UPDATE: This contest is now over! Thank you to everyone who participated. The winner of an autographed copy of Plain Wisdom is Helen Miller. Congratulations, Helen!
On the second Monday of each month, I’m going to aim to address readers’ questions about the Amish. For today’s question, I thought we’d begin with the when, where, and how the Amish began.
How did the Amish begin?
The Amish were originally a part of the Mennonite group. We often tend to think that the less strict group broke off from the more strict group, but with the Amish and Mennonites, that’s not the case.
While Martin Luther, the leader of the Protestant Reformation, was nailing his famous 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, another man named Huldrych Zwingli was seeking church reforms of a different type. Zwingli was the priest of the Grossmünster (Great Church, pictured on the left) in Zurich, Switzerland. He inspired a large number of supporters, but his followers took his ideas further and soon split from him when he refused to defy the government in order to put his ideas into practice.
Zwingli’s followers, also known as the Swiss Brethren, wanted religion and government to be completely separated from one another, which made them look like rebels to the government. They believed faith should be a choice an adult makes of his or her own free will. Salvation, according to his followers, was by grace through faith, but salvation should so transform the lives of the believers that they must live a holy and pacifistic life, dedicated to the community of believers.
At this time, all citizens of Switzerland were required to have their children baptized as infants. For this reason, the church was viewed as something to be joined automatically, not because of a person’s faith or beliefs. On January 21, 1525, the Swiss Brethren gathered and baptized each other as a public declaration of their intention to branch off from the state church. The Anabaptist (meaning “second baptism”) movement had begun. The action of baptizing one another declared their disagreement with the policies of the church. Although the Swiss Brethren were originally referred to as Anabaptists by others, they began to be known as “Mennonites,” named after one of their influential leaders, Menno Simons.
So, now we’ve discussed how the Mennonites got started. But, where do the Amish come in to the story? For next month’s Q&A session, I will share what happens next!
If you would like the chance to win an autographed copy of Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women, please leave a comment below! I will use Random.org to choose a winner and will announce that winner on next Monday’s blog post.
Remember that only comments left on my website will be entered. If you’re reading this on Facebook or through your email, please hop over to my website. (It’s just too hard to track down all the comments left in various places, and that means it’s too easy to miss some of the comments.)
The deadline for this contest is Friday, March 16, 2012.