange fabric. I was dressed very plain. My skirt was made of burlap. I wore a white turtle neck and a black sweater, kept my makeup light, put up my hair, and only wore my wedding bands for jewelry.  I moved my rings from my left hand and put them round the pinkie of my right hand, then put my hand down on the bench. Before long, the small finger was pushing my diamond back and forth.

After the singing, a man spoke from the podium. He talked for about thirty minutes, then concluded by stating that he didn’t have anything else to say, and sat down. Another man stood, opened his Bible and spoke for another thirty minutes. He concluded the same way and opened the floor for testimony. More men spoke from their seats and finally the sixth man or so concluded with prayer. the people en masse thunderously getting to their knees. Even the tiniest babies in the audience were bonneted. It was must be a sweet moment in a woman’s life to stitch the crisp cotton baby bonnets in expectation of another child. The Amish take the scripture literally when it says the women will be “saved in childbearing”. Extra children mean extra help on the farm as well. So babies are everywhere.

The speaking now finished, we sang another round of hymns. By now the stuffy room and the strong odor was giving me a headache, and I was happy when the over two-hour service concluded. After the service, a group of little girls and some boys pressed round and I drew stories for them in my sketch book. And they taught me phrases of their Germanesque Amish language.

We’d brought a van load of my weekly Panera pick-up. It would have made a great commercial seeing the kids perched on the wagon eating their piece of bagel. From the church we headed to the community church, where again babies were everywhere. One little girl sat in the school house on a mattress, holding a child’s book and singing to herself. A girl told me she’d been sick and was slow in developement. She couldn’t talk yet. 

I saw one of the cabins before I had to leave. My aunt was staying there for a few days, and I came back home. It would be great to be there with a sketchbook, or even a camera. It would be great to do a whole series on them… Maybe some day.


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I bet you had a great time. I’ve always been interested in the Amish, and their ways. I loved your description of the church and people. I could picture it in my mind – you should do a series of little Amish children sometime!

Comment by Rachel H.

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