Monday, May 25, 2009

"Ordnungs" Church

Since the Amish community in Dundee was still young, they didn't have their own bishop yet. And so a bishop from a nearby community would come whenever there was something going in the church that required a bishop to be there.
Every spring and fall there were two special church services that lasted all day. The first one was called "ordnungs" church. I used to love these services. They were one long Bible story that would start at the Garden of Eden and included Noah and his ark, Lot and his family, Abraham and Isaac, then how Jacob married and finally moved back to his homeland. I would shiver through the story of how Joseph was sold to the Egyptians and how God used his life, I could see baby Moses in his basket floating on the river and thrilled when the daughter of Pharaoh wanted him for her son. But my favorite part was when Moses was supposed to lead the children of Israel back to Canaan I used to envision all the plagues that came and imagined how scary and yet exciting it would have been to have been there and watch as Daddy would stroke blood over the door frames so that the angel would pass over our house. I marvelled at how the Red Sea parted and everyone got to the other side and rejoiced when the waters swallowed the entire Egyptian army. I enjoyed the stories of their journey through the wilderness and the many things that happened while they were there. My mouth would water when Joshua and Caleb came back from spying in Canaan carrying huge clusters of grapes. I used to envision the grapes to be the size of apples. I thrilled when Joshua and his army marched around Jericho and how the walls tumbled down, and only Rahab and her house were saved.
Somewhere close to the story of Joseph it would be time to eat lunch. The lady of the home where church was being held would come and dismiss one bench of women at a time to go eat. It seemed a little strange to only have a few people eating the normal church peanut butter sandwiches in a very hushed atmosphere. We would hurry and then file back to our seats and the next bench full would leave.
When the minister was finally done telling all the Bible stories the bishop would announce that after the closing song was sung the children would be dismissed and everyone that is a member please stay seated.
This used to be lots of fun. I used to be really curious what happens behind those closed doors, but it was good to be able go play after sitting on a backless bench for six hours.
This time the entire Dundee Amish church had joined the Prattsburg community to save the ministers from having to go through that long service twice.
After we children were dismissed we were told to go to a certain room. When we entered I could hardly believe my eyes. Never had I seen so many toys. There was a child sized china cupboard, a sink with real running water, a stove, and everything else you could dream of. The Prattsburg children, John, our cousins, and I stood and looked at it. It seemed too good to be true. The lady of the house smiled at us and told us to enjoy ourselves and then left closing the door behind her.
We turned to go play with all the wonderful things, but there was a beautiful little girl with black curly hair standing in front of the little china cupboard with her arms crossed stating emphatically that no one is allowed to touch her toys, and then proceeded to start playing by herself, we were all dumbfounded for a moment, but cousin Emma soon lost her awe of the little "Queen" and went to join her. It was not a good idea. She grabbed the dishes out of her hands and slapped and scratched Emma's face. Stating, "NO ONE is allowed to touch my toys!" We all stood against the wall and watched her in amazement, we had never met anyone even remotely like her before. After a while she looked us all over and announced that she doesn't mind if that little boy helps her play, pointing at John.
John went to join her, and faithfully followed her instructions. But after they had set her little table for two he made the mistake of offering me a drink from one of her little teacups. She grabbed his hair and snatched the cup away from him. And he was once more reduced to the lot of the rest of us standing and watching a selfish little girl trying to play with her lovely toys.
That hour and a half shut in that room was one of the longest I ever had. We were so happy when our parents came saying it is time to go home now.
On the way home we had to to tell Mom and Daddy all about that little girl. Daddy told us that we should feel sorry for her, because she doesn't have any friends, and that friends are much more important than anything else we can have.
Two weeks later we went back to the same place for communion church. I enjoyed the sermon that touched a little on the same subjects as they had two weeks prior, and then the birth and life of Jesus, His crucifixion and resurrection and finally at 3:00 when they served communion to all the members. I enjoyed watching as the women washed each others feet, but what I was really looking forward to was once church was over I could give that little girl a pack of balloons and some of Mom's delicious chocolate chip cookies that John and I had helped to make the day before.
Once the last notes of the parting song faded away and people started visiting Mom nodded at me and I got the package and gave it to the little girl. She opened it and ate the cookies and put the pack of balloons safely in her room where no one could get them.
We left for home. I never saw that little girl again, but have to think of her occasionally and wonder how life is treating her.


  1. I think we can all remember someone like that little girl and it's so amazing how differently we look at things as adults than we did as children. I just bet she remembers that day that you were nice to her - something tells me those days for her were few and far between!

  2. Growing up in Ohio, only church members went to Ordnungs & Communion services. I never knew what went on in those services until I was a member of the church. Ordnung church always left me with a guilt complex as nobody ever kept all the ordnung. I was one of the most perfect Amish people and was still guilt stricken at the end of the services.

  3. I always look forward to reading another memory from your childhood. Hopefully that little girl figured out how to open up and make friends or she just may be a lonely woman by now. Maybe your act of kindness was a help in opening her heart a little. :0)

  4. What a great blog you have...
    Glad you popped by my blog just so I could discover yours!
    I will be back to read more soon....

  5. Thanks for stopping by my Blog and sharing the link to yours. I'm enjoying reading it -- I truly feel the "English" have much to learn from the Amish. I watch many of my neighbors manage huge gardens, and can the food, and sell it, etc. etc., and I"m thankful to have them as neighbors. I live in Central PA where many Amish migrated from Lancaster county years ago. Thank you for sharing the stories!

  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm enjoying looking around yours. The Amish intrigue me as I am from a conservative background myself and Amish and Mennonites are about the only ones "more conservative" than my particular group.

  7. What a fascinating post. I'm completely ignorant of many of your customs and traditions so it has been a real eye-opener and very interesting to learn about. However, I am familiar with the custom of spoiled little children that don't share! I think that one is pretty common the whole world over. She is the one that lost out, I hope she grew out of it for her own sake.

  8. WOW! What a grouchy little girl! I sure hope I am teaching my children to behave better than that! YIKES! :)

  9. I didn't know that the Amish believe in foot washing. That little girl was mean and selfish. She reminds me of Nelly on little house on the prairie. I hope the gifts you gave her were a blessing to her.


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