As a child, I lived in a small farming community, and all my life, I was told our family was Quaker and Pennsylvania Dutch, so I decided to do some research on this subject. I have totally confused myself because it doesn't match up with what I've been told. I do remember attending a Friends church in this area and the women wore little white hats tied on their head with long skirts or dresses.
My great-great-grandparents on my grandfather's side were from
were Amish, and on my grandmother's side they were Quaker, and she referred to
herself as Pennsylvania Dutch because her family migrated from England
near the Dutch border. Of course, I'm
still confused. lol Germany
Let’s get one thing straight: Quakers are not Amish, Amish are not Quaker, Amish are usually Pennsylvania Dutch, and Pennsylvania Dutch are sometimes Amish. Got it? Nothing irritates a member of one of these groups more than when the three terms are used interchangeably. So who are all these people, and what are the differences between them?
|Amish not Quaker|
The term Pennsylvania Dutch refers to descendants of German settlers of Pennsylvania (the German word for German is Deutsche, which is probably why others picked up the word Dutch). The Pennsylvania Dutch do have their own language — a derivation of German — but that language is virtually extinct at this point, and modern Pennsylvania Dutch are indistinguishable from other modern Americans. Pennsylvania Dutch are a variety of religions, including Lutheran, Mennonite, Baptist, Amish (yes, that’s a religion — more on that in a minute). The Pennsylvania Dutch are similar to any other ethnic group whose relatives came in the 18th century…They may have some lasting cultural traditions (certain foods, for instance), but they are in other ways much like any other Americans.
The Amish (at least the Old Order ones, which is who most people think of when they think of the Amish) do very much stand out from other ethnic and religious groups in the U.S. Amish is a Protestant religion (a particular denomination of Mennonite, actually), and most Amish are actually Pennsylvania Dutch — meaning (as you now know) they are descended from Pennsylvania Germans and spoke that particular dialect of German. What makes the Amish stand out is that the rules of their church prohibit many modern conveniences, including electricity and more modern technologies. They still drive horses and buggies (they will get in a car if necessary, but only if somebody else is driving); they wear old-fashioned dresses and overalls with bonnets and black hats; they value farm labor and de-emphasize education. They are very much an insular community, as marriage outside of the church is forbidden. Your child’s college roommate will most likely not be Amish, though there’s a chance he or she will be Pennsylvania Dutch — or Quaker, for that matter. Oh, and the Amish don’t like to have their pictures taken, so please don’t run up to them, mouth agape, snapping photos.
Quakers have nothing to do with either of these two other groups. Well, okay, Quakerism is a religion, and Quakers came to North America in the 18th century (and earlier), but that’s where the similarities end. Quakers are Protestant; they are one of the many religious sects that emigrated from England searching for religious freedom. Quakers are unusual among Christians in that they worship without any form of priest or pastor. They believe that anyone can communicate with God or be in touch with “that of God within himself,” hence Meeting for Worship consists of sitting in silence together, with individuals speaking when they feel moved to. Quakers are pacifists and believe in simplicity and humility, so their places of worship are quite plain. While Quakers did once dress in simple, old-fashioned clothing, they long ago abandoned those outfits. In short, much like the Pennsylvania Dutch, Quakers are indistinguishable (on the outside) from other Americans. You might be sitting next to one right now.
How did these three different terms come to be confused? You’ve got me. It’s probably because they all live in eastern Pennsylvania. Lancaster has enclaves of Amish, and the Pennsylvania Dutch stretch across much of eastern and central Pennsylvania. Quakers were Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers (William Penn converted to Quakerism, much to his father’s dismay), and Quaker schools offer some of the best educations in Philadelphia. But beyond their geographical proximity, these three groups are quite different, and one of the best ways to seem like a real Philadelphian is to not get them confused.
1. Amish is a belief based on simplicity and strict living, unlike the Quakers who typically are liberals.
2. The Amish religion has priests, while Quakers believe that as everyone has a connection with God they don’t need a priest to preside over any ceremony.
3. The Amish believe in maintaining the ways of the past and don’t consider using modern amenities.
4. Though their beliefs lead to different lifestyles, both believe in God and in peace.
What do Quakers believe?
They believe that every person is loved and guided by God. Broadly speaking, we affirm that "there is that of God in everyone." Everyone is known by God and can know God in a direct relationship. They are called to attend to this relationship and to be guided by it. Quakers use many words to describe the Divine. Some of them include: God, the Light Within, Christ, Spirit, Seed, and Inward Teacher.
Are Quakers Christian?
The Quaker way has deep Christian roots that form our understanding of God, our faith, and our practices. Many Quakers consider themselves Christian, and some do not. Many Quakers today draw spiritual nourishment from our Christian roots and strive to follow the example of Jesus. Many other Quakers draw spiritual sustenance from various religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and the nature religions.
It sounds like Quakers can believe anything they like―is that so?
Quakers invite the word of God to be written in our hearts, rather than as words on paper—they have no creed. But they also believe that if they are sincerely open to the Divine Will, they will be guided by a Wisdom that is more compelling than our own more superficial thoughts and feelings. This can mean that they will find themselves led in directions or receiving understandings that they may not have chosen just from personal preference. Following such guidance is not always easy. This is why community is important to Quakers, why they turn to each other for worshipful help in making important choices, and why they read the reflections of other Quakers who have lived faithful lives.
Can I attend Quaker meeting?
Yes! You are welcome to attend Quaker worship. There are Quakers of all ages, religious backgrounds, races and ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and classes. All are welcome. You can find meetings in your area at http://www.quakerfinder.org
Below are sources you can go to learn more about these religions.
Okay, people, I hope I have shed some light on this topic and not confused you as much as I am. lol
Sandra K. Marshall, Author