Amish Rollerbladers - 21 PICS + TEXT
Among the 150,000 or so Old Order Amish, who live in 230 settlements in 22 states and Canada, in-line skating is justified as an efficient, sensible means of locomotion, another example of how the modern can square with the traditional.
''The Amish always try to see if something new fits in with their way of life, and sometimes there's shady areas,'' said George R. Smith, national editor of The Budget, an Amish and Mennonite newspaper in Sugarcreek, Ohio. ''But when they do change, it's usually very well thought out. The Amish don't go in for any fads.''
In some Amish settlements, Rollerblading is impossible, because many of the roads are gravel. But perhaps one-third of the Amish congregations have tacitly approved their use, said Sam Stoltzfus, an Amish historian, writer and gazebo builder in Gordonville.
In-line skates are permissible, Mr. Stoltzfus said, because they are seen as a newer version of roller skates, a cousin of the ice skate and an improvement over the leg-powered scooter -- all long used by the Amish.
Motorized vehicles and bicycles are prohibited, in part because of concerns that they could take residents too far from the community. ''Rollerblading is a midpoint between walking and bicycling,'' said Donald B. Kraybill, provost at Messiah College in Grantham and a writer of books on Amish culture. ''It's sort of a negotiated cultural compromise.'' But some Amish worry that the convenience and speed of skating may, in a small way, dilute their no-frills style of life.
Text By DAVID W. CHEN Published: August 11, 1996 in New York Times
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