First Ever “Emerging” Amish Church

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 12, 2007

The first ever “emerging” Amish church will launch on December 23rd just outside of Columbus, Ohio. The church, calling itself “Solomon’s Barn” blends cutting edge worship with Amish sensibilities. Its pastor, Jacob Yoder (who prefers to be called “Jay”) believes that the Amish can learn from emerging styles of worship. “We’re ready for something new…something fresh,” says Pastor Jay.

When asked about his sources of inspiration, Pastor Jay (who wears a soul-patch instead of a traditional Amish beard) responded by saying: “I mean, there I was, settling with ‘church as usual’ when I stumbled upon the writings of Brian McLaren. I felt like his words were coming right from my own head, you know? I realized that I was a postmodern Amish person…I needed to reject pre-modernism for a more authentic faith.”

Worship at Solomon’s Barn reflects Amish traditions…for example, the men and women are seated separately, but instead of pews, the congregation sits on couches in their worship space–a renovated barn. Women still wear head coverings, but many of the coverings have patches sown into them that say “another world is possible” or “jesus was homeless.” Many of the worship songs are simply contemporary Amish pop tunes with worshipful lyrics added. And while Amish worship services have always used candles–or lanterns–this new hip, Amish church drapes black cloth around their makeshift sanctuary.

Miriam Kauffman has been a member of the core team for the past 5 months. “I have finally found a place where I belong…where it is ok to ask questions,” says Ms. Kauffman. “Really, Solomon’s Barn is about questions, rather than answers.”

While many young people are excited about a new church, just for them, not everyone is happy with these changes. Hiram Grebel–a local Amish Bishop–believes that this new “emerging” church is coming close to heresy: “This is just a neo-English cult.”

Pastor Jay isn’t worried: “There are a number of us who are embracing a post-Amish understanding of our faith. Things are changing, and we need to be relevant to young, post-modern Amish young adults.”

Director of Emergent, Tony Jones, agrees: “There are vibrant new communities emerging from many denominations. Controversy comes with the territory. I think what Jay is doing is great. He’s the future of the movement.”

Mark Van Steenwyk is the general editor of Jesus Manifesto. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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