One of the major rites of passage for the Amish and Mennonites is Rumspringa, which literally translates as “running around.” The purpose of this rite of passage is to make certain of one’s commitment to Amish lifestyle and faith. This rite of passage takes place when the child is around sixteen years old. The adolescents are allowed some freedom from Amish life. They may wear jeans, go on dates, drink alcohol, and partake in other activities that are not allowed in Amish communities. By participating, they are able to see what life is like outside of the Amish faith, and therefore may make an informed decision about whether or not they want to make a commitment to the Amish faith by being baptized. Around eighty-five percent choose to remain Amish and become baptized. Rites of passage evident in the Amish faith are Baptism, commitment to God, entrance to adulthood, and courtship. There are two kinds of rituals, social and ceremonial. The social rituals consist of home activities and chores. These are strict ways of clothing, family, relations, child rearing, and so on. The ceremonial rituals consist of worship, baptism, marriages, communion, and funerals.
In the Amish faith, Baptism is one of the ceremonial rituals that take place during a child’s late adolescence. Baptism signifies repentance and commitment in the church and the transition to adulthood. This ritual is important for the Amish community because it welcomes a new member to its community, thus making the community stronger. This is considered as a rite of passage because adolescents are able to make their own decisions and are willing to live their life following the way of their community. These new members must live with duty, honor, loyalty, and religious calling. Baptism happens when the Amish person is an adult, and can make an informed commitment to the faith. They are baptized as adults so that they can make a true and knowledgeable commitment to God. They have spent their whole lives coming to understand the Amish faith, and therefore can decide whether they agree with their faith’s practices and can obey to them.
Before an adolescent can be baptized, he or she must attend classes with ministers on Sunday mornings. During these classes, ministers teach the adolescents the Confession of Faith, since it is the basis of Amish instruction. Adolescents must follow the will of their parents and must commit their life to God and to the community before they can be baptized. A young man must make a promise to fulfill their duties and must kneel and answer questions by the bishops, deacons, and ministers. Males are baptized first with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. When the bishop gets to the female, the wife of the bishop helps to take their caps off for baptism. Each new member is greeted with a holy kiss on the hand. They are asked if they can renounce the devil, the world, and themselves and if they can commit themselves to Christ and the Church and be obedient to the Word of God. Baptism is a permanent vow to follow the Church.
Marriage is another ceremonial ritual important in the Amish community. Marriage is the welcome of a new home in the community, another place to hold preaching services and another family with which to raise future members in the Amish way of life. These couples are moving from adolescence to adulthood. The service of marriage is similar to other weddings in America. With marriage, there is a lot of secrecy and planning. Couples have to be secretive with their courtship. The minister goes to the woman’s house at night and asks her if she wants to marry the man who sent him, then the minister asks the woman’s parents for their permission for the marriage.
Worship services are held in Amish homes, while the Church districts hold services every other Sunday. A group containing at least two hundred or more neighbors and relatives will have an “off Sunday” and father for worship. Often they will meet in a farmhouse, the basement of a newer home, or in a shed or a barn. Their sedentary lifestyle keeps them from congregating in churches or mosques. After a three-hour morning service, a fellowship meal is held at noon, followed by informal visiting time. The Amish engage in plain and simple, but unwritten liturgy with congregational singing and two sermons. Their liturgies are unique and done without the aid of offerings, candles, crosses, and robes. Music is sung from memory in unison without any musical accompaniment.
Communion services are held each autumn and spring. The communion frames the religious year for the Amish. These rituals emphasize self-examination and spiritual rejuvenation. Sins are confessed and members reaffirm their vows. Communion is held when the congregation is at peace and when all members are in harmony. The six- to eight-hour communion service includes preaching, a light meal during the service, and the commemoration of Christ’s death with bread and wine. Pairs of members wash each other’s feet as the congregation sings. At the end of the communion service members give an alms offering to the deacon, the only time that offerings are collected in the Amish faith.