MennoMedia revamps Third Way website

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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.”

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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.

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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

Third Way Movie Awards: Films for Your “Must See” List from 2014

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Over at Third Way website from MennoMedia, three Media Matters reviewers have just posted their individual “Top 10 Films” list for 2014 (inspired by Oscar and other awards season). Here, we’ve compiled these lists into one, for great options for your viewing pleasure anytime (from Netflix, Redbox etc.). You might want to share or favorite this post for when you or others need inspiration for what to watch next. Each of our reviewers look at media from an Anabaptist Christian value perspective, while not necessarily endorsing everything (not even close) in the films named! The ones with live links take you directly to our reviews on Third Way. Initials beside the synopsis indicate which reviewer wrote it. VT = Vic Thiessen. GH = Gordon Houser. MKS = Matthew Kauffman Smith.

Third Way Café Top Films of 2014

1 Interstellar. The only Hollywood film in my top ten, Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic is one of the wildest rides in the history of film, an audio-visual feast for the senses that engages both our minds and (unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey) our emotions, though its underlying message that we should consider giving up on earth is a dangerous one. VT

2. Ida. This small Polish film by Pawel Pawlikowski, set in 1962 and stunningly filmed in black & white, tells the moving and compelling story (featuring exceptional character development) of a young woman, about to take her vows as a nun, who discovers her Jewish roots and the horrific history of her family during the Nazi occupation of Poland. VT

3. The Congress. Ari Folman’s partly animated (gorgeously so) sci-fi film is based on a 1971 novel by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem. It stars Robin Wright as Robin Wright, an aging actor who is offered a form of immortality in this sharp satire of the Hollywood film industry, ‘celebrity’, the pharmaceutical industry and individuality/identity. VT

4. Locke. Tom Hardy is the only actor we see (and he delivers a wonderful nuanced performance) in Steven Knight’s film about a man whose life crumbles around him (despite his efforts to do the right thing) as he talks on the phone during a two-hour drive across southern England. VT

5. Selma.  (review to be posted by Jan 16, 2015) David Oyelowo is perfect as Martin Luther King, Jr., who, in 1965, led the campaign for voting rights for African Americans in the southern U.S. Focusing on a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Ava DuVernay’s film is an inspiring, moving and gripping drama and a powerful depiction of a story everyone needs to see and from which we all have much to learn, even in 2014. VT

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel. Another of his trademark quirky, intelligent and surreal comedy dramas, this film may be Wes Anderson’s best yet. It’s full of superb acting, clever dialogue, gorgeous cinematography and pointed satire (of authority, governments and attitudes toward immigration). VT

7. The Great Beauty. This Italian film from Paolo Sorrentino won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2013, but was not released in North America until 2014. A breathtakingly beautiful and thought-provoking satire about life in contemporary Rome, The Great Beauty stars Toni Servillo as an aging journalist looking for moments of great beauty in his pointless existence. VT

8. Only Lovers Left Alive. I’m no fan of vampire films, but Jim Jarmusch’s slow-paced, gorgeously-filmed (at night, in Detroit and Tangier) drama about the lives of a very old vampire couple (played wonderfully by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston) provides a profound and unique perspective on the history of human civilization and the dangers we are facing in the 21st century. VT

9. Boyhood. Richard Linklater almost had my favourite film of the year for two years in a row with this amazing drama which he filmed over a period of twelve years. By allowing us to watch family members naturally grow and change over twelve years, as if we’re viewing a documentary, Linklater (one of the greatest filmmakers of our time) gives us an insightful cinematic masterpiece about everyday life. VT

10. Calvary. This small Irish film by John Michael McDonagh stars Brendan Gleeson in an Oscar-worthy performance as a small-town priest slowly losing the respect of his parishioners as the church becomes increasingly irrelevant to their lives. While this dark (but often funny) film is not for all tastes, Calvary is a sublime meditation on the future of the church, on violence, on forgiveness and on what it means to be faithful to Jesus. VT

11. Whiplash. This riveting film about a young jazz drummer and his emotionally abusive teacher asks, How much should one sacrifice for one’s art? But it goes beyond the creative arts. Is it good to push ourselves (or be pushed) beyond our perceived limitations in order to reach our full potential? J.K. Simmons’ performance as the teacher is outstanding. GH

12. Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). This intense film is about a washed-up actor who 20 years earlier played a superhero called Birdman and now wants to be recognized as a serious artist. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s satire skewers blockbusters and theater while presenting serious questions about our search for significance and recognition. The cast here is excellent. GH

13. Under the Skin. This science fiction thriller about an extraterrestrial (Scarlett Johansson), disguised as a human female, who drives around Scotland and tries to lure unsuspecting men into her van. This is not your standard thriller but an artistic, brilliant, stunning exploration of being marginal. This creature who preys on men to take their skin becomes, in the end, a sympathetic character. Not for everyone, this film stayed with me a long time. GH

14. The Imitation Game. Another historical film, this one is about Alan Turing, a British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and pioneering computer scientist who led a team of cryptanalysts in breaking the Nazis’ Enigma code during World War II. Benedict Cumberbatch is especially good in capturing Turning’s tics and submerged emotions. The film is suspenseful and heartbreaking and opens up an era where men were put in prison for being gay. GH

15. The Immigrant. Set in New York in 1921, this film is a portrayal of spiritual and psychological struggle. Marion Cotillard heads an excellent cast as Ewa, who falls prey to Bruno, a pimp who forces her to become a prostitute in order to make enough money to gain her sister’s freedom from quarantine on Ellis Island. It is a powerful film about forgiveness. GH

16. Alive Inside. Music has always been therapeutic for me, but this documentary about how music soothes, inspires, and jogs the memories of Alzheimer’s patients offers emotional and scientific proof that music can heal. MKS

17. Pride. Even though it is over-dramatized at times, the true story about the unlikely bond between the gay rights advocates and the striking miners in mid-80s United Kingdom is an entertaining feel-good underdog story. MKS

18. Skeleton Twins. Saturday Night Live alums Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader prove their dramatic chops in this dark comedy about troubled siblings who re-connect with each other as their other relationships crumble. MKS

19. Chef. Jon Favreau’s portrait of a acclaimed chef/not-so-acclaimed father at a career/personal crossroads is witty and heartwarming. MKS

20. Next Goal Wins. American Somoa was the worst soccer team in the world and holds the dubious distinction of suffering the worst defeat in international soccer history, losing 31-0 to Australia. This documentary chronicles the team’s attempt to qualify for the 2014 World Cup and reverse their historic bad fortune. MKS

21. Snowpiercer. The first half is much more violent than I can normally tolerate, but the second half of the movie is compelling. Yes, the premise of the last of the earth’s humans living riding an eternal train around the world is far fetched, but its Speed-meets-Children of Men juxtaposition makes for a highly entertaining film. MKS

22. Ernest and Celestine. OK, you can get me on a technicality because this was nominated for an Academy Award last year. However, this animated tale about an unlikely friendship between a bear and a mouse, didn’t receive a major release stateside until this year. My daughters, age 10 and 8, loved it. MKS

23. We Are the Best. This Swedish-Danish film about three 13-year-old girls who form a punk band to perform their song “Hate the Sport” may seem like a film about rebellion. But at its core the film is about finding joy and acceptance through music. The band is loud and terrible but their happiness is undeniable. MKS

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What would be on your list of favorite films from 2014??

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You can get an even bigger list (best 100 movies from the last 10 years), according to Third Way reviewers, which we shared last year. Go here.

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Original art illustration by Josh Byler for MennoMedia.

Announcing a New Tagline for Third Way Website and a Request for Your Help

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At MennoMedia, we are in the midst of an update and relaunch of Third Way. This website is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, helping the general public understand what following Jesus as Mennonite or Anabaptist Christians is all about.

A couple weeks ago we identified the new tagline chosen for the updated website, “Simply following Jesus.” While we looked at and tested and played with a number of phrases, this one seemed to say it all in a way appropriate for the website.P1060424

New tagline and logo look for Third Way website.

The new site will focus on six key values, in addition to a general section on Mennonites:

  1. Jesus,
  2. Community,
  3. Peace,
  4. Simplicity,
  5. Service,
  6. Justice.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but I wanted to use this blog to solicit your help and ideas for one new section focusing on community or the communal aspect of our faith, even though Mennonites are not generally living in the same houses or a commune or closed-type community like, for instance, a Hutterite colony.

It’s “community” in a broad sense like spiritual connectedness, but it also includes flesh and blood connectedness—the ties we experience as we get to know, love, work, and fellowship with others trying to follow Jesus in all aspects of our lives. The early disciples certainly formed a community; the early Christians lived together and had “all things” in common, including the purse; and the Reformation-era Anabaptists were a further-flung community over several countries at the time, bound together by common beliefs and suffering.

Over the years of hosting Third Way, we found persons deeply longing for and needing the kind of community they hear exists among some Mennonite and Anabaptist faith communities. One frequent complaint and question at Third Way has been: “There is no Mennonite church anywhere near me, so how can I find that kind of community?” The underlying question with that is “Can’t you please help start more churches in outlying areas?” We have frequently referred such pleas to regional Mennonite conference bodies for their awareness, prayer, and possible action—church plants or exploration. But people are longing for cross-generational community.

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I have heard people say “I wish my church was like that” when it comes to offering support, especially in times of serious illness, grieving, and even tough decision making. I have heard people speak of visiting their own loved one in a hospital and observing others who had no one visiting, or they accompanied a family member for cancer treatments, and saw that others had no one accompanying them. It’s the barn-raising spirit in urban or suburban form.

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Just today over at Practicing Parents blog, Lee Hull Moses writes about helping to raise other people’s kids: “We’re all in this together. That’s why we take meals to new parents and offer to babysit. It’s why we share hand-me-downs and advice. But it’s also why we volunteer in schools and read books to kids who are not our own. It’s why we advocate for laws that protect and provide for children. It’s why we support community programs that work to keep families out of poverty.”

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These are some of the things we mean by community, and lots more. Who is living and writing about this kind of stuff in blogs, articles, or even church newsletter format? Where would you point us? Who might be willing to share their experiences and insights? (You have a supper club meeting once a month or more? That’s community! How does it work, keep going? You have a small group that is your community? Who is doing a good job of expressing those kinds of connections? You have a service group or mission activity that has built relationships and connections across cultures or neighborhoods? That’s community.)

I hope to hear from you with recommendations, links, names of blogs, writers, pastors who are all about community. Go!

And thanks for your leads. That’s community.

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How do you define community? What makes community work for you?

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To know more about the work that MennoMedia is doing to update and relaunch the Third Way website, click here and here. And sign up here for the MennoMedia Links newsletter to be among the first to know about new products like this.

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Comment here or email me privately at melodied@mennomedia.org or any of us here at MennoMedia.

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If you want to support the outreach word of MennoMedia through Third Way website, here’s a way to do so online. Bless you!