We began the day in Lancaster, PA. We first visited Boehm’s Chapel, built in 1791 and named for Martin Boehm. He was a Mennonite preacher, and later bishop, who not only hosted Methodist circuit riders in his home, including Francis Asbury, but who became one of the two founders of the United Brethren in Christ Church, along with Phillip William Otterbein, a precursor denomination of the United Methodist Church. The chapel has been completely restored to look as it would have in the 2nd half of the 18th century when Methodist circuit rides came through.
We had a step-on tour guide, Delores Meyer, who did a wonderful job bringing the Boehm story to life, including the fact that he and his wife, Eve, lost four of their children in one 10-day period. Two sticks in the adjacent graveyard mark their burial place. Much later, one of their sons, Henry, became an assistant of Francis Asbury. Another of the grown sons of Martin Boehm, Alexander, donated the land in 1791 on which Boehm’s Chapel is built for furthering the work of Methodism in the area.
From there we drove to the Mennonite Information Center where we saw a wonderful movie about the life of the Amish, how they are distinguished from Mennonites, and even how Amish groups differ among themselves. Surprisingly, we learned that the number of Amish in Lancaster County has DOUBLED in the last two decades! There are now about 30,000 Amish in Lancaster County, one of three primary settlements in the USA, the other two being in Ohio and Indiana, though there are smaller settlements in 30 states plus Canada.
Then we had another step-on guide take us through the back roads of Amish country. It’s harvest time and we saw several horse drawn reapers — usually a husband/wife team — bringing in the corn. One delightful story — we drove by an Amish schoolhouse. The children were playing baseball outside with their teacher. A little boy began waving excitedly to us. Obviously, his teacher told him to turn back around and play the game. You can see in this picture (taken by Mopsy Andrews) that he kept waving to us over his shoulders!
We learned much about the Amish from our guide. She told us that the Amish, while they all share a persecuted, Swiss, Anabaptist background, are not a homogenous group. They vary in their toleration of technology, for example. This home, pictured at the left, is a new home that a successful Amish businessman and his family just moved into. Looks like it could be in suburban Houston, except that there are no electrical wires going to the home. Amish WILL use electricity, so long as they generate it themselves and don’t pull it off the grid. Consequently, Amish businessmen are allowed by their bishops to use cell phones — but only for business. They also have landlines, but in special houses used only for business, and not in their homes.
Following this wonderful tour of Amish country, we ate a delightful family meal at the Plain and Fancy restaurant just outside of Intercourse, PA (which is near Bird-in-Hand if you need directions). Then we headed east for the 63 mile drive to Philadelphia, and the Wyndham Hotel in the historic section of Philly. Tomorrow, we tour Old St. Georges UM Church and then an afternoon tour of Independence Hall. Dinner tomorrow is at the historic City Tavern.