Sunday, March 30, 2008

Church members for life?

Tonight I had the opportunity to hear an expert in the Amish culture speak about the Amish communities response to the school shooting two years ago. This scholar from Goshen College co-authored a book titled “Amish Grace.” An amazing story from a group of people that I can learn from, I wrote a blog last year titled “Long live the Amish.” I have a great deal of respect and admiration for this community of people.
One of the topics that was dealt with in this scholars speech was the Amish as a community and not as individuals. The Amish as a community forgave the man’s family who administered this act of violence. In order to be part of this community he individual has to make a pledge and promise they are going to embrace this for life. This is a promise that comes with heavy consequences such as being shunned if broken.
How would this change our culture if we made a vow like this? Could you imagine how much less church splits and church shopping would happen ? Yes there are some downsides to this such as being so ingrained and so inward focus, but the community and family atmosphere that would be built would be so great.
If we were to start incorporating some of the values that the Amish have in their churches we would probably see greater fruit from relationships. I think many times don’t invest fully into relationships with others in a church setting because we are afraid of hurt and rejection or because it isn’t worth the effort. We can be somewhere else if we get our feelings hurt or if there is something newer at another church.
We are losing out on the relationships God has intended us to have. I know I have. stated that I am unsure of what is going to happen when our new pastor comes into town. The reality is it doesn’t matter. I have grown so close in such a short period of time to a core group here in Goshen, that I really couldn’t imagine life without them.
Isn’t that what a large aspect of church is all about? Finding people to do life with and working through struggles together, it is so hard to find this and we should fight a lot more than we do to keep it.
Another aspect of Amish culture this scholar said tonight was that the Amish were surprised when they went to visit the family of the man who killed their children, and no one else was there to support the family of the killer. (He committed suicide during the rampage) The Amish take care of those who are widowed and hurting. For those who are widowed they visit them every Sunday for a year after their loss. They don’t even have a full time pastor to ensure this happening. They understand and care enough about each other is just a way of life.
That is just the way Amish do it, when asked why they forgave the killer their response was that is who we are. We decided a long time ago this was the response we were going to have and we were ready for it.
There are many horrible aspects of being an Amish but they sure have a lot for us middle class American Christians to learn about caring for each other.

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