Monday, April 09, 2007

An Old Order Mennonite Sunday

The past few days have been cold, windy and damp, with snow flurries each morning and afternoon. After church and dinner yesterday, I felt the need for a long walk, but it was far too chilly to ask my warm weather adjusted parents to accompany me on a trail.

We went for a drive north of the city in an area of the region that has many Old Order Mennonite farms. I am not sure if Easter Sunday is more special that other Sundays for these Mennonites. Sunday meeting is a long affair, and afterward is a time for visiting friends and family.

There were many horse drawn buggies on their way home in the late afternoon, as the farmers returned to do their evening chores. Their tidy farms had huge woodpiles and tall windmills for the water pumps. One farm, with no electricity service, boasted four large solar energy panels on the roof of the farmhouse. It is not unusual for the Old Order Mennonites to have electricity in their barns, but they will not have this convenience in their homes.

This happy looking family did not mind being in an open two horse open carriage with a cold north wind blowing down on them. They are bundled up for the weather. From a distance, I could see the steam rising from the horses' backs and they hurried along the shoulder of the highway.

These two women were sharing a good story and laughter just as girlfriends anywhere will do.

This picture was the best of all. As we passed by this family, we noticed their three small children sound asleep in the back of the buggy, leaning over as they supported each other. One big seat belt held them together under a thick quilt. Our children would fall asleep in the car very quickly when they were young, and a horse drawn buggy must provide the same soothing comfort for these little ones.

Wouldn't greenhouse emissions be reduced if we all lived like this? We were impressed by their obvious joy and contentment in the simple way of life they have chosen. There is a lesson here somewhere for all of us.

(My dad took all these pictures through the car window as we were driving.)


  1. Life should be so simple and uncomplicated. We lived in close proximity to Mennonites and Amish in Delaware and I always studied them carefully when I could. I never saw their small children sleeping in the back of a buggy, though! Interesting post, Ruth.

  2. What joyful simplicity...

  3. It's funny that you and Dad have completely opposite posts. You are showing the simplicity of the Mennonite way of life and he is showing the 4x4 festival with its legions of Landcruiser and Pathfinder owners tearing up the desert...


  4. A couple of years ago we had the opporotunity to be invited to the home, and have a meal with such a family in your area. It was a great experience and one we will always remember. They still keep in touch with us.
    Their happiness as a family unit was something that stands out in my mind.
    Tell the Opa of your family he's never lost his photographing skills.

  5. How blessed they are to live such simple lives. As I get older I sometimes wonder what it would be like to go somewhere and live a very simple and stress-free life.
    Love your blog, cousin Michele (birdman's mom :-)

    Great pictures Uncle David!

  6. I really admire the Mennonites, both for the strength of their faith and off-the-grid lifestyles. To me life is more about growing my soul then a collection of possessions I will not use. There is a lot to learn from those who live a simpler lifestyle.

  7. That way of life is an interesting choice.-I don't know that I would want to live a Mennonite lifestyle but I would like to live a simpler life some day.

  8. Like Mary, I live in an area where I've observed the Amish over many years. Though I know I could not choose to live as they do, I admire and in a way envy their life-style.
    The sleeping children picture is precious.

  9. Life might be simpler, but if we all used horse drawn buggies instead of greenhouse gases, we would be overwhelmed with methane--or whatever gases horse "exhaust" gives off.

  10. Mary- It is interesting to live in an area with many Mennonites. There are numerous sects, but among all is a strong sense of community. That may be the most important lesson of all!

    Jayne- I loved the joyful faces too.

    Alex- In spite of my brother having an opposite post, about 4x4 dune races, he and I are quite alike! I think the Mennonite guys check out horses the way you check out cars. Men are men...!

    OmaLois- That would be an honour to be welcomed into their home. I have visited an Old Order home only once as part of my job. The family support was remarkable for the person who was ill. Opa D. will be pleased with your compliment.

    Michelle- Welcome and thanks for commenting. Do you really like camping, like your son says? Then you must know about the simple life. (I find camping stressful!)

    Jaspenelle- You would adapt to a simple lifestyle because you are so creative in your crafts, cooking and sewing etc etc and are not afraid of work.

    Larry- I don't think I would want their way of life either. It certainly isn't perfect. But I do admire some of their values.

    Cathy- How do we find a balance between their simplicity and our stressful lives? I loved the children too.

    KGMom- I will keep my car, thanks! I took a picture (Jan 31/07 post) of an Old Order farmer moving a huge pile of manure in a field. I also wonder about all the wood needed for stoves. There are not enough trees for a city. I found it interesting to see the Old Order house with solar panels on the roof. That is progressive, green thinking.

  11. Joyfull simplicity, as Jayne said. I love the idea of living that way, and love when you post about the Mennonites.

  12. Anonymous9:57 am GMT-4

    Hi Ruth, enjoyed the posts on Old Order Mennonites, I just was looking at a couple of books I have, one called A Separate People by Old Order Mennonite Isaac R. Horst--maybe you've read it--explains the way of life firsthand and has a neat map of Ontario meetinghouses.

    Another was Plain Buggies by Stephen Scott--he mentions that the majority of OOMs in Waterloo County use only open vehicles--which looks to be the case in your pics, though I don't know if that is your exact area or not.

    Another one of your pics (Feb 1)shows a squarish-looking closed-top--reminds me of the buggies around Nappanee, Indiana--they always seemed a bit boxier than the Amish ones in the area. I wonder if those are related to Pike Mennonites, which is supposedly one of the most conservative groups it seems.

    And the solar panel thing surprised me as well too--I've actually seen these in quite a few midwestern Amish communities, some of them powering electric fences. I like this as another example of the Amish way of making decisions on technology--I feel it's quite a sophisticated decision-making process concerning what tech they do and don't allow.

    Found you through Kevin Williams' Amish Cook blog/site by the way--you have a really neat blog, maybe would you like to trade links?

    Erik Wesner/Amish America

    PS I've already written too much in this comment but I'm a bit nutty on the Old Order Anabaptist subject (:--have you ever heard of Old Colony Mennonites? That is an interesting group...

  13. Erik,
    Thanks for your interesting comment (not too long!) Yes, I live in Waterloo County and know very little about the different groups of OOM. I will be most interested in the books you mentioned. I could do more posts on these people, but don't want to intrude with my camera too openly. I will check out your site too.

  14. Erik,
    You blog is so interesting. I would be happy to link to it will be going back to read all your posts. I have made a tag "Mennonites" and will pay closer attention to those in our region.

  15. Anonymous4:55 am GMT-4

    Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for taking a look, very nice of you to say--it's a labor of love I guess! I don't know quite as much about Mennonite groups so looking for ward to hearing more when you get the chance. Your other information and photos are great as well. I've linked up to you and will be checking back. Have a great weekend!


  16. This is all new to me - and so very interesting. A group of Old Order Mennonites from Ontario has recently moved to an area near where my brother farms, in Manitoba. The first group in this province, I think. At first everyone thought they were Amish, but a community newspaper did a story. I'm trying to find out as much as I can about the people, and found your blog thru my internet search.
    I love the photos!

  17. Hi Gaylene, and thanks for visiting and commenting. I am not surprised that some OOM have moved to your area. We are pushing them futher north as the city grows and there is not a lot of good land available for farming. We are so used to them living here, we hardly give a second glance when they pass by.
    Hope you found Erik's site too...

  18. Very interesting comments on the blog. The lifestyle is very simple and yes, it can be a happy one. Though it is not always the case.
    I was born and raised in an Old Order Mennonite community in Ontario. On close study of the Bible I disagreed with some of the laws of the religion and left the community. I do however, value the moral values that were taught to me as a child.
    I believe anyone can have a happy lifestyle. It is a choice we make. We can choose to be happy regardless of circumstances.

  19. Dear Warrior- thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. The apparent simplicity of OOM ways can be appealing because of our culture's extremes in the other direction. Faith that is built on adherence to rules of appearance and lifestyle is not biblical and I applaud your courage in coming out based on your own Bible study.

  20. I also live near an old order mennonite community,here in missouri. For about 10 yrs I have been very good friends with a young mennonite mother. My husband and I also were invited to a wedding,that was wonderful to see.My friend has given me a buggy ride which surprised her at my joy of the ride. I am learning alot from my friend and I am her mothers age. Lakemyst


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