Both Jews and Mennonites have a specific day of the week regarded as a Holy Day in which they take specific time for rest and worship. The Jews take their Sabbath rest on the seventh day of the week while the Mennonites and Amish generally follow the standard Christian practice of worshiping on Sunday. For both groups there are a variety of ways individuals approach these days which rest largly on personal conviction, interpretation of laws and Scripture, and varying levels of personal commitment.
The origin of the Jewish Sabbath begins all the way back in Genesis and the Creation story in which God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. One of the 10 Commandments found in the book of Exodus is to honor the Sabbath and in Exodus 31 God gave very specific instructions to Israel about keeping the Sabbath. It is stated that anyone who ‘profanes’ it should be put to death and whoever works on the Sabbath would be cut off from the people. In verse 13 God said to Moses “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you.” Because of this, the Sabbath is a very central and important part of Jewish life which they take very seriously.
The Amish and Mennonites also keep a practice of a specific day of rest. However, according to Christian tradition, this day is generally observed on Sunday. Most Mennonite and Amish churches would hold services on a Sunday morning, and many hold another service in the evening as well. At my home church in Goshen, Indiana. We have a regular Sunday morning service and have a schedule of meeting on the first and third Sunday evening of every month as well. However, this might vary from church to church and the small church I attend now in Brooklyn usually meets at 4:30 on Sunday evenings.
The Amish usually meet for church in homes, while Mennonites usually have church buildings. In a particular Amish district, families will take turns hosting the church service for that area. Mennonites usually have a specific place of worship, however, they feel that the building itself is not the most important aspect and so some churches might meet in rather unconventional places. When the church I attended in Indiana first began meeting together, we did not have our own building, so we met on Sunday mornings in the gymnasium of an elementary school, and my church here in NYC meets in an apartment. For us, the church is not the building, but the body of people that come together for worship and fellowship.
Here are some pictures of two different Mennonite Church buildings in Lancaster PA.
For Jewish people, the Sabbath meetings would take place in a Synagogue, and a group of at least ten men, a minion, would be required to say prayers. While they vary greatly in style, here are several pictures representative of the Jewish Synagogue.
Since the Jewish day begins at Sundown, many people would attend services on Friday evening. While for Mennonites and Amish it is generally expected for the entire family to attend, for Jews, the women and children might not attend but would stay at home to prepare the Sabbath meal. While most Anabaptist groups would generally abstain from work and regular labor on Sunday, as we discussed in a previous post, Jewish people have many official restrictions and laws about specific acts that may or may not be performed on the Sabbath.
These are just a few similarities and differences regarding the Jewish and Anabaptist day of worship and rest. If you are interested in experiencing a Mennonite Church service, please contact me!