So… the Amish don’t have church buildings, but rather, they take turns hosting church, which is held once every two weeks. A family typically will host church twice a year. One of the things that makes this easier is the bench wagon.
Last summer I was hanging out with some Amish friends in Goshen, Indiana, and they had a brand-new, state-of-the-art bench wagon sitting in their yard. They offered to show me how it was arranged, and they said it was fine if I took photos. They didn’t have to tell me twice! I’ve been intrigued by bench wagons for years, and I’ve always wanted to see one up close.
Here’s how it works: Each church district has their own horse-drawn bench wagon. The wagon is taken to wherever church (or some other event, like a wedding or funeral) is going to be held. Everything is organized for easy storage and to make sure nothing goes missing between events.
The essence of the bench wagon is the benches! They are stored in the back of the wagon. The number on the end of the bench tells how many feet long it is. There are two fold-down uprights, one on each end of the bench, so setup is easy. On this new bench wagon, the shelves are carpeted, and there is a chart on the left back door which shows how to store them properly and how many there should be.
The side and front doors of the wagon hold more goodies—everything needed to host and conduct a church service.
The Ausbund, or hymnal, is the same one that the Amish have used for hundreds of years. It is written in old German, much like Shakespearean English—very different from the “Dutch” that the Amish speak as their first and main language. The hymnals are stored in these tough plastic boxes with handy lifting slots cut into them. Each box holds 24 books.
This bench wagon belongs to church district 71-2, so everything in the wagon carries that number. These hymnbooks look very fresh and new—because this was a recently-formed church district, so the wagon and everything in it was recently purchased and assembled.
After a three-hour church service, there is always a meal! The menu is fairly well set, including Amish church peanut butter, which I’ve written about before. The bench wagon contains all the dishes, flatware, etc. needed to serve a congregation of 25-35 families, all organized and labeled.
All in all, the bench wagon is an idea that works well, and I was glad to see this one up close!