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The core of the hymnbook consists of about 50 hymns written mostly by 16th century German Anabaptists, many imprisoned in castle dungeons for their religious beliefs..
These forefathers of the Amish and Mennonites, Anabaptists ("re-baptizers") were so named because they practiced adult rather than infant baptism.
Amish visiting other states often note the subtle differences in melody, or the varying speeds with which the hymns are sung, a result of the hymns being changed and embellished over hundreds of years.
We alone, a little flock, The few who still remain, Are exiles wandering through the land In sorrow and in pain...
The meal may consist of coffee, bread, "church spread" (a combination of peanut butter and marshmallow), jam, apple butter, red beets, pickles, cheese, and sometimes snitz (dried apple) pie. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to attend an Amish church service can rarely forget the power and simple beauty of Amish hymns, the sound created by 150 people packed into the rooms of a house singing from their special hymnal, the AUSBUND.
Well over 400 years old, the AUSBUND is one of the most famous and important books to the Amish.
Some ministers present their message in a sort of chanting, sing-song manner, in the Pennsylvania German dialect, with Scriptures in High German.
It is not unusual for much emotion to be shown, and tears are not uncommon. As in any church, different preachers have different styles. Scriptures are read and they kneel for silent prayer prior to the main sermon. Ministers often quote a passage from Scripture and then talk about it. It is quite amazing that these "untrained" clergy can deliver such powerful, emotional messages to their congregations.
Some people may be dozing off, others shaking their heads in agreement. Mothers often bring Cheerios, candy, a toy animal wrapped in a hanky, or a picture book.Anabaptist means "re-baptizer." These people were so-named because, although they had been baptized as infants in the State Church, they believed that one became a Christian only by a conscious decision as an adult.A book called the Martyrs Mirror describes the terrible sufferings thousands of Anabaptists endured at the hands of other Christians because of this belief.Being as certain men in the congregation have natural musical talent, they come to learn the melodies over the years and may emerge as one of the song leaders or "vorsingers." When a hymn is sung, one of these men will lead it, and he begins singing each line.Everyone joins in with the second syllable and finishes the line.