WASHINGTON, Ind. – The Daviess County Amish community is facing the same conundrums that all of us are. In this time of closings and social distancing in the face of the coronavirus, how do they operate, how do they live, how do they worship?
“All around we are trying to be safer — for ourselves and in our businesses for our customers,” said Leroy Stoll with the Daviess County Amish Steering Committee. “We are doing what has been recommended and practicing social distancing.”
Since Gov. Eric Holcomb issued his stay-home order, there have been many questions about what makes up an essential business. The interpretation in a community with so many small construction businesses and cabinet shops could well be a key to the economic well-being of the area.
“A lot of our small businesses have gone ahead and closed,” said Stoll. “Some have contacted the state and been told they are considered an essential business and they have continued to work.”
Still, the Amish community is very much about getting together, whether it be about church or family, good times or helping out in the bad. One of their greatest strengths is the ability to muster human resources for the good of the community. With the coronavirus restrictions, one of those greatest strengths has been lost.
“This cuts into what we are,” said Stoll. “It impacts our way of life. We have never experienced anything like this, but we do recognize that this virus is real and it is serious. We are a lot like everyone else in that we are just learning about this as we go.”
One place that may wind up subject to change for the Amish community is church services.
“Our situation is different than some of the other churches in the area,” said Stoll. “Where other churches have turned to live streaming and other ways to share their services, we don’t do that. That is not a possibility. It is hard to think about not having church services. That is a decision that will belong to the bishops.”
The Amish communities stretch out of Daviess County to Martin and Greene and into Orange counties. And as the threat of the coronavirus reaches out further into Indiana, the impact on those communities becomes larger.
“In our way of life, we make a big deal of weddings and funerals,” said Stoll. “Those are important transitions. Because of the concerns about the virus, we have had a number of weddings postponed this week.”
Fortunately, there have been no funerals in the community during the past month.
“We have not had a funeral in the Amish community since the coronavirus restrictions went into place,” said Stewart Blake at Blake and Wagler Funeral Home. “The Daviess County Health Department put some specific rules in place for funerals and that is what we are going by.”
Those rules have called for the elimination of visitation, and funeral services are limited to family only. Even though Blake and Wagler has funeral homes in both Montgomery and Loogootee, the business is trying to follow the same rules in both locations.
“We are trying to have everyone follow the same guidelines from the state and the county,” said Blake. “We are doing everything in Loogootee the same as in Daviess County. We are trying to keep everyone safe and doing what the officials are telling us to do.”
Much like the rest of us, the Amish community appears to be trying to feel its way through the pandemic and the restrictions that have been put on everyone.
“I know we will have more questions as we work through this each day,” said Stoll. “This even touches us in our prayers. I have to believe there is more focus on prayer and the effort to deal with this disease.”
Prayers that hopefully will help the Amish community deal with a pandemic that is either directly or indirectly touching us all.
“I wish I could say this will soon be through, but I don’t think it will,” said Stoll. “This is all quite disturbing. It is a new disease. It is very contagious, and we know we aren’t in control. I get mail from all over the country at my business, and there is one thing that everyone is sharing and it is the big lesson here. We are all in this together.”