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December 16, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST
The Amish stretch across 28 states and into Ontario, Canada. Missouri has the seventh largest population of Amish with 38 settlements and 81 church districts, which amounts to a total of 9,475 Amish residents. Within Missouri, however, there is a difference among communities. Jamesport, arguably the most well-known town with an Amish community, has an established tourism industry, including a website and guided tours through the community.Related Articles
Missouri’s Amish are not a dying relic; more than half of the 38 settlements in Missouri have been established since 2000. The Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, an academic organization that provides information on Amish life and culture, cites six reasons for the rapid growth in Amish populations: fertile farmland at reasonable prices; nonfarm work in specialized occupations; rural isolation that supports their traditional, family-based lifestyle; social and physical environments conducive to their way of life; proximity to family or other similar Amish church groups; and the need to resolve church or leadership conflicts.
“Amish” is a term that non-Amish people use to refer to the language, religion or culture of the Amish population. The population speaks a German dialect known as Pennsylvania Dutch but learn English as well. Both are spoken in Amish country. “English” is a term Amish use to describe all non-Amish. English is used because it simply is the spoken language of the non-Amish community.
Amish and Mennonites are similar in many aspects. Mennonite is a sect of Amish people who live through their religious teachings but are more liberal concerning shunning and other practices.
Amish children attend Amish schools until ninth grade and then begin working for their family. Amish youth, approximately 18 or 19 years old, attend services on Sunday nights to meet other Amish and to begin dating. Amish tend to have more children, between six and seven kids, than non-Amish families. Sundays are usually spent attending church and spending time with family.
Ordnung, or “order,” is a German term that refers to a community’s set of rules. Rumspringa, or “running around,” is practiced by many Amish communities but not in Clark. Rumspringa is a time for young people to explore the English community. It is seen more often in liberal and Eastern communities. Meidung, or “shunning,” is an order in which Amish cannot eat, worship or sometimes even speak with ex-Amish. Severity of shunning can differ for every community and every household.
Technology is not used in Clark and many other Old Order Amish communities. Some communities might allow gas engines and battery-powered buggy lights while others won’t allow technology whatsoever. Economic factors can also affect an Amish community’s technology policy.