Several days ago, I wrote the beginning of my experiences attending an Amish church service in Leola, PA. This entry is a continuation of that posting.
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After everyone was seated, service began with two lovely songs in High German. One man would begin by singing the first syllable of the sentence then the rest of the congregation would sing the rest of the line. One line might take 1-2 minutes to sing. A 12 line song might take 30 minutes or more to sing. But the sound of their voices living in the room over the horse barn was simply…magical. There is no other word for the music.
I sat in my chair (yes, a chair…not a bench), holding my Ausbund in my hand and shut my eyes. I listened to the music and let it touch my heart. I listened to the different voices and tones, appreciating what a special moment this truly was. How many generations of Amish had sung the same songs? What hardships did they encounter in order to continue singing those songs? How many lives had been transpired by the faith of the words as well as inspired by the beauty of the voices?
It was a powerful moment and, indeed, I was moved.
When the ministers left the room, the people continued singing until, 45 minutes later, the ministers returned. They had gone downstairs to discuss who would preach the sermons that day. As luck would have it, two guest ministers won the privilege…and a serious privilege it truly is. They take it very seriously, almost as if it is too strong an honor to preach. The first minister recited poetry, all from heart and…remember…without any knowledge that he would be selected to preach. The poetry was gorgeous, spoken in a song-like manner in High German.
The sermons were about faith. The two ministers talked about Abraham and Moses, how faith had led their way through dark times. They recited the Scriptures from heart and continued speaking for over two hours, interrupted only by two moments of silent prayer.
I was so impressed with the eloquence of the two ministers and their ability to preach for such an extended period of time without the pre-knowledge that they, indeed, would be preaching. I watched the faces of the people attending the service, so attentive and interested in what was being shared with them. I couldn’t help but smile at the little children (and there were quite a lot of them!) who were so very well behaved, barely fidgeting and certainly not complaining. There was a cool breeze in the room, for which I was thankful. I can imagine that, on a hot summer day, the room would be rather stuffy and eyelids would fall shut.
It was truly an amazing day…I wish all of you could have been there.