One of the few family trips I made as a child was to the Amish communities based in rural Pennsylvania. Even coming from a rural area of New England ourselves, the Amish lifestyle, with the shunning of modern conveniences, left impressions that would last a lifetime.
There is not much that provides a sharper contrast than such a group in traditional clothing in Washington Square Park. This is Charity Ministries*, a group similar to Mennonites. One of the founders, Mose Stoltzfus, was formerly Amish. I have seen them infrequently and was pleased to be able to take photos on this occasion.
Regardless of any proselytizing or religious creed, there is a gentle and pastoral feeling to a group dressed as they are - the women with light blue and white dresses and men in light colored khakis. It is as though an Amish farming community was transported through time and space to New York City. And I must say, the voices of the large chorus singing was not at all unpleasant, although hard to be heard above the park din, with competing music groups playing nearby.
I browsed through and took some of their literature, with titles like: The Sin of Doing Nothing, Improving the Marriage Relationship, Lost in the Church, The Vice of Sexual Immorality and Boys and Girls & Fornication. A colorful poster on an easel proclaimed Where Will You Spend Eternity? It seemed well suited for the urban New York City visit, with businesses like the Pennyless Casino, Abortion Clinic, the Broken Home Night Club, and Divorce Court, all located appropriately near Narrow Avenue and Broadway.
It is hard to imagine why such a group would subject themselves to such a potentially hostile environment, but I would guess the reasoning is that of an evangelist, Dave, who some years ago used to preach in Washington Square Park on Sundays. When I asked him why he would choose such an inhospitable environment, he answered that he wanted to save souls, and what better place than Greenwich Village? I complemented him on his logic. If you can take the heat, certainly the Village is a great place to rescue the fallen.
However, the words of this Sunday's preacher fell mostly on deaf ears. Without knowing specifics, most passersby had a general sense of what this Christian evangelist message was about, and the feeling was not today, thank you. Especially when there is a plethora of competing activities, one that literally made most eyes pop out. There was talk of Love and God and Christ. But as you will see tomorrow in Part 2, we descend into Hell :)
*Charity Ministries was founded in the 1980s by Denny Kenaston and Mose Stoltzfus and is based in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. They publish a magazine called Heartbeat of the Remnant. You can visit their website here.