JANUARY 13, 2016
When googling an answer doesn’t quite cut it: ThirdWay.com’s quirky questions of 2015
Relaunched website recovers robust traffic
Angela and Erwin Rempel, volunteers
HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ontario—In April 2015, Third Way website was relaunched. All visits to Third Way came to a standstill for a few days during the massive switchover, handled ably by 427 Design in Akron, Ohio.
By late 2015, daily visitors to Third Way were averaging 750 or more. After a slight and normal lag over the holidays, visitors have rebounded to more than 800 a day. In 2014, the site was averaging 500 to 650 visitors a day.
Erwin and Angela Rempel serve as volunteers who respond personally to the twists on questions that the site doesn’t answer directly, or when seekers are looking for a Mennonite church in an area where there aren’t many. Students ask for help with research for school reports, ranging from elementary to graduate school. The Rempels generally offer links to parts of the website or other sites that will answer their questions. When questions pertain to specific Mennonite beliefs, they respond in keeping with the current Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective.
The questions asked—and common search terms—often reveal still-pervasive curiosity and confusion between Mennonites and Amish. “Difference between Mennonites and Amish” is the most used search term for people accessing Third Way, but search terms about “who is Jesus” come up frequently as well. Five of the top 12 searches centered on Jesus in the last year.
The Rempels reported that by far the most compelling story and comment (no question) came from a woman named Haida, who gave permission for her comment to be shared more broadly:
“I don’t have the same faith as you (if anything I consider myself a Buddhist), but I have the utmost respect for your faith, and the way a lot of you walk the walk not just the talk. I was abandoned by my parents at the age of 16. I was babysitting two young children at this time; the family found out about my situation and without a moment’s thought invited me into their home. I was a severely neglected angry teenager who had no idea what a peaceful, loving home even looked like, and I found love in that home. They never judged me; they never tried to convert me; they just led by graceful example. That was 25 years ago and they are to this day my family. Out of all the Christian denominations, the Mennonite church is the one I respect and admire the most. I wish more people knew how much good honest work you do around the world. People can have such a negative, often justified reaction to Christians that I wish they had experienced a Mennonite interaction, ’cause you guys are different.”
Below are some of the more interesting questions Third Way received this past year (spelling and punctuation corrected, and names withheld).
RACE, LAST NAMES, AND MONEY. I am a Mennonite born and raised in South America. I do agree [with your site] that Mennonites are like that in Canada. But have you ever been in South America? It’s so sad and unbelievable how they treat each other depending on race, last names, and money. I am very proud where I come from. But [I] do not applaud what they do in some places.
GOOD STEWARDS OF THE PLANET? Jesus was all about nonviolence and [loving] God. Why is it that there are so many Christians [who] don’t seem to care about the earth? Doesn’t God wanted them to be good stewards on this planet?
MY BROTHER SAYS HE’S AN ATHEIST. Is my brother going to hell because he rejects Jesus (and all religions)? He is the most giving and caring person I have ever known. He is also very knowledgeable of the Bible, Torah, and Qur’an. He has an advanced degree in religious studies and went to seminary. He said that’s what made him an atheist. I am confused. Please help. Thank you.
SEEKS CONSERVATIVE CHURCH. I am looking for a conservative Mennonite church in my area. These are my beliefs: baptism of the Holy Spirit, no TV, no movies, no sports, limited Internet (I use it only to research things and check email). [The Rempels referred him to the Beachy Amish.]
WHAT ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT? Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues is important to me! I would like to know what Mennonites believe. Do you speak in tongues? I have Mennonite neighbors and coworkers whom I love and respect. I want to know but have been reluctant to ask. I love God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Thank you for listening.
NOT HAPPY WITH LEGALISM. I attend [name withheld] Mennonite Church. My son left the church at 21 and went away from us. My other is still a member but not happy with the legalism; neither am I. I am more unhappy because I am single and [don’t have] much common ground. Their main emphasis is on outward appearance and following standards than love.
DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE. I’m been married two times. Can I become a member?
DIDN’T USED TO DRESS PLAIN. Recently, when looking through old family photos after my mother-in-law’s death, we had the following question. Seems like our great-grandparents (1870–1920 or so) did not dress plain. The ladies wore jewelry and fancy dresses. Then the next generation, the grandparents, were all dressed in plain clothes. Any idea what brought about this transition?
MORAL OR IMMORAL? How do Mennonites determine which sexual relationships are immoral and which are moral?
VIRGIN BIRTH? Do the Mennonites believe that Jesus was born from the virgin Mary?
VISITING YOUR ARCHIVES TODAY. We are searching for genealogy family records. Please contact me as to when we could visit your church archives. We want to visit today.
MENNONITE PRAYER BOOK? I am a senior at Saint Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, and for my final exam in my religion class, I am doing a presentation on the Mennonite faith. I would like to include some traditional Mennonite prayers in my presentation, and I was wondering if some may be suggested to me.
WANTS A RIVER BRETHREN BONNET. Can you tell me where we might purchase a traditional Old Order River Brethren bonnet? So far we’ve seen several pictures, but nowhere to obtain one. It would be a good and modest bonnet for a woman attending prayer services.
Third Way is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada through the office of MennoMedia, with current major website sponsors Everence and Mennonite Mission Network.
Hi-res photos available
for more information on the news release