MIDDLE AMANA CHURCH
Today within the True Church of Inspiration there are only 420 members of whom over 25% are class A Amana stockholders, meaning they were born before 1932. The Church is only to be found within the Amanas and services are held in both German and English. There used to be 11 meetings during the week, but that is down to two. Visitors are welcome – respectable dress and please respect the sex segregation within the chapel. The Main Amana Chapel is the larger of the two chapels still used by the Church. There have been no new werkzeuge – instruments – since the Church was transplanted to America. Maybe as important, there do not seem to be any ‘discerners’ – those who could tell a true instrument from a false one.
Get off the Interstate
The Amana Colonies have been a landmark on the Iowa prairie for over 150 years - reminding us of a simpler time. A time we often yearn for in today's rush of corporate ladder climbing and the endless pursuit of discount shopping.
The name Amana means to "remain faithful". We have, in many ways, remained faithful to our communal culture; historical buildings have been preserved; the Amana Church remains active; the traditions of quality products are alive in the Colonies. You will not see discount stores or chain restaurants; you will not see large retailers. Even our convenience store was built to respect the architectural traditions of the Colonies.
What will you see in the Amana Colonies? Historical buildings dating to the mid-1850's, made of local materials...wood, sandstone, locally fired brick and limestone. You will discover an amalgamation of architectural styles, coupling traditional German craftsmanship and the straight lines and details of Colonial America. You will see three board wooden fences, fruit trees and gardens. The smokestack of the woolen mill stands stark against the rising sun; the blossoms of the Lily Lake sway gently in the summer breeze.
"How Amana came to be"
In turbulent 18th century Germany in the midst of a religious movement called Pietism, two men, Eberhard L. Gruber and Johann F. Rock, advocated faith renewal through reflection, prayer and Bible study. Their belief, one shared by many other Pietists, was that God, through the Holy Spirit, may inspire individuals to speak. This gift of inspiration was the basis for a religious group that began meeting in 1714 and became known as the Community of True Inspiration. Though the Inspirationists sought to avoid conflict, they were persecuted for their beliefs. Eventually the Inspirationists found refuge in central Germany.
Persecution and an economic depression in Germany forced the community to begin searching for a new home. Led by Christian Metz, they hoped to find religious freedom in America and left Germany in 1843-44. Community members pooled their resources and purchased some 5,000 acres near Buffalo, New York where, by working cooperatively and sharing their property, the community, now numbering some 1,200 people, was able to carve a relatively comfortable living. They called their community the Ebenezer Society and adopted a constitution that formalized their communal way of life.
When more farmland was needed for the growing community, the Inspirationists looked to Iowa where attractively priced land was available. One valley on the Iowa River seemed particularly promising. Here was fertile soil, stone, wood and water enough to build the community of their dreams.
"The Colonies today"
The Amana Colonies include [going clockwise from] Amana (upper right), Homestead, South Amana, West Amana, High Amana, and Middle Amana. The visitor center (in Amana) has guides for the driving trail through the Colonies. You can spend an hour, a day, or a week, and not see it all.
Note: none of the other colonies have a VT write-up at this time (Aug 2007)
Amana on the Range
"Home-spun, traditional, and proud of it!"
The Amana Colony - or Amana Villages - is a cluster of seven small settlements about 20 miles SW of Cedar Rapids, in the rolling Iowa countryside. Originally, the "Ebenezer Society" was one of many "traditional" and pietistic sects in Reformation-era Germany. They immigrated to America in the early 19th century, ultimately choosing here to settle here in east central in an attempt to recreate their community back in the "Old World." For an almost a century, the Amana-ists were intensely inward-looking, resisting integration with the mainstream rural society which surrounded them. In 1932, Amana was transformed into a modern co-operative corporation, with complete separation of the religious and economic functions. Over the last 50 years, the Amana Colonies have opened up to the world - somewhat.
Today, the Amana villages are a popular regional travel destination. But you won't find mass tourism here: no McDonald's, no water parks, overt commericalization. So you won't be surprised to find the main tourist information center in Amana is in a tastefully restored barn!
Amana is the largest and most centrally located of the seven Amana settlements, so it has the greatest concentration of visitor attractions and amenities. The General Store here has a wide variety of local produced foods and crafts, as well as more general touristy tschotskes.
I didn't get a chance to visit the Amana Museum in the main village, but I imagine it would be quite interesting.
The Amana Colonies
"What Are the Amana Colonies"
The Amana Colonies are a group of seven small German villages located southwest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The villages were founded over 150 years ago and their purpose is to keep up traditional German heritage.
There are historical sites, restaurants, shops, and they frequently have special events.
"Relaxing Day Trip"
It's a fun place to have a "girls day out". A very low-key place where you find friendly, hospitable locals. You will enjoy checking out the shops and just walking around and looking at the interesting old buildings. You'll feel like you've stepped back in time.
AMANA, TRUE INSPIRATION … JUST OFF I-80
You drive along I-80and at the exit to the Amanas, the first thing you notice is the huge restaurants and shops all trying to catch the unwary traveler into stopping and spending. Huge billboards announce the Colonies just to the north. Why not visit and buy a chair, a meal or a beer? The Amanas consist of seven little villages laid out so that the 19th century colonists could gain easy access to their communal fields. The villages make an irregular circle set in a pretty valley nearby the Iowa River.
The Amanites were German immigrants, mostly, though there was a mixture of others, including Swiss and French. Within what was then Germany, the movement began as a Pietistic revolt against the grandeur of the Lutheran Church – which had revolted earlier against the grandeur of the Catholic Church. Inspiration was thought to need no intermediaries between parishioners and God, such as pastors. All one needed was a good grounding in moral values and an inspired study of the Bible. In addition, those who came to Amana believed that from within their group would arise leaders whom would be inspired directly by God to teach and show the way. Thus, the name, the church of True Inspiration – Wahre Inspirations Gemeinden. Such inspired leaders were known as werkzeuge or instruments. The Church officially began in 1719 from the inspired teachings of Johann Frederick Rock in the area of southwestern Germany and northern Switzerland. Congregations remain scattered about and the werkzeuge would travel from one group to another to tend to the spiritual needs. Gatherings of faithful did occur within Germany. The owner of the Ronneburg castle offered shelter for awhile but problems with local authorities which centered around the refusal to take oaths or send children to public schools (run by Lutheran clergy) led to persecution. Eventually, Christian Metz revealed that the congregations were to gather in America. Metz went ahead with a small party in September 1842 and found 10000 acres of land which became the basis for the three villages of Eben-Ezer, southeast of Buffalo, on the east side of West Seneca. The next year, 350 colonists came over and another 217 in 1844. Eventually there were over 1000 people in the villages.
Communalism was instituted – not so in Germany before – in order that all could survive easier in the New World. Agriculture and other businesses provided a good life, but lack of available land and the growth of Buffalo brought further inspiration. After discarding the idea of moving to Kansas, the group selected Iowa I n1854-55. The move to Amana took 10 years and unlike other communal groups, like the Harmonists and non-communal groups, like the Mormons, the Inspirationists were able to wisely sell their lands without financial loss. Slowly, people migrated west forming the seven villages of Amana
Simple churches – no steeples, family housing and communal dining halls along with rudimentary education were provided. Alcohol and tobacco were allowed. Sex was problematic. Marriage was possible, but not only permission was needed, several requirements needed to be met first and even afterwards, a diminution of social rank was experienced. Celibacy equaled piety. Allowances were given to members according to position and labor in which to buy material for clothing or a few other non-food items. Vanity was frowned upon. Buildings were unpainted as colonists thought paint did not add to the protection of a house. The Colony tried to maintain insularity from the outside World. Members were not thought to work especially hard – hard enough, but with frequent religious obligations impinging upon their time – 11 meetings per week – it was hard to finish what one started sometimes. Business ventures of the Colony succeeded into the 20th century when the World did begin to catch up with the Amanas. A large woolen mill burnt destroying the livelihood of many. Added to that, general building dissatisfaction of younger members and the Great Depression and the communal living system was disbanded in 1932. Members were given stock in the communal property and joined the Capitalist World.
Amana today still consists of the seven villages sprawled out a couple of miles from each other. Each village consists of quiet middle class homes. Restaurants, shops and museums are scattered about the communities, with the highest concentration being found in the main Amana village. Middle Amana is home to the giant Amana Refrigeration factory now owned by Maytag – Maytag, itself arising from Mennonite roots. B/B’s can be found in different villages, but the only motel to be found is in Amana. To understand what the world of Amana was, the Amana Heritage Museums can give you a great staring point to discover the communal life that was.