Friday, November 12, 2010

Amish Singing and Confessions

The second hymn to be sung in every Amish church service is the Lob Lied (Praise Song) It takes an average of twenty minutes to sing the four stanzas which each have seven lines. The ministers usually came back from their private meeting toward the end of the last verse. I always hoped they would come before the next song was announced because it seemed as if every time it took them longer than that, all the members would have to stay in after church to deal with some sort of problems.

As much as I had looked forward to seeing what goes on behind those closed doors, I wished with all my heart that I wouldn't have to be part of it once I had been baptized and become a member of the church.

I was back in church for the first time since I had the chicken pox. It seemed nice that the whole family was able to go to church together once again. After the preaching service was over the bishop announced that he wants all the members remain seated after the last song was sung.

I wondered what would happen this time. As far as I knew I hadn't done anything wrong but my hands still felt cold and clammy. After the children had all filed out and the doors were closed, the bishop rose and announced that as everyone knows there is a new hospital bill in the community. That the bill from David's hospital stay was more than Mom and Daddy could pay on their own and that if people would give donations to the trustees they would make that we would get help to pay the bill.

I felt embarrassed that everyone knew that we couldn't pay the bill on our own but wondered why we had to remain seated just for that since they had often announced hospital bills with all the non-members present. I didn't have to wonder for long though as the bishop continued by saying that from time to time foxes sneak into the vineyard and it is the keeper of the vineyards duty to deal with them when ever they appear and sadly another fox had entered.That it was brought to his attention that there was a man who had a few pictures in his house of his children after someone had asked the children to pose and taken a picture of them and then given him a copy. If this is true he asks that David Swarey would leave the building while the rest of the church votes on his punishment.

I felt my face turn red and my stomach turn into knots as Daddy got up and left the church building. The bishop then addressed the rest of the church saying how sad he was that this had occurred and they think a common confession should suffice as punishment this time. he sat down and the ministers gave their two cents worth and then went to see if the rest of the church was in agreement.I knew I was expected to say "I am in agreeance and I wish the Lord's blessings" I didn't think it was necessary for Daddy to make a confession but knew I wasn't allowed to disagree since I was only a girl. When the preacher that was taking the women's votes came to me and bent his head I quickly whispered in his ear. "I wish the Lord's blessings" but refused to say that I agreed.

After the ministers had taken the whispered votes and and returned to their seats the minister who had taken the men's votes announced that every one had agreed. The one that had taken the women's votes added that all the women had agreed also. The bishop rose and said he was glad everyone was agreed because where people are in unity the power of God is strong. He then asked one of the men to go tell Daddy to come back inside.

After Daddy returned to his seat the bishop said " The church has decided that they require a common confession and to repeat after him. I acknowledge that I have grieved God and the church and with heartfelt sorrow I ask both to forgive me and with God's help I will try to live more holy"

After Daddy had said the confession the bishop extended forgiveness saying how nice it is for Daddy to be at peace with God and the church again.

I felt horrible about the whole deal and vowed I would never make a confession in church. The humiliation and knowing that everyone in Somerset County would know about it was all the motivation I needed to be extra careful.


  1. My goodness I can only imagine how distressing it must have felt

  2. So did he have to turn over the pictures?? I can imagine the feeling of all eyes on your family, but that is interesting to read about - something most of us wouldn't know about (how things like that are handled). You know what's funny, our priest is our church photographer. LOL Have a good weekend ~ ♥

  3. We have just moved to Southwest Wisconsin from Northeast Illinois. We now live amongst the Mennonites and Amish. It's so interesting to learn their ways. The humiliation your family must have felt.

  4. I have read so many Amish fiction books by many well known authors. I always wondered what that song they described sounded like. Thanks for adding that to your post today. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to go through that experience with your Daddy. I can see why you tried "extra hard" to avoid such a public reprimand.

  5. Wow, Maryann, I know just how you felt. I had a similar experience the first time after my baptism that they had a "members meeting" at my church. My father was making a confession then, too. Except he was confessing for having "lost his temper" in one of his violent outbursts. We family members never got a direct apology from him... only through the church. Though the "offense" was different, the feelings of shame you and I experienced are identical. And you described them so well.

    It is amazing to read about your experience being so similar, even though your community sounds very different from my own. In my community, we didn't even have Amish words for "I love you," for instance, so when I read your story about LV telling you that, I was amazed that in your community a young man would say such a thing, and that he had the language for it. Perhaps that was unusual for your community too, and this is another example of how unique LV is and how profound his feelings were for you.

    Thank you very much for sharing this story... I can really relate.

    In Friendship and Understanding,

  6. Oh, so no one else in Somerset had any pictures tucked away anywhere? At all? Only your family? Sounds like someone had an axe to grind with the Swareys. And I hope your daed kept those pictures.

  7. wow. I can only imagine how you felt, but I guess that is why they do it like that, so that everyone will try harder so they are not humiliated. With my love of pictures, boy would I ever be in trouble. Thanks for sharing your memories with us! And looking forward to the book!
    until next time... nel

  8. One Amish woman confessed to me last winter that the Amish get away with anything and everything until someone tattles and only then the ministers are obliged to take actions. She still looks like a good Amish woman, but she is spoke out of her own experience.

  9. Saloma, you're right. The Amish do not have words for "I love you" Thankfully LV had no problem borrowing from the English language.

  10. I always want to comment...I write it out and then reread it and it doesn't sound like I want it too.
    I am so glad that you are free in Christ!

  11. How interesting about "I love you." I always assumed the Amish just spoke a form of German.

  12. So interesting to hear the singing.

  13. Can't get over someone tattling your family had pictures and having to apologize for them. Did your family have to prove you no longer had them, give them to the bishop? Did you ever find out who the tattler was?

  14. A blessing this post was! So much in here & so many lessons, too many to take up your page!

    I live near Amish Country here in Ohio & have made some friends down there in my venture in shopping. Many dear people there. :D

    An Amish woman that I know gets in trouble by her Bishop for spending too much time with the English. She is not too worried about it though & is questioning many things. She is not happy & share much with me & dislikes the rules that she is in bondage to. A dear, sweet woman bonded by tradition.

    There is a place where they can escape. I am interested in getting involved in this ministry that is nearby. here is the link

    I am grateful for what you share, it is a blessing. If only people would understand the bondage they to have to religion, (many out there) but, rather, serving the one true God of the Bible without religiosity.

    Rejoicing In Him, Patrizia

  15. I cannot imagine living that way! Even more I cannot imagine anyone WANTING to listen to that song, even if it was at a funeral! Sorry, I don't mean to offend anyone, I truly don't.

  16. Earlier this week, I spent the time to read through your blog from the beginning and am fascinated. With the recent ceremonies in many countries around the world, honoring those that fought for 'freedom', it's hard to hear that even in a 'free' country, there are pockets of people with so many restrictions.

    That must have been a terrible time for your family, with their apparent dedication to the Amish life that I discern from your earlier writings. But it is also apparent that this 'transgression' wasn't seen as too grievous - obviously the ministers were forgiving people, just doing their duty as they saw it.

    I truly have been enjoying your memoirs, and look forward to hearing 'the rest of the story'. Blessings, Peg

  17. Thanks for following. I am now following back. Very interesting post.

  18. That must have been a difficult time. I can see how the humiliation would be an incentive to stay within the lines so nothing like that would happen again.

  19. The singing that you posted sounds very much like what my parents grew up singing in the Old Colony Mennonite church.The church discipline also sounds similar. Taking photos was considered a 'graven image' that the 10 Commandments speak of.

  20. What you described about the confession and the 'tattling' is, I suppose, why my feelings about the Amish are so ambivalent- I love my Amish family but the church seems to thrive on tattling and members watching each other, people being in fear of what someone else has seen or will see, think. My dad was a song leader and loved doing it but it was the many arbitrary rules that could not be supported by any Bible teaching at all that drove him away. I'm thankful that my parents left when we children were little and I could be an observer only of Amish life.
    I have always loved Amish church singing- there's something haunting and eerie about it...but I like it! I guess it is truly a matter of personal taste.
    @Clisby- the Amish do speak a form of German- a dialect. There are, however, many many English words. Had never stopped to think about the lack of the words 'I love you' in the dialect. That would probably explain why we hardly ever expressed that feeling verbally in our family (we still use that language within our family)...
    Very interesting post.

  21. Thank you so much for posting a sample of the hymnn and the 2 very different ways it is sung! I will listen again I am sure. God bless those singing hearts because they reminded me of the current Amy Grant song that sings . . . "we pour out our miseries, God just hears a melody ... better than a church bell ringing, better than a choir singing, better than a hallelujah - sometimes".

  22. This made me feel so bad for your dad. In all your stories he sounds like a good man. How horrible that they made you a part of his punishment - not fair or right if you ask me.

  23. I had a wonderful, well thought out comment ready to post and *poof* .. it was gone! Here's the short version:

    Thanks for posting the Lob Lied! I much prefer the young people's version with their lovely harmonies.

    It would have made more sense for a deacon to approach your father over such a simple sin to solicit a denial / explanation, confession / repentance. Public humiliation may bring people into compliance .. but only on the outside. For the rest of the congregation it just gives them more resolve to make sure their hidden sins stay hidden. So sad ... and it really has so little to do with one's relationship to their Lord and Savior!

    Love your posts! I've said it before .. and I'll probably say it again :-)

  24. thank you for commmenting on my blog yesterday. I read the first 6 of your post and all are very intersting. thanks for a look inside the Amish way of life. my dad was pstor of what they called hardshell baptist back in the 50's, very similar to your life in that strict was the word in our family although we did not have to confees like in your story of your life. we confess to God through prayer but not in church. you are very talented in writing.

  25. My dear friend, I am learning new things about the Amish community.

    This kind of discipline an d rigid , legalistic laws and rules are too extreme.

    What is sinful about a photograph?
    I am so sorry about the humiliation you and the family had to go through.

    No words to express I love you- just knocks me out.

    The Lob Lied is nice, it sounds Jewish/Arabic music to me

    Amrita from India

  26. @jmsauntie: That's why I was surprised - certainly, you can say "I love you" in German. Do you mean the dialect the Amish speak just left out that expression? (I'm not trying to be offensive - that just seems odd, to me.)

    By the way, I know nothing about Amish singing, but I really like the Lob Lied.

  27. The Lob Lied singing was very different from anything I've ever heard. How did someone get a recording of that?

    Taking the log out of your own eye before removing the speck in your brother's eye seems to be a better way.

    Thank you for sharing your life.


  28. BUT, your parents KNEW that having a photograph on display was not acceptable to the church.........and they also KNEW that when found out, there would be a price to pay, right?

  29. JuneNY

    First of all the picture was never on display. Second it was a picture someone took without permission and later gave us a copy which is quite acceptable in a lot of Amish churches including this one. Most Amish save newspaper clippings of Amish photos.


Thank you so much for taking time to comment. I love hearing your thoughts.