The other day I thought I would brush up on my history and take a trip to the Mennonite Information Center. I have lived in Lancaster for 20 years and growing up surrounded by the beautiful farmlands of Lancaster County, I figured I knew all there was to know about the Mennonite and Amish lifestyle. Turned out, I didn’t know much at all.
Not to steal the Mennonite Information Center’s thunder, but I thought I would share a little of what I learned on my trip, mainly answering the age old question we Lancaster Countians are asked quite frequently, “What is the difference between the Mennonites and the Amish?”
Well, both groups actually stem from the same Christian movement during the European Protestant Reformation. These Christians were called Anabaptists and they sought to return to a simplicity of faith and practice based on the Bible. The Anabaptists also stressed the importance that belief must result in practice, and that idea still holds true today for both the Amish and Mennonite communities.
The split between the two groups started with a gentleman named Jacob Amann who believed that sinning resulting in excommunication should result in a more serious punishment (now known as “shunning”) then what the Mennonite community currently followed. Amann’s beliefs attracted a large group of followers who came to be known as the Amish.
Today, the greatest differences between the Amish and Mennonites stem mainly from practices rather than beliefs. Amish groups tend to shy away from technology and involvement with the greater world, by dressing “plain” and using scooters and buggies for transportation. The Mennonites have embraced some of the world’s technologies and stress the importance of missionary work, helping to spread their faith to over fifty countries around the world.
Mind you, there is much more to the history and beliefs of the Mennonite and Amish than a couple of sentences and there are also exceptions to every rule. So, if you are in Lancaster and are curious to learn more about these two great cultures stop by the Mennonite Information Center and take a tour of their life-sized Tabernacle Reproduction or enjoy one of their many informative movies and documentaries.