Amish vs Mennonites 4/5/2018

Servant leadership was the theme of the LWRWC’s General Meeting held on April 5, 2018, at LWR Town Hall. The meeting was a tribute to remarkable women who exemplify this philosophy that believes the most effective leaders strive to serve and empower others.

Keynote speaker was LaVina Miller Weaver, who has devoted her life to serving her community and people in need around the world. LaVina has lived as a missionary doing humanitarian work in several countries, including Haiti, Thailand, and Albania.   LaVine’s fascinating presentation was about the differences between the Amish and the Mennonites and how and why both cultures chose Sarasota as one of their homes.

In contrast, the Amish tend to focus spiritual and charitable efforts closer to home. LaVina emphasized that the Amish and Mennonites share the basic Anabaptist core values that stem from a shared history and are an outgrowth of the 16th century Anabaptist movement in Europe. They immigrated to America in hope of religious freedom. Having crossed the Alleghenies by covered wagon, where they settled, farmed, and grew, until today their descendants in Holmes and the surrounding counties constitute the largest community of Amish in the world.

LaVina said that the key to understanding Amish culture is the German word Gelassenheit, “submission,” a belief that includes obedience, humility, patience and simplicity. Gelassenheit is based primarily on Jesus’ words, “not my will but thine be done.” Giving up individuality and any thought of selfishness, embrace God’s will by serving others. The Amish ideal is humility, in contrast to the modern ideal of personal fulfillment. Yet, despite the strong emphasis on humility and obedience, the Amish express great respect for the dignity of each person.

Most important, Gelassenheit is the opposite of strong individualism that promotes self-interest. This is the point where Amish society diverges most significantly from contemporary culture.

LaVina explained how the Amish and Mennonite came to Sarasota, Florida. She said that the community of Pinecraft in Sarasota was founded as a camping area that was first settled by Amishman Daniel Kurtz in the mid-to-late 1920s.  Kurtz purchased land and ended up farming celery, which was a well-suited crop for the area’s drained muck land.

LaVina concluded her presentation with a fascinating analysis of the crucial difference in the sense of self. If modern people are preoccupied with finding themselves, the Amish focus on losing themselves.