Sunday, February 21, 2010

Religious Freedom

I recently read a pamphlet from 1961 called "Meet The Mennonites".   It gave a short history of the church, and the various sects in and around Southeastern Pennsylvania.  I learned a few things, so I count the the reading as a success.  One of the things I learned was that the Amish are actually a Mennonite sect, born from a schism within the church in Europe in the 1690s.    They brought their differences to the New World.

There seem to be division upon division within the church.  Some Mennonites are conservative to the point that you'd think they were Amish - apparently one of the main differences being that Mennonites have a meeting house, while Amish hold services in the various member's homes.   Other Mennonites are quite mainstream, driving cars, having professional jobs and so on.

But this was the neat thing, that people here take for granted.  There were all kinds of divisions within the church, with people breaking away from a larger group and forming their own congregations.  While their may have been animosity among the people involved, officially no one cared.  It was their right.  No state police, no federal entity of any kind interfered.   Religious persecution in Europe had existed for centuries, but in the United States religious freedom was guaranteed. 

My father's parents attended a Mennonite Church in Knott County, Kentucky.  Granny would put on a prayer cap, and I remember a lot of people in dark pants and white shirts, no neck-ties.  I seem to remember men & women sitting on opposite sides of the building, but I'm not sure. 

My mother's parents were Baptists, but with a minor adjustment, they could have easily been Old Order Mennonites.  Grandma, especially, was very religious.  They were farmers, maintaining fairly large fields by Eastern Kentucky standards.  Grandpa plowed with a mule.  They kept farm animals - mules, cows, pigs & chickens, and that provided a lot of protien for them. They did not own a car, a tractor or anything like that.  I remember watching Grandma make soap - she deemed it to dangerous and me to young to help, so I just watched from a safe distance.  They did not have indoor plumbing.  But, they had electricity, a telephone, (no TV), and a gas powered lawnmower.  So just get rid of the electicity, telephone & lawn mower, put a prayer cap on Grandma, teach them German, and there you go.

It's interesting.  A little history I did not know.


Heather said...

I love this post! I was captivated with the Amish and Mennonites for years. When hubby and I were trucking across the U.S. and were seeing the little buggies pulled by horses, I was hooked! Every truck stop we went to up north had books written by Beverly Lewis and other writers and I would buy them as often as I could. I have since passed them on to my grand daughter.

Great Post!!

A Valdese Blogger said...

Heather: Thank you, glad you enjoyed it!