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This week, church service was being held over the horse barn at the house of a young Amish couple. According to Katie, new barns and shops are being built with these massive rooms on the second floor for the very purpose of holding church services and weddings since many of the older people are moving into more contemporary (and smaller) homes and young people cannot afford farms. Besides, there is only so much farmland to go around and, from the looks of area, much of it is being built up by tourist attractions, hotels, and subdivisions for non-Amish folks to live.
Once upstairs, all of the women stand around the kitchen area (a counter, sink, and refrigerator). As new women arrive, they single file past all of the other women, greeting them with a handshake and a kiss…usually on the mouth which was a bit surprising to me but Katie S. had warned me in advance. After the women file past, they stand at the end of the line in order to greet those who arrive after them.
It was interesting to me to see that the initial people who arrived were older and then, the closer it got to service time, the younger mothers with their little broods of children arrived. With the exception of one family, all of the little girls were dressed in the same color dresses with white organdy aprons covering their dresses. They were beautiful, simply breathtaking. Little girls wear a dress like cover while the older girls wear a regular white apron (in organdy) with an upside down V on their chest and back.
After a while, it began to get very crowded. Katie S. loved to point out the women who walked by and tell me little gossip about them. “That one has a new baby every year!” she said as she pointed out Rachel. “She lost two babies but is having another one soon,” she said about Leah. “Those two are sisters and they married brothers and they are both expecting in summer!” she added in delight as she pointed to two other women whose name I cannot recall.
There must have been over 225 people there. Most of the women were polite; others gave me a glance and wandered by. It made me realize that Amish are no different than the rest of us when it comes to meeting people. While we might be eager to make their acquaintance, not all of them were eager to make mine. One woman who was going through the line greeted Katie then greeted me and leaned forward to kiss me. Then she realized I’m not Amish, pulled back and started laughing. “Ach!” she said. “I wasn’t paying attention!”
But I laughed too and shrugged then leaned forward to kiss her. I think I blushed for 20 minutes and the older ladies had quite a chuckle about it!
About this time, the ministers, male guests, and newly appointed bishop arrived in the room. They greeted all of the women with a handshake including me. No smiles, no words, just a nod and quick handshake. And then…it was time for church to begin!