Today We’re Talking About Intercourse
Intercourse, Pennsylvania, that is. How can a town with such a fun name,
be so serious and devout? I may have been all jokes and snickers comin’ in, but this Intercourse was serious business.
Last week I spoke of William Penn’s land of religious freedom. Well, this very notion spoke volumes to the persecuted Amish (Switzerland, 1693), and many immigrated to Pennsylvania to find this new freedom. Their community still thrives today.
The Amish of Lancaster County
Observing Amish lifestyle, their countryside and the Amish commitments… well, it brought me absolute wonderment. All these people, agreeably living an 18th century lifestyle in our 21st century world.
They live a life pre-outlined: how you dress, what role you have in the family and the community, what your wedding dress will look like, how you wear your hair. . . the list is endless. Glued to the car windows, I couldn’t get enough of the buggies, horses and beautiful farmland. Suddenly, I fell into a whole wrung of embarrassment, at my zoo-like curiosity.
But I was puzzled. Amish life seemed a contradiction. Separateness from “the English” is paramount. Any non-Amish person is referred to as “English.” However, they work, interact, trade and use cash with us “English.”
Respectfully ask questions, learn from a local and broaden horizons:
I took my embarrassment & curiosity, and made this a learning opportunity. Here are some fast facts about the Amish:
- They are Anabaptists. They do not perform baptism until “the candidate” is old enough to make an informed decision and to accept personal responsibility;
- One of their tenets is separateness. The Amish are separate from the non-Amish world, however, they live in a community of equals;
- Weddings take place in November, after the fall harvest;
- Amish do not play instruments – they sing. Gatherings called “singings“, are mostly for youth, and unmarried young adults;
- Church services are in homes, not churches, held every other Sunday. Each home (farm) has a large, open space where they can host services and serve supper afterward.
- Sunday supper is always the same meal;
- Education is provided up to the 8th grade, then each child becomes an apprentice of sorts – they learn a trade, skill or otherwise help on the farm;
- School teachers are generally between the ages of 17-22 years old, and female;
- Within their community they speak Pennsylvania Dutch;
- Amish view outside government as necessary. They pay all taxes, but do not accept Social Security or any other government assistance;
- Amish accept professional medical assistance, though they often turn to natural remedy and therapies first, with a “wait and see” attitude;
- They are not completely opposed to technologies, they evaluate the potential negative effects of technology on their faith and family life, and embrace only those technologies that maintain an acceptable quality of life.
How do they do it?
Manage such formalities, and deal with us gawking tourists? The Amish have had to adapt to numerous challenges and changes over centuries of existence. The tourist rage is just one challenge. I found the Amish are charitable to tourists, recognizing honest curiosity. And then there are the tourist dollars spent on Amish quilts, furniture or baked goods. I also wonder if our attention reinforces the Amish sense of identity, their separateness? On the other hand, I would guess a devout farmer – with work to get done and produce to deliver – probably would dislike the traffic and unwanted attention.
My next visit would include a stay in an Amish home, like a Bed & Breakfast. I really want to see inside! I understand there are certain communities who will host tourists for a night and share their lifestyle up close and personal.