The various Amish (pronounced  AH-mish) or Amish Mennonite church fellowships are Christian religious denominations that form a very traditional subgrouping of Mennonite churches. The Amish are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt modern convenience. The history of the Amish church began with a schism in Switzerland within a group of Swiss and Alsatian Anabaptists in 1693 led by Jakob Ammann. Those who followed Ammann became known as Amish. In the early 18th century, many Amish and Mennonites emigrated to Pennsylvania for a variety of reasons. Today, the most traditional descendants of the Amish continue to speak Pennsylvania German, also known as Pennsylvania Dutch. There are also Old Order Amish communities, especially in the American state of Indiana, where a dialect of Swiss German predominates. Over the years, there have been numerous divisions among the Amish churches. The ‘Old Order’ Amish, a conservative faction that withdrew from fellowship with the wider body of Amish in the 1860s, are those that have most emphasized traditional practices and beliefs. As of 2000, over 165,000 Old Order Amish live in Canada and the United States. A new study, produced in 2008, suggests their numbers have increased to 227,000. Amish church membership begins with baptism, usually between the ages of 16 and 25. It is a requirement for marriage, and once a person has affiliated with the church, she or he may only marry within the faith. Church districts average between 20 to 40 families and worship services are held every other Sunday in a member’s home. The district is led by a bishop and several ministers and deacons . The rules of the church — the Ordnung — must be observed by every member. These rules cover most aspects of day-to-day living, and include prohibitions or limitations on the use of power-line electricity, telephones and automobiles, as well as regulations on clothing. Many Amish church members may not buy insurance or accept government assistance such as Social Security. As Anabaptists, Amish church members practice nonresistance and will not perform any type of military service. Members who do not conform to these expectations and who cannot be convinced to repent are excommunicated. In addition to excommunication, members may be shunned — a practice that limits social contacts to shame the wayward member into returning to the church. During adolescence (rumspringa or “running around” in some communities), nonconforming behavior that would result in the shunning of an adult who had made the permanent commitment of baptism may meet with a degree of forbearance. Amish church groups seek to maintain a degree of separation from the non-Amish world. There is generally a heavy emphasis on church and family relationships. They typically operate their own one-room schools and discontinue formal education at grade eight. They value rural life, manual labor and humility. Due to intermarriage among this relatively small original population, some groups have increased incidences of certain inheritable conditions Courtesy of Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish.