Amish Communion Services are religious ceremonies that occur twice a year, usually in the spring and fall. And is considered one of the most important events in the Amish religious calendar.
Communion services vary somewhat depending on the specific Amish community and congregation, as each has its own customs and traditions. However, some general practices are typically followed during an Amish communion service. And only members of the church are allowed to partake.
Preparing for Communion
The Amish follow a series of rituals and practices in anticipation of communion, which serves to encourage spiritual reflection, self-examination, and reconciliation.
Ordnung Church Service
Firstly, the Amish hold an "Ordnung Church" (the Ordnung is their list of rules) service two weeks prior to their communion service to review their set of rules. This service is exclusively for members of the church and begins after the regular service concludes (non-members are dismissed).
During the Ordnung service, the bishop goes over the rules of the church. After which, each member is expected to publicly renew their commitment to upholding them.
Those who are not in agreement and don't commit to keeping the rules will not be allowed to partake in communion.
Additionally, there is a time of silence during which members may confess their sins and ask for forgiveness from the church. And those who have not followed the rules may be asked to make a public confession during this time.
Members of the church are then encouraged to begin a two-week period of self-examination and soul-searching, during which they reflect on their actions and seek to make amends for any wrongs they may have committed.
Fast and Prayer Day
For the Amish community, Good Friday is a solemn day of prayer and fasting. They begin the day by abstaining from breakfast and spending extra time in prayer.
In our home, we spent the morning going through the Gospels and reading the account of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
Therefore, Good Friday is a sacred holiday for the Amish people, and we were never allowed to do any unnecessary work on this day. It was supposed to be spent preparing one's heart for communion.
Additionally, October 11th was our day of fasting and prayer in preparation for our fall communion service.
How Amish Celebrate Easter
Many Amish churches have communion on Easter Sunday. However, since Amish church services are held every other Sunday, some churches hold communion on the Sunday following Easter instead.
But if Easter Sunday happens to fall on their church Sunday, they will probably spend all day at church, since their communion services last almost the entire day.
What Are Amish Communion Services Like?
An Amish Communion service begins like any other church service. The services are conducted in German and follow a set liturgy, with little deviation from the traditional format.
There are lots of visiting ministers from other churches (in their fellowship) who don't have church on that day. So the visiting ministers will probably be asked to preach the morning messages.
And after the three-hour morning service, everyone is dismissed for lunch. (We always took a packed lunch for this service, so that we could eat and quickly get back to the afternoon church service.) And sometimes the kids are lucky enough to be able to go home for the afternoon.
The communion service is after lunch. Again German hymns are sung, prayers are said, and sermons are given much as any other church service.
One of the ministers has a shorter sermon, and then the bishop has the main message and shares the story of Jesus' crucifixion.
Usually, by three o'clock, we were ready to start partaking in communion.
The communion elements of bread and wine (grape juice) are distributed, and members of the congregation partake of these elements in remembrance of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
After this, the members of the congregation wash each other's feet as a symbol of humility and service, following the example of Jesus washing his disciples' feet.
Communion in My Amish Church
In our church, the bishop or deacon's wife baked one large round loaf of bread. And everyone was given a small piece of bread from that loaf. Eating from one loaf was supposed to symbolize unity in the body.
The bishop and deacon of the church went around the room together and broke and handed a tiny piece of bread to each individual.
This was followed with grape juice. The deacon carried the jar of grape juice to refill the cup, and another minister handed the cup to each individual to take a sip.
(Yes, we all took a sip from the same cup. And yes, they started with the men. So by the time the cup came to me, practically everyone in the church had already drunk from that cup. And yes, I think that's gross!)
After everyone had partaken of the bread and grape juice, it was time for feet washing.
The host distributed five or six buckets of water throughout the room, and we paired up based on gender. (For example, the gal sitting next to me and I teamed up.) Then we took turns washing each other's feet.
After removing our shoes and socks, one of us would sit on the bench and lift a foot over the bucket, while the other knelt in front and washed the feet using their hands to pour the water. Afterward, the feet were dried with a towel, and we switched roles to repeat the process. The ritual concluded with a handshake and a holy kiss.
As we waited for everyone to take their turn, we sang German hymns. And then the service ended with a few closing remarks, a prayer, and another song.
Finally, by the time it was over, it was time for us to get home to start the evening chores of milking the cows.
It was a long day of sitting on hard, backless benches. And as a young person, I always dreaded communion services. There was nothing precious or meaningful about it. Therefore, it was just something I had to get through twice a year.
And as I got older and more rebellious toward our church and standards, it became harder and harder for me to endure.
Communion Services in Amish Communities
Overall, Amish communion services are a time for the church to come together in a shared expression of faith and devotion to God.
Attendance at Communion Services is considered a serious obligation for Amish members and is one of the ways in which they express their commitment to their faith and church.
The Amish believe that Communion is a time to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and to recommit to living a life of obedience to the church.
The service is conducted in a simple, humble, and reverent manner, reflecting the values of the Amish community.
More About the Amish
You can read more about the Amish in my other posts. And if you have any questions about the Amish, leave them in the comments below.