As stated in my bio, I was born and raised horse and buggy Mennonite and lived in that community till shortly after the age of forty. Mennonite use of technology varies from denomination to denomination. One group of horse and buggy people, who to the outsider’s eye look identical in dress and lifestyle, has different rules from another. I’ve been away since the turn of the millennium and am no longer up to scuff on the deal but can compare some of the details of my time among them to give you a general sense of the picture.
Various Groups or Denominations
When I was in elementary school in the 1960s, my family lived on a farm in the middle of what had a few generations earlier been the geographical area of a church split. Going a mile up and down the highway were the homes of about half a dozen different Mennonite denominations or Mennonite off-shoots. Here is the list as I remember it, ordered from most conservative horses-and-buggy to evangelical with cars and TVs.
- Orthodox Mennonite
- Old Order Mennonite
- Markham Mennonite
- Conservative Mennonite
- General Conference Mennonite/Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada
- Bible Chapel
The horse and buggy people dominated in body count. The evangelicals had a loud voice. Church politics and inter-church politics were rife, ruling the neighbourhood more surely than civil law of the land. Who had the best farm and most money was just as important. We could tell to which denomination a person belongs by tiny details of dress. The style of a woman’s cap or the type of buggy a man drove gave it away. I once tried writing a paper on the hierarchy of details by which it was believed a person’s spiritual condition could be ranked from modest, meek, humble and submissive before God to haughty, insubordinate and proud and worldly. By these details of dress and the context of the situation it was possible to tell a person’s denomination, age, and marital status.
Context of the situation means: everyday at home, go-to-town wearing better clothes, and Sunday best. Sunday best was the most formal wear and the rules were most rigidly observed. That’s for the horse and buggy people, and possibly also Markham and Conservative Mennonites. To the outsider, those groups appear identical in dress and lifestyle except some drive cars and others use horse and buggy transportation.
Some of the above groups have divided and subdivided since the 1960s. It is also important to note that the location of these groups is Waterloo County/Region and environs, in Ontario, about 90 minutes southwest of Toronto or 90 minutes northwest of Buffalo, NY. Rules for American groups in formal fellowship with these groups may differ in small details.
Orthodox and Old Order Mennonites
Both use horse and buggies but OOM uses rubber ties on wheels while OM uses steel rims.
OOM uses tractors in field, for cleaning out stables, and other jobs around the farm. OM relies on generator and engine power, as well as horses. Sometimes they hire neighbours with large machinery to do field work.
OM allow cell phones and use computers and internet for business. OOM forbid ownership of cell phone and computer technology.
OOM use electricity from public grid; OM use electricity from personally-owned generator or do without. This impacts housekeeping and food production. Both groups allow gas stoves and washing machines that can be operated by a small generator. A gravity flow system can be used for indoor running cold water, allowing many homes to have indoor flushing toilets. Indoor hand pumps can also bring water from a cistern in the cellar to heat in a boiler on the stove. I doubt many people have to bring water in from outdoors these days or go outdoors to use the bathroom. The men do, of course, because that’s what real men do. Gravity flow systems or generator/engine powered pumps are used to deliver water in the barn for farm animals. A few farms still use windmills to pump water.
These two groups do not have cameras though OM allow photo ID, while OOM have many doubts about allowing it. I am not sure how they are handing today’s tightening security because they do travel to from Canada to the United States.
As far as I know, the rest of the groups on the list above use the latest farm machinery and electricity from the grid. The Markham Mennonites have rules protecting members from certain online content on computers and cell phones. All these groups allow cameras. Conservative Mennonites, who are somewhat evangelical-minded, and beyond allow radio. The last two groups on the list above cannot be identified from surrounding society by dress or lifestyle. Many, if not most, live and work in the cities.