Friday, June 3, 2022 • 3:15–4:45 pm
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, government and medical guidelines emphasized social distancing and isolation to limit exposure. These guidelines significantly impact closed religious communities, particularly those that restrict the use of modern communication technologies, such as Amish and Mennonite communities. Governmental mandates for social distancing and isolation impose enormous burdens on groups who rely on face-to-face communication for community rituals and interactions. Given this, how were Amish funeral rituals affected by the government guidelines? How were Amish and Mennonite communities impacted by COVID-19? How did the onset of COVID-19 influence how Amish and Mennonite groups perceived themselves as compared to non-Amish/Mennonite groups? What medical and health-related information was circulating in the Amish and Mennonite communities? Did the pandemic launch an increase in political discussions among Plain groups? Three papers in this session explores these questions and more using Amish and Mennonite correspondence newspapers:
Funeral Directors as Street-Level Bureaucrats of COVID-19 Mandates in Plain Communities: A Case Study of Amish Obituaries and Funeral Practices
Annette M. Mackay, Katie E. Corcoran, Rachel E. Stein, Corey J. Colyer, and Sara K. Guthrie
Who Are the Amish? Perceptions of Group Boundaries between Amish and Non-Amish during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Bernard D. DiGregorio, Katie E. Corcoran, Corey J. Colyer, Rachel E. Stein
I Read It in The Budget: Health Information and Political Sentiments at the Onset of COVID-19
Sara K. Guthrie, Katie E. Corcoran, Rachel E. Stein, Corey J. Colyer
Bernard D. DiGregorio is a doctoral student at West Virginia University. His research interests are focused broadly around religion, crime/deviance, and health/mental health. He has a particular interest in how religion, especially conceptualizations of God/a higher power, influences views towards crime, deviance, and punishment, as well as the roles and applications of religion in navigating major life events.
Annette M. Mackay is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at West Virginia University. Her expertise is in quantitative methods and spatial analysis. Her research interests are neighborhood gentrification, religion in community, community development, and public policy.
Sara K. Guthrie is a PhD student in sociology at West Virginia University. Her research interests include rural sociology and inequality, political engagement, and gender and sexuality.
Rachel E. Stein received her PhD in sociology from the University of Akron. She is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at West Virginia University. Her research focuses on community building and health in Old Order Amish communities. Her current work explores how the Amish and Mennonite communities are experiencing the ongoing pandemic, how preventive health care decisions vary across Amish affiliations, how reproductive choices impact maternal health, and how visiting practices strengthen the Amish community and contribute to its growth.
Corey J. Colyer received his PhD from Syracuse University and is an associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University. His research concentrates on cultural processes and structural mechanisms of social institutions. Theoretically, he draws heavily on the notion of negotiated orders, in which human action takes place within groups (of varying sizes and shapes), which structure and constrain it. Institutionally mediated ideas pass through network chains, and ideas require institutions inhabited by people to resonate and persist. This framework is broadly applicable to criminal justice processes, social control decision making, and worldview or sense-making practices (which includes religion).
Katie E. Corcoran received her PhD from the University of Washington and is an associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University. Her research cuts across many subareas including congregational dynamics, religion and health, religion and civic engagement, religious emotion, religious knowledge, and religion and crime. She recently published High on God: How Megachurches Won the Heart of America (Oxford University Press, 2020, with James K. Wellman Jr. and Kate Stockly). Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the International Research Network for the Study of Belief and Science.
Taking a Grassroots Approach To Serving Weather Vulnerable Populations: Focus on the Amish Community
Jane Marie Wix
WARN (Weather Awareness for a Rural Nation) is an effort to better educate and inform the rural populations in eastern Kentucky about hazardous weather safety practices and improve notifications. Our mission is to work with rural, weather-vulnerable populations in the area, especially those not using modern technological resources, to provide greater access to weather education and weather information. We were made aware of the lack of National Weather Service (NWS) or Emergency Management material and services geared toward the Amish/Mennonite communities after a tragic flash flood incident in eastern Kentucky in 2021 took the lives of five members of one Amish family. Our group is working with local representatives of these communities to develop weather safety information and means of notification that will fit within their lifestyles. In this presentation, we will describe our results, including: developing weather safety handouts geared specifically towards the Amish and Mennonite communities and including activity pages for children; working with Midland Weather Radio to design a weather radio that meets Amish standards (does not need electricity and does not have AM/FM capability) as well as working on grants to supply weather radios to some of our Amish populations; partnering with our University of Kentucky Agriculture Extension offices to secure meeting places and use the monthly Extension newsletters to disseminate information; and developing a weather-safety school curriculum that can be provided to local schools to educate students about weather hazards common to the area.
Jane Marie Wix is the warning coordination meteorologist for the NOAA National Weather Service office in Jackson, Kentucky, serving 33 counties across eastern Kentucky. She works closely with emergency management, media, and other county and state agencies, acting as the NWS liaison for these partners. She is also devoted to education and addressing the needs of underserved communities, helping to build a population that is weather-ready.
Jason York has been the emergency management director in Bath County, Kentucky, for 8 years. In April of 2020, a pregnant Amish mother and her 5 children were washed off a low water bridge during a severe storm. York was the incident commander for the event that utilized 36 agencies and gained international attention. This event helped catalyze the WARN program.
Joe Sullivan is a semiretired meteorologist working for Kentucky Emergency Management. He retired from the National Weather Service in 2020 after a 33-year career, the final 26 working closely with Emergency Management. He was named 2020 Mitigation Manager of the Year by the Kentucky Association of Mitigation Managers and was inducted into the Kentucky Emergency Managers Association Hall of Fame in 2021.
Tony Edwards is the warning coordination meteorologist at the NOAA National Weather Service in Charleston, West Virginia. In this position, Edwards serves as the liaison with state and local emergency management officials in a 49-county area covering parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia. He also oversees the office’s outreach program, helping prepare everyone from kindergarteners to senior citizens to be weather-ready.
Food Safety Education Team: Plain Community Contributions to the Regulatory Process
Jeffrey H. Stoltzfus
In 2011, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the growing and handling of fresh vegetables. This was the first experience for FDA in regulating farms. Their prior experience had been with regulating food and drug manufacturing facilities. Raymond Yoder, a leader in the growing Plain community produce industry, was asked to speak at FDA hearings in Chicago and Beltsville, Maryland, about the impact of these laws and regulations on the Plain community. Yoder tried to explain the scope of the produce industry among Plain community, estimating that approximately 27,000 small Plain farmers would be impacted. He said he would like to be responsible for providing education to the Plain community. FDA agreed, and in 2011 the Food Safety Education Team was put in place with Plain produce growers and leaders from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. Initial education revolved around making growers aware of food safety issues and practices and providing input and guidance to FDA as they developed the regulations. The committee members often spoke at large grower meetings, impacting thousands of growers, and published a booklet on food safety basics. Raymond Yoder and members of the committee spoke regularly with leaders at FDA and had mutual visits with the very top leaders at FDA, inviting them to his farm and his home for dinner. Many of the comments and suggestions from the committee made their way into the final regulation. The committee was self-funded with contributions coming from produce auctions and the sale of booklets. The regulations were finalized in 2016 and inspections began in 2020. The committee continues to meet regularly and provide training and support for growers. They continue to stay in contact with FDA and meet periodically with the agency.
Jeff Stoltzfus is a food safety educator with Penn State Extension. He works especially with produce growers and produce auctions and brings expertise in Food Safety Modernization Act compliance.
Agronomic Education Among the Anabaptist Communities of Lancaster County, Pa.
Farming is the preferred occupation of the Amish and Mennonite groups of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. While many individuals have moved into the trades and other occupations, each church district is centered around a number of local farming families. Farm life provides opportunity for families to raise children and practice their traditional lifestyles while being somewhat sheltered from the surrounding world. At least one-third of the estimated 5,000 farmers in the county belong to one of the conservative Anabaptist groups. Most of these farmers are using “modern” farming practices such as commercial pesticides and hybrid seed corn, but within the constrains dictated by their church district. This often includes horse-powered equipment and limited use of electricity. Stewardship of the land and maintaining “healthy” soil is part of the local culture and, therefore, many farmers are interested in concepts such as no-till farming. Additionally, many agricultural pesticides require a license to purchase and use on the farm. Penn State Extension had developed extensive educational programming within the local Anabaptist communities in the areas of soil health and no-till crop production, and pesticide use and safety. Penn State partners with local Amish and Mennonite farm stores to offer Pennsylvania state-mandated annual pesticide use and safety training for farmers. We also work with these stores to offer pesticide licensing “study sessions” for new farmers to prepare them for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture private pesticide license test. In the area of no-till and soil health, extension efforts have focused on the development of no-till production of nontraditional crops such as tobacco, pumpkins, and some vegetables. We partnered with the Lancaster Conservation District and a local Amish fabrication shop to design and build a no-till transplanter. Since our trial year of 2016, the machine shop has constructed and commercially sold 20 such machines, which are now in use.
Jeffrey Graybill is an agronomy educator with Penn State Extension, focusing on areas such as no-till cropping systems, pesticide education and safety, soil quality and fertility, and cover crop establishment, use, and management.
James A. Cates
Mainstream culture experiences two phenomena that go hand-in-hand. We are increasingly self-directed, emphasizing the individual over the collective. This creates a cultural diversity, and permits a wider variety of spiritual, sexual, and secular views. And our communication is increasingly via social media, rather than face-to-face. In this climate, intimacy is redefined. This seminar explores what is rapidly becoming unique: the expression of intimacy among the collective culture of the Amish. The presentation then analyzes how this intimacy serves as a boundary to sexual freedoms and to the emerging acceptance of sexual minorities in the larger culture.
James A. Cates is a clinical psychologist who works with the Amish in northeast Indiana. His latest book is Serpent in the Garden: Amish Sexuality in a Changing World (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020).