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Source: (consider it) Thread: Amish/Mennonites and transport
Shubenacadie
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Earlier this year I visited various relatives and friends in different parts of North America, travelling between them by train, and noticed several groups of people on trains who I presume were Amish, Mennonites or something of that kind -- the women were the most noticeable because they wore bonnets and long dresses, but I think a few of the men may have had beards and hats. They seem to make up a much higher proportion of Amtrak passengers than they do of the population as a whole.

Does anyone know which group or groups they belong to? What are their rules about transport? (I'm guessing that different groups might have different rules). The usual image of the Amish is of people in horse-drawn buggies, but clearly the people I saw are prepared to travel by train, and given the scarcity of railway stations in most parts of the USA you'd think they might need to use motor vehicles to get to the station; but I presume that their presence in noticeable numbers on the trains is because they don't fly.

What is the basis for these rules? I'm reminded (not that I'm trying to laugh at them) of Michael Flanders's introduction to 'The Slow Train' in which he referred to 'the old lady who said that if God had intended us to fly he'd never have given us the railways'. I'm all in favour (on the grounds of environmental impact, enabling people to see the world they're travelling through, and personal preference), of using trains and not planes (unfortunately it wasn't practicable for me to make the trip without flying across the Atlantic), but I presume that these people's customs predate modern environmentalism, and also that it's not just a case of prohibiting forms of transport that were invented after 1900 or something like that.

In case it helps with anwering my questions, one group boarded at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and changed at Pittsburgh for the Chicago train (I'm not sure whether they went as far as Chicago). Another group boarded at a small town in Iowa; some left the train at Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and some were I think still on board when I left it at Grand Junction. I noticed a few more while travelling through Oregon on the train from California to Seattle. I didn't much notice what language they were using, but one of them sitting near me appeared to be writing a diary in English, whereas when a large white bird came into view one of them pointed it out to another as a 'grosse weisse [something]'. (As an aside, my first thought was 'gannet', but that would have been unlikely in the middle of the continent; it turned out to be a pelican).

(I considered putting this in Heaven, as it's more of a request for information about something interesting that I noticed on holiday than the start of a discussion, but I didn't want to be suspected of flippancy about people's beliefs, and it might of course trigger discussion. Hosts please move it if you think fit).

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Jay-Emm
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I understand there's a degree of independence (which ties indirectly with sustainability) that they require.
(Rather than e.g. it being modern)

That would seem, to first order, to contradict with use of the train. (But I guess they can just stop using the train at any time)

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mr cheesy
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I've heard it said that some groups of Amish will not travel by car but will fly on holiday...

I think there is quite a variety of views on technology within the various Amish groups.

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Many Mennonites on the Canadian Prairies. Canadian Mennonites. Pretty parallel to the Mid-west USA. There are other groups, particularly Hutterites which appear to resemble Old Colony Mennonites or Holdeman Mennonites, but are from a different tradition, living in agrarian colonies. Mennonite Churches are some of the largest here.

The basic issue in answering the question in the OP is that there are so many groups, which make independent decisions as a congregational group that it is hard to generalise. The Amish don't drive and dress in old fashioned ways. The Hutterites dress like the Amish but are okay with communally-owned vehicles. I wonder if some of whom you're seeing travel might be visiting other groups of similar bent; we see that some travel to check out marital partners for their children in the summer.

There is a fully assimilated group of Mennonites, which are Mennonite Brethren and affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee and the Mennonite University of Canada in Winnipeg. Similar to Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. With links to Mennonites in Mexico, Uraguay, Peru and Argentina.

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Pomona
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What did the dresses and bonnets look like in terms of patterns, shapes etc? That might well be the clearest indication as to which group they belonged to, as they each have a distinctive style (eg plaid dresses and kerchiefs usually mean Hutterites, floral prints usually mean some kind of Mennonite group etc). Some, like modern Plain-dressing Quakers, don't follow distinct rules and can be distinguished by that.

They are more likely to be Mennonite than Amish, but there is a lot of diversity even amongst the Amish. Not using technology is predominantly about simplicity, but some Amish do have small generators on their land. Using public transit could reasonably be seen as a more economical and simple option for long-distance travel as opposed to a car or even a horse and cart (which wouldn't be suitable for long distances).

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Palimpsest
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In general, there's a lot of diversity in the way Amish use technology. For example, exceptions were made so that milk to be sold could be refrigerated as required by State Health Boards.

I had a friend whose father left the Amish (He didn't think they were religious enough.) The great burden of leaving the religion is that there's often a large group of relatives whose religious practice doesn't allow them to own or drive cars, but allows them to ask non-religious relatives to drive them where they want to go. They were always being asked to chauffer their many relatives.

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Golden Key
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Some Amish practices vary. Encroaching outside culture, and lack of jobs, has meant that many men work outside the community. I saw a documentary show where Amish, Mennonite, and mainstream men worked together in a small wood-working factory. IIRC, some accommodations were made. AIUI, the Pennsylvanian branch is more conservative than the Ohioan. Some Amish are even online.

I don't know of any Amish communities on the West Coast, so the people you saw there were probably conservative or Old Order Mennonites, or maybe Hutterites. There might be other groups that dress similarly.

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sabine
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I did 20 years of anthropological fieldwork with the Amish and belong to a Mennonite church. Unless you can describe the clothing more carefully, it is hard to know which of the many Anabaptist groups you saw on the train (Old Order Amish, New Order Amish, Beachy Amish, Old German Baptist, Old Order Mennonite, Amish-Mennonite, Dunkard Brethren, etc.)

Most of these groups will ride a train. The premise with the Old Order Amish is that they do not own cars (for various reasons not related to how they feel about people who do) but will hire a car if necessary and use public transportation if necessary.

I know it appears from the outside that hiring a car or riding a train is somehow going against an ideal, but the ideal has more to do with what is best for the community (owning the car) than it does with the goodness or badness of cars in general.

sabine

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by Golden Key:


I don't know of any Amish communities on the West Coast, so the people you saw there were probably conservative or Old Order Mennonites, or maybe Hutterites. There might be other groups that dress similarly.

I don't believe there are Hutterites on the West Coast (at least not in the US). Hutterites drive cars, but like the rest of us, might not want to for a long trip. The women's dress is quite distinctive from other Anabaptist groups (see Pomona's post).

I've suggested some groups that might be seen riding a train in my last post.

sabine

[ 07. August 2017, 15:24: Message edited by: sabine ]

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:


There is a fully assimilated group of Mennonites, which are Mennonite Brethren and affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee and the Mennonite University of Canada in Winnipeg. Similar to Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia.

Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada would be the most fulling "assimilated" denominations. They are not Mennonite Brethren.

sabine

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by Golden Key:
AIUI, the Pennsylvanian branch is more conservative than the Ohioan. Some Amish are even online.

There is no "Pennsylvania Branch" or "Ohio Branch." You will find a wide spectrum of practices in both places.Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana have the highest Amish populations in the US, so the chances of finding diversity among them is great.

sabine

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Golden Key
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sabine--

IIRC, there's been a Hutterite community in the Pacific NW, probably Washington. Don't know if that's still the case.

Thanks for your other responses. I'll try to get to them later.

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by Golden Key:
sabine--

IIRC, there's been a Hutterite community in the Pacific NW, probably Washington. Don't know if that's still the case.


Appreciate this, GK. I checkrd, and there seem to be Hutterites near Spokane in eastern Washington state. Whether or not that is "the coast" is entirely up to individual interpretation, of course. [Smile]

sabine

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:


There is a fully assimilated group of Mennonites, which are Mennonite Brethren and affiliated with the Mennonite Central Committee and the Mennonite University of Canada in Winnipeg. Similar to Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. With links to Mennonites in Mexico, Uraguay, Peru and Argentina.

Oh dear, I misread this earlier and posted a completely unneeded correction. I'm sorry.

sabine

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Hedgehog

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quote:
Originally posted by sabine:
Whether or not that is "the coast" is entirely up to individual interpretation, of course.

Those would be the "Beachy Amish" you were mentioning? [Big Grin]

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Shubenacadie
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Thankyou everyone for your replies. I expected that there might not be a simple clear answer, but I hadn't realised quite how much diversity there was.

I'd have made more detailed mental notes of their clothing if I'd realised that I might end up discussing it with the experts of the Ship [Smile] . I don't recall any patterned dresses; the one photo that I have, a general view of the observation car of the train passing through Oregon with one of these women among the passengers, shows an unpatterned dress of a light purple colour and a small simple white bonnet worn on the back of the head. (The man sitting next to her, who wouldn't otherwise stand out from the other passengers, has short hair, no beard and a light blue shirt). I don't remember the people I saw further east looking very different -- I have a vague memory of blue, grey or purple unpatterned dresses -- although some of the bonnets may have been bigger.

Does the use of German in conversation (among those travelling from Iowa to Colorado) shed any light on which group(s) they might belong to?

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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Without knowing the dialect of German it is very hard to say. The varieties of German are quite many. Locally there is Plott Dietch (Plautdietsch), other varieties of low German, Mennonite German, Hutterite dialects, with some groups having come to North America from Russia, Switzerland, German borderlands to Netherlands, and from Europe via South America and everywhere in between. All I know is that the bits of high German I know helps me very little in understanding when we go to farmers' markets. Though I am told (don't know if it is true) that some groups use High German in worship.

Plain Dress may also be helpful.

[ 07. August 2017, 23:39: Message edited by: no prophet's flag is set so... ]

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LutheranChik
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I live in an area of Michigan with large communities of Amish and, to a lesser extent, Mennonites. Many are Old Order Amish, who began moving here from Ohio and Indiana in the 70's because they felt modernism was creeping into their communities. More progressive Amish began settling here somewhat later.

The Amish follow the " Ordnung," the rules for community life, set out by their founder, who emphasized simplicity, modesty and separation from the dominant culture. But there's no central authority or designated/trained clergy, so each community kind of negotiates its own interpretation of the Otdnung and it's relationships with technology and with outsiders.

As far as transportation, for instance, our Old Order friends may only own horsepower transportation. They're allowed to ride in automobiles driven by " English" people, but only for purposeful activities like being driven to a job or getting a ride to the hospital or to see faraway family. (Driving Amish in vans is a brisk business around here
Our Amish friend Mary says that they are discouraged from getting rides to destinations easily traveled by buggy...do thst too often and you may get a visit from the elders.

Less conservative Amish also use buggies for travel, but some of the businesspeople around here use machinery like forklifts.

Old Order clothing is simple, dark colors, ankle- length dresses for females and no buttons for anyone -- heartening back to The days when buttons were mostly the province of soldiers, or a sign of wealth. Believe it or not, straight pins ate used as closures, or hook and eye closures depending on the item. Other, less strict Amish may use small closures Nd even an occasional hidden button.

Their guidelines may seem arbitrary at best, silly at worst, but there is a kind of intermal consistency in how they discuss these things.

If anyone has other questions about them, I'm happy to answer them. We have friends in both communities, and they've taught us a lot about their culture


O

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Gee D
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Long time no see, LutheranChik, and welcome back. Those little details are interesting, especially as Amish and Mennonite people are scarce on the ground here.

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Barnabas62
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Big hi sign for LutheranChik from me too.

A Rumspringa question. Is the normal Ordnung suspended over transport as well e.g. how about a teen Amish driving a car?

[ 23. August 2017, 07:58: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

A Rumspringa question. Is the normal Ordnung suspended over transport as well e.g. how about a teen Amish driving a car?

Yes, as I understand they often learn to drive.
NPR on rumspringa

I can't find the thing I was reading a while ago about an Amish group who all went on holiday together by plane. It was very weird.

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Barnabas62
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Thanks. Interesting link.

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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LutheranChik
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Glad to be back...although at the moment I am hunting/ pecking on a phone, so excuse any typos

With the disclaimer that many of the Amish around here moved here precisely to get away from their more " worldly" coreligionists...Rumspringa isn't quite as out-of-control as scripted reality shows and films would have you believe.

The purpose of Rumspringa is rooted in the Anabaptist principle that conversion to Christianity be a mindful adult decision. To that end, parents give teens some leeway to bend the rules, to let them experience a bit of adolescent rebellion and exposure to " English" ways, before making a choice to be baptized and join the church.

Because it's a patriarchal society and Because so much household work falls upon women, teen girls are still kept on a pretty short leash. The boys have a bit more freedom. Some of them get farmhand or carpentry jobs with English employers, and sometimes they learn to drive there. But in our experience Rumspringa around here usuly manifests itself in teenage boys taking a buggy out to some quiet backroad for illicit drinking and smoking ( once we saw a girlie magazine being quickly hidden from our view), or a girl rebelliously donning running shoes, or teens of both sexes buying contraband pay- as- you-go cellphones. The owner of our local electronics store says he has a huge clientele of Amish teenagers. (How they charge these phones is still a mystery.) Once the kids get baptized and join the church, no more driving cars, even for an outside job.

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sabine
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During the course of my ethnographic fieldwork (which included living with the Amish for periods of time) I saw few running-around teens driving cars, but many of them had tricked out buggies.

And almost none of them relocated to large cities as the television shows would have you believe. They just made use of whatever was close to explore.

And interestingly, different church districts will have different rules for transportation issues. One church district I was familiar with could use tractors on the farm but not as transport, while another district (just a few miles down the road) could use a tractor motor only to power something in the barn, and another district close by could use none of the above. And then, sometimes Amish families run non-farm businesses and allowances are made for driving as related to the businesses--but again, this is all decided at the church district level.

The Amish are very congregational in terms of church governance.

And then, there are differences relating to buggy wheels. Wooden, metal, metal with rubber?? I've seen them all.

Because community is so important, all of these things have to do with what the district perceives as a change that might encourage the splitting of the community.

I've been discussing Old Order Amish.The other Amish groups have a variety of different views about cars and tractors. (e.g., some will use a car but will paint any chrome black).

sabine

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:
Because so much household work falls upon women, teen girls are still kept on a pretty short leash. The boys have a bit more freedom. Some of them get farmhand or carpentry jobs with English employers.....or a girl rebelliously donning running shoes

Thank you for all the information about the Amish in your neck of the woods, LuthernaChik.

I might add that I know many communities where young women regularly work as farmhands or in carpentry shops until they get married. And many times, running shoes (or regular gym shoes) are worn every day because they are practical and comfortable.

sabine

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Golden Key
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quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:
...or teens of both sexes buying contraband pay- as- you-go cellphones. The owner of our local electronics store says he has a huge clientele of Amish teenagers. (How they charge these phones is still a mystery.) Once the kids get baptized and join the church, no more driving cars, even for an outside job.

I think there are wind-up chargers available, as are wind-up flashlights and radios.

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LutheranChik
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There is a bit of tension between our Old Order and other Amish. Our Old Order friend told us that their community is leery of the young people from the other community because They're " fast" and have even gotten in trouble for minor vandalism, mistreating horses while racing buggies down the road, etc. She also made a comment to the effect that the non- Old Order Amish look down on them.

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Gramps49
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We have a Mennonite community nearby. They often come into town to shop. The women will be wearing long plaid dresses. Men often have overalls and a long sleeve shirt. They will also be wearing a bonnet (if a woman) or a straw hat (if a man). I believe I have seen some of the women actually driving vehicles. I know one Mennonite woman who cares for a "gentile" woman. I see her drive her charge around town.

Interesting story about our experience with the group. When my son graduated from UC Davis with a Masters degree in Geography, my wife and I had given him a set of geography books that were used in elementary schools at the turn of the 20th century. They were actually very detailed for their time. Inside the books were the names of two young girls. My son looked the names up and found they had been twins who grew up in a Mennonite community north of Spokane WA. They ended up marrying a set of twins from our nearby community. They all are buried out at the Mennonite Cemetery near here.

The takeaway I had was the Mennonite Community believes in a solid education. Someone pointed out the Mennonite colleges previously.

I can say the Mennonite farms around here are very modern. They take good care of their outbuildings. They also operate some of the best farm equipment in the area.

It is my impression that the Amish can be broken down into two branches, the Old Amish, and the New Amish. The Old Order Amish avoid modern forms of transportation if at all possible. Yes, they will take trains and if they use cars they will be driven by a gentile. The New Order Amish will own vehicles, but they are no frill type vehicles, always painted black.

Both orders hate having their pictures taken.

As I said Mennonites are conservative in their dress but do take advantage of modern conveniences.

Amish and Mennonites are both family oriented.

On the other hand, Hutterites are more colonial in nature. The head of the colony will determine the types of crops the colony will plant and the type of work everyone will do for the good of the colony. Usually, their former education ends around 16 years old (depending on local laws). Women usually wear long dresses, but they are allowed to wear other work clothing if the task demands it. They will always wear a black scarf. Men tend to have jeans or heavy pants and long shirts.

The Hutterites also have no problem using modern vehicles and equipment, though women seldom are seen driving.

Posts: 1912 | From: Pullman WA | Registered: Apr 2011  |  IP: Logged
Og: Thread Killer
Ship's token CN Mennonite
# 3200

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Just seeing this:


Sabine's work in here is pretty spot on. [Overused]

People think the decision to wear and use is based on rejecting technology when it's really based on maintaining the community.

It is really important when discussing the broad group that Mennonites are to remember that most Mennonites are not, for lack of another phrase "Old Order types" who live in a community setting. Heck, there are as many Mennonites in Ethiopia as there are in Canada.

There are over 600 different Mennonite groups in North America. There is no common denominator anymore beyond being able to trace the denominational history back to the Radical Reformation. There is, by and large, a shared commitment for putting the Beatitudes into practice and to pacifism; however, this is by no means universal.


In some ways, discussions of "What type of a Mennonite is this" is akin to "What type of an Anglican are they".

Posts: 5020 | From: Toronto | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged


 
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