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AFTER THE FIRE by Randy-Michael Testa


The Destruction of the Lancaster County Amish

by Randy-Michael Testa

Pub Date: Sept. 14th, 1992
ISBN: 0-87451-587-4

 As a Harvard graduate student, former third-grade teacher at a Denver private school, and serious ethical thinker of Catholic persuasion and ``morally tired'' condition, Testa spent the summer of 1988 living with an Amish family in Lancaster County, where he conducted fieldwork for a Ph.D. thesis exploring a ``community of faith.'' In that period and in frequent subsequent visits, Testa became deeply attached to his host family, impressed by their resolutely unworldly community and involved in their reluctant struggle--the Old Order Amish shun politics, publicity, and any participation in ``outside'' society--against the development forces that are gobbling up local farmland and threatening to destroy the 200-year- old Amish settlement. Here, in chapters headed by quotes from Scripture, Testa recalls clearly his life with the family and his role in mediating with the state's governor and in resisting township plans for further subdivision; explains tellingly how tract housing and shopping malls have driven land values beyond reach, while traffic from development and tourism is creating a climate hostile to farming, buggy driving, and simple living; and recounts with sorrow how one Amish farmer was ultimately driven from his land by punishing and arguably inappropriate regulation. An afterword by Robert Coles, who taught Testa at Harvard, closes the book. An affecting mourning for the impending destruction of the Amish community, both for its own sake and for that of our larger society--for whom the Amish, Testa convinces us, can serve as a valuable example.