Religious Services

walk-to-church buggies-to-church buggies-at-churchBecause the Amish do not have church buildings, they hold church services in their homes. Every other Sunday the members of the local district meet in the home of one of their members. Services rotate among the homes throughout the year, coming to each household about once a year depending on the number of households in the district. Services may be held in several rooms on the home’s first floor, in the basement, in a barn, or in a large shop. On the “off” Sundays, members might meet for Bible reading as a family or they might attend the service in a nearby district.

Religious services reflect the simplicity and plainness of Amish life. There are no altars, candles, organs, stained glass windows, choirs, or pulpits. Children sit with their parents during the long service. Youth, separated by gender, sit in a special section of the congregation. No special classes or Sunday school is part of the morning worship service. (Except for some New Order groups and a few other communities, most Amish do not hold Sunday school classes.)

Slow, unison singing in German, without rhythm or instruments, unites the community together in worship. The ancient tunes are sung by memory. The words, many written by Anabaptist prisoners, are printed in the Ausbund, the Amish hymnbook. A scripture passage, read by the deacon, and two prayers (one silent and the other read from a prayer book) during which the congregation kneels are part of the lengthy service.

An opening sermon, thirty minutes in length, is followed by the main sermon, which lasts an hour or more. During a private meeting held at the beginning of the service while the congregation sings the opening hymn, the leaders decide which of them will preach. They preach in the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect and do not use notes.

The worship service ritualizes many of the key values of Amish faith—humility, community, simplicity, and yieldedness to God’s will.

Additional information

  • See chapter 5, “Sacred Rituals,” in Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt, The Amish. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
  • See chapter 5, “Rites of Redemption and Purification,” in Donald B. Kraybill, The Riddle of Amish Culture. 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001).
  • See Chapter 7, “An Amish Sunday in LaGrange County, Indiana,” in Stephen M. Scott, The Amish Wedding and Other Special Occasions of the Old Order Communities (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1988).

About the site

Amish Studies is an academic website developed by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College to provide reliable information on Amish life and culture.

Designed to assist scholars, students and the general public, the site was developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of a collaborative research grant on Amish diversity and identity in the 20th century. The research team included principal investigator Donald B. Kraybill of Elizabethtown College (Pa.) and two co-investigators, Steven M. Nolt of Goshen College (Ind.) and Karen M. Johnson-Weiner of SUNY Potsdam (New York).

The Amish population statistics are updated annually in July. Other information will be revised and added on a periodic basis.

Recent books

The Amish book cover

Authors: Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013)

Renegade Amish book cover

Author: Donald Kraybill (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014)