Amana Society

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The Amana Society, also known as the Community of True Inspiration, is one of the oldest communal sects in America. Deeply influenced by German pietism of the early 18th century, Johann Rock and Eberhard Grüber protested against what they considered the rigid dogmatism and ritualism of the Lutheran Church. Claiming that divine inspiration had been given to them, they organized a community of True Inspirationists in 1714. Its principal tenets maintained that God deals directly with the human race through inspiration and revelation and that true Christian living is characterized by simplicity. At first Rock and Grëber gained many adherents, but after their deaths the community steadily declined because no one claimed the charism of inspiration. In 1817, however, the sect experienced a revival, when Christian Metz and Barbara Heineman, both claiming inspiration, became its leaders. Metz, an excellent organizer, set about establishing communities, but the Inspirationists soon ran into difficulties with the German government because of their pacifist beliefs. In 1842 they immigrated to America, establishing themselves in Erie County, N.Y., as a cooperative type community, called Ebenezer. In 1850 they adopted a pure communistic form of living that was closer to their ideal of Christian simplicity.

When more land was needed to support its 1,200 members and to maintain its "isolation from worldliness," the sect migrated west (1854), purchasing 25,000 acres near Iowa City, Iowa. Five years later the settlement, Amana, or "Believe Faithfully," was incorporated under Iowa state laws. For the next 70 years the communal economy proved successful, but in 1932 the community voted in favor of conversion to a joint stock corporation. Legally known as the Amana Society, it holds all real property; ecclesiastical matters are handled by the Amana Church Society, which is governed by elected elders. Members of the Amana community are Christians in the Evangelical tradition, but distinguished by the following: "We believe in the Holy Ghost who has spoken and operated through the prophets of old and who even now operates audibly through the instruments of true inspiration ." Their worship is simple; the Lord's Supper, with the washing of feet, is celebrated only rarely. They do not baptize with water, since they hold that baptism is a spiritual practice. Celibacy is highly recommended, marriage is permitted, and divorce is prohibited. Older rules against participation in warfare have been modified.

Bibliography: b. m. shambaugh, "The Amana that was and the A. that is," Palimpsest 31 (1950) 215248. b. s. yambura and e. w. bodine, A Change and a Parting (Ames, Iowa 1960). j. g. andelson, "The Community of True Inspiration from Germany to the Amana Colonies," in America's Communal Utopias (Chapel Hill, NC 1997) 181203.

[t. horgan/eds.]