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Last updated May 29.

May 28, 2012 issue

The quiet in the Scandinavian land

Three Swedes considered joining Amish in U.S. but decided to follow Old Order ways on their own

By Tim Huber Mennonite World Review

On a farmstead outside Skövde in southern Sweden, a group of Anabaptists is regularly mistaken for wayward Amish.

A member of Arvidstorp, a plain Anabaptist community in Sweden, transports hay.

A member of Arvidstorp, a plain Anabaptist community in Sweden, transports hay. — Photo by Arvidstorp

From the beards, hats and head coverings to the farm implements run only on Belgian draft horsepower, the visual similarities are extensive.

“We saw in the various Old Order groups living in North America a great example of how to live out Christianity just as the Bible teaches,” said Dan­iel Placzek, one of three Anabaptists who have lived a plain life­style for three years on about 80 acres of fields, pastures and forest.

Placzek, who grew up Catholic in Germany, wanted to live simply — farming by hand and horse, producing ecologically sound products while being nearly self-sufficient.

“We believe God says in the Bible we need to work with the land,” he said, citing the Ordnung (Order), a set of community principles used in some Anabaptist groups. “We should manage the earth, as farmers with horse and plow.”

He encountered similar sentiment in Sweden with others from Lutheran background, and the group gave serious consideration to simply emigrating to a U.S. Amish community.

“For us, the churches we encountered [in Europe] didn’t offer the original gospel we wanted to live,” he said.

They ultimately established a farm community, which they call Arvidstorp, and have dedicated themselves to creating a hybrid lifestyle unique to both Europe and Anabaptism.

They imported Amish farming implements from the U.S. and acquired books and other material from Gary Waltner at the German Mennonite Research Center in Weierhof.

Foundational books include Martyrs Mirror and Ernsthafte Christenpflicht, the first complete and self-contained German prayer book for Mennonites, first published in 1739. In biweekly worship services they sing a cappella from the Ausbund German hymnal and also pray in German, but the sermon is read in Swedish. Much emphasis is given to Anabaptist writings from the 16th and 17th centuries.

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  • These people are NOT real Amish. They remind me of children playing house. IF they REALLY want to be Amish then join one of the groups in Lancaster County or ask the bishops to consider establishing a settlement in Scandanavia. Since they don't want to submit, they won't do it, obviously.

    - Jake and Emma (jun 7 at 3:59 p.m.)

  • Very interesting that they identify early Christianity with farming. I suppose they haven't read Acts to see that Christianity started as an urban religion. They want to be a "city on a hill" while running off to the countryside.

    - Gary Olsen-Hasek (jun 12 at 5:14 a.m.)

  • I don't believe that these people ever claimed to be Amish or Amish wanna-be's. They admire and want to learn from the Amish. What is wrong with gleaning some things from the Amish lifestyle. Does one need be Amish to do so? I venture to say there was a time when the Amish lifestyle was pretty much the lifestyle of everyone.

    As for the comment by Gary, the Bible is full of stories and parables told by Jesus that are foreign today to an urban culture. I believe farming is the occupation closest to God's heart. God made man and set him in a garden not a city to till the ground, not to be an executive in some office building. I believe agriculture is a God honoring occupation and surely the slower pace keeps one closer in fellowship with God.

    - Daniel Lee (nov 20 at 1:47 p.m.)

  • These are good people. God bless them.

    - Tim (feb 23 at 7:49 a.m.)

  • Perhaps these folks are not Amish as Jake and Emma assert. However, I would say that they are Christians first and foremost. Bless them.

    - Joe (sep 6 at 9:01 p.m.)

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