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Sometimes a child walks from his mother in one room to his father in the other. Because there may be over 150 people, men and women eat in shifts, oldest through youngest, usually in separate rooms,.Each place setting usually has a knife, cup, and saucer, with a glass of water.The core of the hymnbook consists of about 50 hymns written mostly by 16th century German Anabaptists, many imprisoned in castle dungeons for their religious beliefs..These forefathers of the Amish and Mennonites, Anabaptists ("re-baptizers") were so named because they practiced adult rather than infant baptism.During the service, a wide range of responses are noted, as at a church service anywhere.Some people may be dozing off, others shaking their heads in agreement. Mothers often bring Cheerios, candy, a toy animal wrapped in a hanky, or a picture book.The Amish have a booklet outlining the hymns and Scriptures to be used at each service.
We alone, a little flock, The few who still remain, Are exiles wandering through the land In sorrow and in pain...Teenagers who feel they are ready to join the church begin the process by attending special instruction classes beforehand.There are usually nine of these, and they take place during regular church services.The meal may consist of coffee, bread, "church spread" (a combination of peanut butter and marshmallow), jam, apple butter, red beets, pickles, cheese, and sometimes snitz (dried apple) pie. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to attend an Amish church service can rarely forget the power and simple beauty of Amish hymns, the sound created by 150 people packed into the rooms of a house singing from their special hymnal, the AUSBUND.
Well over 400 years old, the AUSBUND is one of the most famous and important books to the Amish.
In every culture, special occasions are marked by ritual and tradition---the particular way a community celebrates an event.