Dunmore East Amish Community“We try to critique some of the consumerism and maybe the violence and some of those things that might be present in broader society.” 

As heard on Drivetime

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Brian O’Connell’s experience with the Amish community wasn’t so different from Harrison Ford’s in the film Witness. Admittedly, Brian wasn’t a world-weary detective on the run from his colleagues. There was no dancing to Sam Cooke tunes. No barn-raising. No gun of the hand. And Brian was in Co Waterford, not Pennsylvania. But he did meet some Christians who apply the Amish Mennonite traditions to their everyday lives. And, just like the Amish community in Peter Weir’s classic 1985 film, the Dunmore East Amish community don’t watch Netflix. (Ok, I’ll stop now) On Monday’s Drivetime, Brian reported from the Dunmore East Amish community where he met Gideon and Esther Yutzy. The community, Gideon told him, is  about 50-strong and has been in Ireland since the 1990s. They have their own school, their own clothing, but they you won’t see pony and traps, as the Co Waterford community is reformed Amish, so they drive cars and use electricity. Gideon described the community for Brian: 

“We’re a Christian community. We’re trying to interpret Jesus’ teachings, how to live them out in the 21st century.” 

Like the very traditional Amish, the Dunmore East community practices Close Community, which means they have interaction with the general public and, Gideon says, they want more: 

“We understand also that, you know, we are, kind of, doing sort of a – we sometimes call it a prophetic lifestyle, in terms of, like, maybe we critique, we try to critique some of the consumerism and maybe the violence and some of those things that might be present in broader society.” 

So, no iPads, then? Officially, Gideon says, they don’t use them. What about iPhones? Brian asks. Some people do, but not Gideon himself:  

“I personally don’t use them because I’m kind of a troglodyte, but, you know, yeah, some people use them and everyone is encouraged, if they have one, to be, you know, to be careful with it, obviously.” 

The last 20 years have seen a lot of things upended, Gideon tells Brian. The arrival of the internet has not left much room for what he calls “our quiet tidy way of dealing with things”.  

Gideon’s father-in-law Dan weighed in on lockdown: 

“We do spend more time at home. We don’t tend to go out into town to places of entertainment, as other people might.” 

So, as Brian put it, it didn’t bother them too much when the night clubs closed. But when Brian visited Gideon and Esther’s home, he couldn’t help but notice that there was no TV in the sitting room. How do you get through lockdown with no TV? Esther told him that their policy is to watch one one-hour video with their children on a Sunday. That’s it. When he composed himself, Brian asked if Gideon and Esther had any lockdown survival tips. Yes, they did: 

“Eat three meals a day. Get your sleep. Exercise. It seems to help a lot in our house. 

Simple and traditional, as you might expect, but pretty good advice for all that.  

You can hear Brian’s full report for Drivetime here. 

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2020

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