Old Order Amish Funeral

I have photographed Old Order Amish in Gortner, Maryland for many years. The community has accepted me and I have been privileged to photograph them in their homes and school.

Simon Swartzentruber was the first of the group to befriend me. In the image below, he walks to church from his farm that is in the background.

Recently, Simon’s son-in-law, John C. Yoder, a patriarch of the community died at 91 years of age, and I was contacted by an emissary (they have no telephones or electricity) and invited to the funeral. It was held on May 10, 2016 at the Amish church and graveyard in Gortner and I was allowed to photograph the event. I was very close to John and his family, having shared many meals in their home.


Young Amish girls run between parked buggies at the church. The horses are housed in a stable behind the church during the services.


It rained the night before the funeral, and although it was May, we were in the mountains and everyone wore jackets or coats. These buggies are being readied for the family who will lead the funeral procession to the cemetery.


The family buggies lead the hearse as the funeral procession makes its way to the cemetery. The buildings in the background comprise John C. Yoder’s farm now operated by his son. It is the same farm that is in the opening picture, then farmed by Simon.


Mourners gathering at the grave site. The word spread, and Amish came from Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland for the funeral service. Over 90 Old Order Amish attended.


It was a somber event. Many Amish feel that the acceptance of a body into the ground is the closest that they will be to God’s presence.


Boards were laid across the casket so that the dirt shoveled over the top would not crush it. Amish children have the front row in this momentous event in Amish lives.


The Amish children do not join the church until they are teens, but they are immersed in the ways of the Amish from birth.


Pennsylvania Amish. Each church district determines the dress and the style of the buggies. The Amish are so familiar with other groups styles that they can recognize immediately where the individuals come from.


Case in point: A young Pennsylvania man in a straw summer hat.


Leaving the grave side service, an Indiana visitor pays his respects.


A friendly face peers over his horse. I photographed this man’s wedding!


A study in black. Very few photographs were taken at the grave site, as almost all Old Order Amish feel that a photograph is a graven image (an interpretation of the Ten Commandments, where photos are forbidden). Because of my friendship with the community, I was allow to take a few.


Old Order Amish can be farmers or woodworkers, seamstresses or child rearers. No shop keepers or any other commercial activities are accepted. It’s a simple life.


A certain innocence is present in all Amish. A quote: “I’m sure that buggies and beards are less harmful than bombs and armies.”