One important reason why guests come to Lancaster County, it is to find out more about these AMISH. Here is a sampling of them and their sister community of Mennonites. The Amish and Mennonites in Lancaster County share many of the same beliefs. This is not very surprising since both groups share common roots. Both groups grew out of the Anabaptist movement which arose in 1525 in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Protestant Reformation movement brought on by Martin Luther.
The difference between the two groups is how the beliefs are practiced and lived. The overall doctrine followed by each is similar.
The Mennonites tend to be more tolerant of technology and the outside world than are the Amish. Furthermore, the Mennonites accept higher education and modern technology. They tend to see these influences as ways that can be used to strengthen their religious beliefs.
The Amish, on the other hand, tend to feel that these influences of the outside world only interfere with the purity of their faith. They generally forbid higher education, dress in “plain” clothes, refrain from the use of electricity and ride in horse-drawn buggies.
The Mennonites have historically sought to increase their fellowship through missionary activities throughout the world. Whereas, the Amish have never felt the need for such activities.
Another difference is the way the Pennsylvania Amish and Mennonites worship. For example, although both groups are against rituals, religious icons, and ostentation, the Mennonite do worship in churches, The churches are not ornate by any means but they are separate, designated buildings used primarily for worship.
Amish church services are even more simple than that of the Mennonites. Amish services are held in the homes of the congregation and are conducted by members who improvise the sermons without any advance preparation whatsoever.
Despite these differences, it should be noted that there are groups of Amish who accept worldly influences such as higher education and the use of automobiles.
Likewise, there are groups of Mennonites that don’t accept such influences and still ride in horse-drawn buggies and forbid higher education.
Perhaps, the best way to understand the Anabaptist heritage in Lancaster County is not to distinguish between the Amish and the Mennonites. Rather, it is more helpful to differentiate between the “Old Order” and the “Modern.”
Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites are those who base their lifestyle decision-making choices from their faith, fellowship and tradition. These are the Amish and Mennonites who dress “plain,” forbid higher education, ride in horse and buggies, and choose occupations connected to the farm and to the home.
On the other hand, Modern Amish and Modern Mennonites are those more acculturated to modern society. They accept the influences of the worldly society even if those influences may conflict with what their faith fellowship believes.
As you can guess, Modern Amish and Modern Mennonites do accept some technology innovations such as the automobile and feel that higher education can strengthen their religious beliefs. Modern Amish and Modern Mennonites may take occupations outside the home and farm. It is these modern groups that are often involved in worldwide missionary activities.
Tom and Sarah