Tag Archives: mennonite

Thoughts on Amish/Mennonites and Education

I walked into town. It was a perfect, crisp fall day. Everywhere I looked there were either Amish people, or people staring at the Amish.

A big yellow school bus roared up the street. It was full of adorable Amish children, with their bonnets and bowl cuts, peeking out the windows.

Now I was staring too.

“Do the Amish schools hire school buses?” I asked my landlady that evening. “Or do Amish children go to public school?”

“Oh, some Amish school children go to public school, and some go to Amish schools,” she said.

“What about the Mennonite kids?” I asked.

“It’s the same way. Some go to public school, and some go to Mennonite schools.”

I must have looked amazed, because she qualified her statement. “The public schools here aren’t like other public schools, you know,” she said. And then, I don’t know how she worded it, but she made it sound like the area has enough Amish and Mennonites that they have a good say in what happens at the public schools.

I found this so fascinating.

I know that both my parents went to public school when they were young. But now, I don’t know of any Mennonites in Oregon who send their children to public school. Paris, TN was the same way. Public school was not an option.

I wonder how this switch happened. From what I know about Oregon, it happened because the small country public school consolidated into a much larger school in town, so local Mennonites had much less influence over what and how their children were taught.

I’d be so curious to know how it was in other places. And why the attitude is different in different areas. Does it come down to how much influence the parents have at the school? Or is there more going on than that?

In general, I am fascinated by people’s attitudes towards education in different places. In Oregon, it would never have occurred to me to drop out of high school, and my parents would never have allowed me to anyway. Still, some Mennonite schools in our area do stop at 10th grade. I’m not sure why. But both here in Ohio and in Paris TN, “normal” was going up to 8th grade.

Still, in Paris TN, as far as I know I didn’t meet a single Mennonite who’d been educated past eighth grade (although to be fair, not every single person told me how far they’d gone in school)(and many of them did get their GED). But here in Ohio, I’ve already met a number of college educated people. Maybe it’s just because there are SO MANY Mennonites in Ohio, that your chances of finding another college educated person is that much higher?

One quick note before I end this musing: I was emphatically told, after my last blog post, that I absolutely cannot judge all of Holmes County by this little stretch of Hwy 39 between Sugarcreek and Berlin. That the bizarre tourism here is not the “real” Holmes County at all.

I am sure this is correct, but I do have two things to say regarding this.

First, I didn’t for a moment connect the Amish tourism with the actual Amish, or even the Mennonites. I assumed that it was caused by non-Amish coming to stare at the Amish, and other non-Amish deciding to capitalize on the this tourism by opening gift shops and “Amish” variety shows.

I would be very curious to know to what extent the actual Amish people benefit from the tourism. I’m sure that it happens, because people are eager to buy Amish made products. But I still feel like actual Amish have nothing to do with the weird showy touristy stuff.

Second, I don’t want to ever pretend that I understand an area just by living in it for a month and making a few observations. I welcome any and all insights from locals, and will always assume that you know what’s up, and I don’t.

With this in mind, I would LOVE to hear about the Mennonite/Amish relationship with education in your area, whether you’re from Oregon, Tennessee, Ohio, or anywhere else.


The Bizarre Hipster Mennonite Trend

Surely I’m not the only one who’s noticed the Pacific Northwest Hipster vibe creeping into Mennonite communities. Specialty coffee. Bushy beards. Donald Miller books. Artsy hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Flannel shirts. Adventuring. On and on.

Am I the only one who finds it odd?

Ever since I connected to the greater American Mennonite culture through social media, I’ve seen trends come and go. They always seemed to originate in the east and then slowly migrate west, so that my area has always been whatever the opposite of “cutting edge” is. Someone going to Bible School and coming home wearing knee-length skirts and leggings was the equivalent of a Victorian-era American going to Paris and then coming home with the news that short sleeves were now “in.”

I’ve always liked PNW culture, but I never expected it to become “cool.” Not in the non-Menno world, and ESPECIALLY not in the Menno world. But it has, to the point where a Facebook photo showed up in my feed of an artsy Mennonite band from back east where one member is wearing a Powell’s Books t-shirt.

Probably the main reason I find this PNW appropriation so weird is that I live in an ACTUAL Mennonite community in the ACTUAL Pacific Northwest, and here, hipster culture just isn’t a thing.

Yes, you could argue that my friends and I have adopted some of the hipster traits we like–wearing weird thrift-store clothes, going hiking, hanging out at coffee shops, etc–but as a whole we are the outliers, and the Mennonites as a whole aren’t into that. It’s not “cool” here unless you’re outside the Menno bubble and probably also in a city somewhere.

So yeah, I find it weird. Not bad, just odd. But here’s what I think: If you have an obsession with PNW culture, you should move to the actual Pacific Northwest.


  1. You’ll be a part of the culture instead of just appropriating it.
  2. The nature thing is legit.
  3. Start an outreach church. Portland is the most non-religious city in America.
  4. Okay, for real though, we’re just kinda lonely out here in our little disconnected Mennonite community. So bring your friends.

What do you think of the hipster Mennonite trend? Have you noticed/participated in it?

10 Signs you might be a Mennonite girl in College

1. You walk into a party and your friend says, “Hey, want a non-alcoholic beer?”

2. You get a job driving combine for a local farmer, and spend a significant amount of time thinking about the carbon emissions all this machinery must produce.

3. You mention “Jehovah’s witnesses handing out paraphernalia,” only to be laughed at and told that when modern folks use the term “paraphernalia” they are almost always referring to drugs.

4. People often ask you what religion you are, and when you say “Christian,” they give you a blank stare.

5. People swear and then apologize to you.

6. Someone asks your history teacher how the Amish came to be, and when he admits that he doesn’t know, you end up giving an impromptu “history of the Amish” speech in class.

7. Someone walks up to you and asks you to pray for their son.

8. While preparing a group presentation for class, one group member suggests that everyone come dressed in black shirts and denim “bottoms.”

9. You can tell when someone is comfortable being your friend, because they start making Mennonite jokes.

10. You, at some point, find yourself in a remote corner of the library making a makeshift head covering because you forgot yours.

(And yes, it is true that all of the above have happened to me at least once.)

The Benefits of Looking Religious


I was entering the learning center when the old man stopped me.

“Do I know you from the store?” he asked.

I knew he meant Grocery Depot, the Mennonite-owned store in town that mostly employs other Mennonites.

“I don’t work there anymore, but I used to,” I said. “I have friends that work there.”

“But do you guys pray?” he asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“My son Jeremiah lives in Arazona, and he just tried to commit suicide,” said the man. “Can you pray for him?”

Suicide. The horrible, horible thing that stole my cousin Lenny from my own family. “Yes, I’ll pray,” I promised. “Would you like me to pray for you right now?”

“Yes,” said the man.

So in the crowded hall at LBCC I prayed for this man, and his son Jeremiah, pleading with God to spare Jeremiah’s life, and help him find the help he needed to cure his depression.

When I was done, the man was crying.

“Thank you,” he said.

And then we went our separate ways.

Sometimes I get frustrated by the fact that I look very religious. I don’t like being defined by the fact that I am a Mennonite instead of the fact that I am a Christian.

But that day, since I looked religious, God used me to bless this man.

The Pros and Cons of being a Mennonite

Gabrielle  gave a post suggestion the other day:

Pros and cons of being Mennonite. What do you love/hate most about it?

My first thoughts were, “this is dangerous territory,” and, “I don’t think of Mennonites in pro/con love/hate terms.” But on second thought, there are some things I really appreciate about being a conservative Mennonite, and some things that really bother me. As a person trying to be completely honest on her blog, I might as well do a post about it.

Pro: Mennonites are Christians. In a Mennonite church, the most important thing is Jesus, and the most important decision you can make is to accept Jesus into your heart and give your life to Him.

This trait it obviously present in many churches that are not Mennonite, but I am still mentioning it first because it is the most important aspect of Mennonite churches.

Con: The over-emphasis on culture.

This is kind of a sticky tricky subject and I know that not all of my readers are going to agree with me on this. However, I think the conservative Mennonite church is too focused on their own personal culture.

There are two great downfalls in this. First, it’s hard for non-Mennonites to understand and break into our culture, greatly hindering our outreach. Second, we end up with a lot of rules which have no Scriptural basis, which also hinders our outreach.

For instance, here are some questions I have been asked by non-Mennonites which I had no good answer for.

1. How come you have to wear a black head covering? Why don’t you wear a pretty pink one some time?

2. Wait, you can watch movies at home but you can’t go to a movie theater? What if you just bought a really big screen?

3. Your hair is so pretty. Couldn’t you wear it down if you still wore your head covering?

People in the church have told me that I should say, “the members of my church have all agreed on a standard,” and that people will admire my church for having standards. However, I have never met a person “in the world” who admired my church for having “standards” that had no scriptural basis. Instead they look at me with sympathy.

I feel strongly that our purpose as Christians is to share Jesus with those who don’t know him, and that our churches should be safe places for those new Christians to come and get to know Jesus better. I also feel, from personal experience, that the Mennonite culture makes this more difficult. That is why I listed it as a “con.”

Pro: The core beliefs and values.

In Reformation days, the Mennonites (then called Anabaptists) formed because they believed that people should be baptized when they are consenting adults, not when they are babies. This was about more than some sprinkled water. When babies were baptized, they became church members. The Catholics and Protestants were both trying to get as many church members as possible, and form a state church. The Mennonites, however, didn’t want a state church. They wanted a church filled only with people who had truly given their heart to Jesus, and were committed to spending their life serving Him.

Thus, Mennonites were some of the first proponents of separation of Church and State in the western world. (I’d like to say they were THE first, but I haven’t done enough research on that point to know for sure.)

Mennonites also practiced “nonresistance.” The idea of nonresistance is taken from Matthew 5:39, which says, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Like Pacifists, Mennonites would be opposed to going to war. However, they take it a step further. If someone does something evil to us, we are to do something nice back. As simple as that.

A good example of what I like about Mennonite values can be found on Millercase.org. You can read up on the case there, because I don’t feel like explaining the whole thing here. However, there was one line on the website which struck me:

We wish to clarify that this was an act of mercy without a political agenda. This is true for the simple reason that Anabaptists have always believed that we are not to participate in the affairs of the State, while we gladly submit to its rule under God. We also recognize that there are many legal battles being fought in relation to homosexuality. We have no desire to participate in these conflicts.

When I read this I thought, how great it this? So many people have an agenda these days. Even this case can be seen as a battle between ‘pro homosexual’ people and ‘anti-homosexual’ people. But in the Mennonite world, it’s not a political battle. The Mennonites simply saw someone who needed help, and helped them, because they felt it was the right thing to do.

That is, in a nutshell, what I love about the Mennonites.

Thank you Gabrille for your post suggestion! Anyone who had suggestions for future posts can leave them in the comments or email them to me at Jemilys@gmail.com

How to put your hair up with a pen/pencil: a tutorial

Yes, this is my first tutorial. Ever. I think.

Here we go: Emily Smucker presents….

How to put your hair up with a pen or a pencil or a spoon or whatever long straight thing you happen to have on hand.

Step 1: Put your hair in a ponytail

(Just for the record, the girl reflected in the patio doors is my little sister taking the pictures. Thanks Jenny.)

Step 2: Grasp the ponytail with your hand

Step 3: Loop your hair up over the top of your hand.

Step 4: Wrap the remaining hair around the base of the ponytail

Step 5: Around and around and around

Step 6: And around, until you have used up all your hair

Step 7: Slide the loop of hair off of your hand…

Step 8: And up over the rest of your hair, like this

Step 9: Stick a pencil or a pen through it

Step 10: Ta da!

Noteworthy notes about this hairstyle:

I wear my hair like this every day. I never had the problems with my hair falling out once I put my hair up like a lot of Mennonite women do.

You can do this hairstyle without putting the ponytail holder in at the beginning. You can just hold it with your hand. I did that for years and years but now I try to put a ponytail holder in it because it helps it stay up longer.

This style usually lasts me all day. If it falls down, it takes approximately 12 seconds to put it back up.

If you are wondering why there are those long-ish hairs at the nape of my neck, I will tell you. Once I did my hair in a whole bunch of little braids. When I got done I realized that there was a teeny strand that I had missed. So I ripped it off and then it grew back enough to just hang there without staying up in my bun very well.

One more thing:

It is possible to put your hair up like this using a spoon, a stick, a knitting needle, a crochet hook, and any number of things. However, sometimes things like sticks and spoons are very hard to get in and out and cause lots of pulled hairs and are in general a big pain.