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Religious culture of Pennsylvania


Church in Pennsylvania
Church in Pennsylvania

There are more than 100 different religious denominations represented in the state, with more than 7 million members. Religious groups with special historical significance include the Quakers, or Friends; the Presbyterian churches of the Scots-Irish; and the Lutheran, Reformed, Evangelical United Brethren, and other churches of the Pennsylvania Germans. The Roman Catholic Church also dates back to colonial days, and the first Jewish congregation was organized at Lancaster in 1776. In many mining towns, which often have large populations of eastern European derivation, the onion-shaped spires of Greek and Russian Orthodox churches are familiar sites.

The Pennsylvania Germans are often called the Pennsylvania Dutch, a corruption of Deutsch, which means “German.” Probably the state’s best-known ethnic group, they are descended from German farmers who settled in southeastern Pennsylvania beginning in the 17th century. Their neat, well-cared-for farms are especially numerous in Northampton, Berks, Lancaster, and York counties. The barns on Pennsylvania German farms often bear medallions that are traditionally known as hex signs. They have been variously explained as family or trade emblems, as good luck symbols, or merely as decoration.

Included among the Pennsylvania Germans are several religious sects, such as the Mennonites.

Although members of these sects make up a small portion of the Pennsylvania German population, they are particularly well known because they tend to reject worldly concerns and cling staunchly to their old standards and manners. The Old Order Amish, an offshoot of the Mennonites, have refused to adopt such modern devices as automobiles and motorized farm machinery. The Amish can be easily recognized in many rural areas by their simple yet distinctive clothing and by their horse-drawn wagons. "Pennsylvania" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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