Photo: Erwin and Angela Rempel volunteer to answer questions about Mennonites and faith that are sent to the ThirdWay.com website.
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 1,000 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, Virginia.
Six sponsors, Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, Abundance Canada, Mennonite Health Services, Conrad Grebel University, and Goodville Mutual currently help sponsor the 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 Mennonites.
Top 10 Quirky Queries at Third Way
- Mennonite Moabites? Were [Mennonites] from the Moabites in the Bible?
- Beards, modesty and coverings: What is the view on beards for men? Modest dresses for women? Headcoverings?
- 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.
- 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.
- BC? Which year [was] Jesus Christ born?
- Seperate 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?
- Inquiring nurses wants 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?
- Black and white: I am an African-American male who is married to a white woman. Do the Mennonites accept this marriage?
- Infant baptism: Why do some people baptize infants?
- 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
- 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.
- 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.]
- 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.]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Judeo-Christian? Does the Mennonite church consider the United States a Judeo-Christian nation?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?