Thursday, January 21, 2016

Barbara Cameron: Twice Blessed

Twice Blessed: Two Amish Christmas Stories by Barbara Cameron on Amazon

twice blessed From the two of Barbara Cameron's books I've read so far, I've enjoyed my visits into very present-day Pennsylvania Amish life and culture. Amazon Vine offered me her upcoming Return to Paradise, that's Book 1 of a new Coming Home series, and I look forward to reading it and learning more. These two Christmastime novellas also reveal a little of what it's like to be a twin – zwillingbopplin – almost anywhere. Her Sister's Shadow features a pair of young adult women Katie and Rosie; His Brother's Keeper, Ben and Mark, two young guys. Surprisingly, the parents of both sets of twins recently have died. The reader accompanies each set of twins through a couple of weeks and learns something about cooking and baking, what's on the menu, problem and conflict resolution, degree and types of interaction with non-Amish, "Englisch" neighbors, the place and authority of church.

Amish in these stories have cell phones, eat at regular sit-down restaurants, carefully prepare and display their own home-baked and homespun goods in their shops with tourist tastes in mind. Yet they farm the land, build most of their own furniture and houses, defer not only to scripture but to the ecclesiastical Ordnung that rules and regulates their public social and more private familial interactions. Amish Christians are from the anabaptist traditions that grew out of the radical reformation that believed Martin Luther, John Calvin, et al. did not take their church reforms (nearly) far enough.

At the end of the stories you get five Pennsylvania Dutch recipes to try in your own kitchen, a group discussion guide that would be helpful for a book club or church group, and a teaser of the first chapter of Return to Paradise that interested me enough to order it. As with Barbara Cameron's Crossroads I longed for photographs or other illustrations, but happily I discovered and started following Pinecraft-Sarasota, a blog that fills that need.

comments not in my review

The place and the authority of the church in contemporary Amish life especially interested me. Whether technically mainline protestant, more conservative evangelical, Roman Catholic, Latter-day saint, non-denominational, or "other not listed here," more mainstream Christians who spend their lives mostly out there in the world could take time to ponder their own engagement with consumer society, trending styles and gadgets. Amish or not, everyone inevitably and invariably depends on globally interdependent markets that trade stocks, bonds, commodities, vehicles, fabric, electronics, farm implements... I can't envision a time when mainline church people won't attend colleges, universities, and professional schools, won't consider and respond to the world's callings and claims on their gifts and education—as Martin Luther insisted, every job is a calling, a vocation. However, without a doubt we can moderate our level of consumerism and simplify our existence. We also need to consider how many unscriptural rules and regulations (human-made commandments?!) we sometimes lay on, both inside the church building and outside the physical bounds of the church campus. We need to find ways to rely far less on the power grid, on goods and bads imported from less-developed economies. Whether suburban, urban, inner city or rural, we can learn to live more locally, closer to the land and the sky. To be more countercultural – more Christian! – without taking it to the Amish extreme that also might mean not filling the surrounding world with as much salt, leaven, and light.

my amazon review: view into contemporary Amish culture

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