110 years in publishing and public media outreach for Mennonites

News release
November 14, 2018

Not so quiet in the land
110 years in publishing and public media outreach for Mennonites

HARRISONBURG, Va. — In the year 1908, inventor Henry Ford’s Model T automobile was first produced. Aviation enthusiast Wilbur Wright made a test flight of a flying machine that lasted almost two minutes in France. Theodore Roosevelt was winding down his second term as a popular U.S. president, and Wilfrid Laurier was prime minister of Canada. Also in 1908, Mennonite Publishing House (MPH) became an official church publishing effort in Scottdale, Pennsylvania.

This year, MennoMedia and its book imprint Herald Press are recognizing 110 years of serving the Mennonite church and broader public with magazines, books, and curricula.

Daniel Kauffman, editor of Gospel Witness (early forerunner to Gospel Herald and eventually The Mennonite), was instrumental in helping crystallize questions facing the church in the formation of a publishing business on behalf of the church. Those questions, recounted in the history volume God Uses Ink by John A. Hostetler, included “Would the institution become a burden to the church? Who would manage it? What should be the scope of its work? Where should it be started?” Kauffman’s vision (using the gender reference common to the time) expressed hope for “an institution . . . having each department headed by a man ‘full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom.’”

“What a delight to celebrate this milestone anniversary and to reflect on all the changes to technology and media over the years,” said Amy Gingerich, current executive director and publisher at MennoMedia. “I am honored to be part of this organization as we continue to equip individuals and congregations to live out their faith.”

While Mennonite Publishing House started in Scottdale in 1908 as a publishing ministry of the former Mennonite Church, it has been part of various mergers over the years. In 2001, Faith & Life Press, the former General Conference Mennonite Church publisher based in Newton, Kansas, merged with Mennonite Publishing House to become Mennonite Publishing Network. Mostly recently, in 2011, Mennonite Publishing Network joined the public media agency Mennonite Media in Harrisonburg, a legacy of combined media efforts that include former radio programs such as The Mennonite Hour and Heart to Heart, TV spots, documentaries, and websites. That same year, the organization’s headquarters relocated to Harrisonburg.

Coincidentally, the organization’s offices in Harrisonburg are just 10 miles from the location of the very first Mennonite printing operation in the United States, in the village now known as Singers Glen. Owner Joseph Funk was the first known Mennonite to own and operate a printing press beginning about 1847; he printed and published numerous hymnals.

As an agency of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, MennoMedia publishes church and Sunday school curricula for children through adults, hymnals, three magazines including the Rejoice! devotional, religious trade books under the Herald Press imprint, and the Third Way website, offering online information and resources on Mennonites.

Herald Press has historically published books on Amish and Mennonite life and faith, numerous bestselling cookbooks, and popular titles on peace, reconciliation, community, discipleship, mission, spirituality, and theology. Today Herald Press focuses on acquiring highly readable, practical manuscripts that inform thoughtful faith and that call readers to take Jesus seriously—to follow his example in word and deed. Herald Press books, written by a diverse and theologically informed community of authors, target a wide Christian readership.

—Staff release
MennoMedia
540-574-4874
melodied@mennomedia.org

Attachment: Herald Press All-Time Top Ten Titles

 

 

 

 

 

Third Way’s 2016 Top 10 Quirky Queries

News Release
December 21, 2016

Third Way’s 2016 Top 10 Quirky Queries
Bonus list: Top 10 questions worth pondering

HARRISONBURG, Va., and KITCHENER, Ont.—Many millions of people will never pick up a book or magazine about Mennonites or enter any Mennonite church. But they will drop in anonymously to Third Way website (thirdway.com) to get a quick glimpse of what Mennonites are about.

Erwin and Angela Rempel, who previously worked many years in mission settings around the globe and for church agencies in the United States, volunteer for MennoMedia and responded to 60 to 70 email queries this past year, sometimes with multiple follow-ups. The site averages more than one thousand hits a day, nearing a third of a million annually. Third Way is one part of the media matrix offered by MennoMedia and its book imprint, Herald Press, based in Harrisonburg.

Six sponsors, Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, Abundance Canada, Mennonite Health Services, Conrad Grebel University, and Goodville Mutual currently help sponsor the all-free website, which was founded in 1998 to help dispel myths about Mennonites and to convey solid information. While a fluffier FAQ titled “What’s the difference between Mennonites and Amish?” gets the most clicks (146,000 this past year), the second most accessed section, “Key Teachings of Jesus,” is a meatier section that totaled 65,000 clicks this year.

The inquirers offer windows into the questions—and misconceptions—people still have about Mennonites. Here, in two lists, discover what people in the general public wonder about regarding Mennonites. (You might consider holding a small group or church school class discussion around these lists.)

Top 10 Quirky Queries at Third Way

  1. MENNONITE MOABITES? Were [Mennonites] from the Moabites in the Bible?
  2. BEARDS, MODESTY, AND COVERINGS. What is the view on beards for men? Modest dresses for women? Headcoverings?
  3. BUY A 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.
  4. MENNO VEGETABLES IN PERTH? Do you grow vegetables and sell to the public? Are you located in Perth, Australia ? Thank you for getting back to me.
  5. BC? Which year [was] Jesus Christ born?
  6. SEPARATE WOMEN AND MEN? Why do the women sit separate from the men at church services? I asked a young Mennonite roofer this question and he wasn’t sure why but sort of knew the answer. I’m curious as to why?
  7. INQUIRING NURSES WANT TO KNOW. I’m doing some research on the Mennonite culture for nursing school. What are your verbal and non-verbal communication patterns? Any slang/dialect? How do you view personal space (how close when talking to someone)? If you were in the hospital, would there be anything that you would want the nurse to do/not do?
  8. BLACK AND WHITE. I am an African American male who is married to a white woman. Do the Mennonites accept this marriage?
  9. INFANT BAPTISM? Why do some people baptize infants?
  10. WANTS TO FARM. I’m interested in becoming a part of a Mennonite community, in an agricultural community somewhere in the U.S.

Top 10 Probes Worth Pondering

  1. GOSSIP CAUSING LOSS OF FAITH. I am not Mennonite but my boyfriend is. I understand views on divorce in the Bible. . . . I just have one issue. I have been talked bad about, against and to my face. I have been through a lot in my life and faced a lot of demons. But none worse than my boyfriend’s parents. I am pained to say this but due to the way one Mennonite family talks, it’s forced an opinion on me and is causing me to lose faith.
  2. KINSHIP WITH AMISH IN ADELAID. I have been brought up as a Christian and I find what the Amish believe, from what I can see, is a lot closer to what I believe then what a lot of other Christians believe. Is there a church or discussion group or someone in my area that I would be able to discuss or have meetings or get together for some drinks of some sort every so often? I am from the southern suburbs of Adelaid, South Australia [Numerous inquiries this year about Anabaptists in Australia have been referred to Mark and Mary Hurst, workers Down Under.]
  3. DESPERATELY HOMELESS. I am a homeless woman, 41 years old. I am in desperate need of help. I have nowhere to live and I am having a very hard time finding work in the Leola, Ephrata, Pa., area. I clean houses and repair anything that needs fixing, refinish and build wood furniture and install wood and tile flooring. But I am having trouble and do not even have the money to eat anymore. I try so hard to be a good person and because of that people take advantage of me. I cannot live on the streets anymore and I have no family to help and I am feeling hopeless. [She was given a local help number to call.]
  4. THE BIBLE A JOKE? The Bible still has no credibility to me just because of how stupid the verses are. I couldn’t even name all the dumb things that are listed there that don’t make any sense and are just so laughable. It’s a joke that this is what people live by and believe. “The Bible is holy and sacred and God’s word.” Please. I highly doubt that this is what God wanted people to live by. This sounds like a mockery of God.
  5. HOPE FOR ME? I was raised Catholic. Many many years later I was rebaptized as a born-again Christian. I have lost my faith. But sometimes I still believe. I want to believe in Jesus. I want to believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. I want to believe that there is hope for me.
  6. IDENTITY QUESTIONS FOR MENNONITES. I am a student at Texas A&M University. What do you consider your identity to be as a Mennonite? What aspect of your identity do you want to be remembered by? What do you believe others in different cultures view your identity as?
  7. JUDEO-CHRISTIAN? Does the Mennonite church consider the United States a Judeo-Christian nation?
  8. MENNONITES AND JEWS. Two of my very dear friends are Mennonites. They shared with me that they are taught to love and help one another, especially the Jews. Could you provide more information regarding the Mennonite/Jewish relationship?
  9. WANT TO BE SAVED. I am looking to get saved. I was reading about the Mennonite church. I tried to find a church near Augusta, Georgia, but had no luck. Is there a Mennonite church in Augusta?
  10. ANGRY JESUS? I have heard Mennonites refer to Jesus as the Prince of Peace. According to scripture, did Jesus ever display signs of anger or violence?

MennoMedia Staff 

Photo Caption: Angela and Erwin Rempel volunteer on the annual Everence Day of Generosity for MennoMedia, and year round answering questions at Third Way website.

For more information on this news release:

Melodie Davis
MennoMedia 540-574-4874
MelodieD@mennomedia.org

For a book with 50 common questions asked over the years, see Ask Third Way Café 50 Common and Quirky Questions About Mennonites by Jodi Nisly Hertzler.

Ask Third Way Cafe

MennoMedia revamps Third Way website

ScreenShotHomePageJune3LaunchNews release
June 3, 2015

Website continues to inform and provide resources about Mennonites

HARRISONBURG, Va. and KITCHENER, Ontario—For almost two decades, Third Way website has supported seekers in learning about Mennonites. Seventeen years after the website’s inception, it has received a major design overhaul through MennoMedia.

The revamped website officially launched on June 3, although a soft launch occurred in mid-April for troubleshooting. The site can be found at www.thirdway.com. It maintains its original mission of providing information and resources about Mennonites, as well as supporting those who wish to live out a faith that aligns with Anabaptist values.

After receiving a major grant from the Schowalter Foundation of Newton, Kansas, for the project in 2013, MennoMedia set up a focus group with a range of Mennonites involved with the church or media work to discuss and set priorities for the new site. “The focus group responded to some key questions about the site and were extremely helpful as we put together the site’s new mission statement and zeroed in on seven main content areas,” said Amy Gingerich, editorial director for MennoMedia and overall supervisor of the revamped site.

A design firm, 427 Design, based in Akron, Ohio, created the new site, now housed on a WordPress platform. Design changes include a new color scheme and a more easily navigable interface. The website name was shortened from Third Way Café to Third Way.

The website is divided into seven key sections: Mennonites, Community, Jesus, Peace, Simplicity, Service, and Justice. These sections cover topics ranging from Mennonite views on capital punishment to overviews of different types of Anabaptists. FAQs and a glossary also help to guide seekers through the website.

Users can also choose to sign up for any of six free email subscriptions: Daily Scripture, a daily Bible verse reflecting Mennonite/Anabaptist values; Another Way, a weekly article focusing on spiritual growth at a personal or communal level; Living Simply, a twice-monthly column by Celeste Kennel-Shenk; Media Matters, a weekly review by a variety of writers; Stories of Peace, a monthly story of peacemaking from around the globe; and Wider View, a twice-monthly update on social policy issues from MCC’s Washington Office.

“The former Third Way Café served the Mennonite churches well in terms of explaining Mennonite beliefs and practices to a wide audience, but the look, feel, and navigation of that site had become quite dated,” noted Gingerich. “So while people came to the site, our statistics showed that too often, they immediately went elsewhere. With the new Third Way we have a site that really catches attention visually and is easily navigated. We are already seeing that high bounce rate coming down.”

ThirdWay_TwitterHeader (2)

New tagline for Third Way website

The new site opened possibilities for sponsors to support Third Way, and interest in
sponsoring has been high. Everence and Mennonite Mission Network are the site’s top-level sponsors. Other options include second- and third-tier sponsors. Links for individuals to donate can be found on the website.

In recent years the site has averaged 500 to 800 hits a day, with peak days spiking to 2,000 or 3,000 a day, especially after tragic events involving Mennonites or Amish or, in recent years, with the introduction of Amish “TV reality” shows.

ThirdWayCafeHomepage

Third Way Cafe homepage from 2007-2015.

When the site began in 1998, it was an outreach of Mennonite Media, a department of the predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. Jerry Holsopple, now a professor of Visual and Communication Arts at Eastern Mennonite University and a renowned videographer and graphic artist with a theology background, conceptualized and designed the original website. Currently, Third Way website is part of the ministry of MennoMedia, owned by Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. MennoMedia became the name for the combined agency of Mennonite Media (briefly named Third Way for the whole agency from 2009 to 2011) and Mennonite Publishing Network, which joined in 2011.

“Since its beginning in the 1950s, the Mennonite church public media efforts sought ways to educate a general audience who inquired about Mennonites through radio programs such as The Mennonite Hour and Heart to Heart,” recalled managing editor for the site, Melodie Davis. At that time, methods of following up with inquirers included brochures, personal letters, and telephone calls. “Today we’re happy to still offer personal email responses to those who send inquiries to the website through volunteer workers Angela and Erwin Rempel,” Davis pointed out. The Rempels have served as long-term mission agency workers in various countries and the United States.

–Ben Mast

Follow Third Way on Facebook and Twitter.

For more information
Melodie Davis
News manager
MennoMedia
540-574-4874
MelodieD@mennomedia.org