This past fall, University Mennonite Church, in State College, PA, embarked on an exciting journey. After several years of discerning a call to student ministry at Penn State, the congregation brought Pastor Ben Wideman on board to launch the 3rd Way Collective. Wideman was licensed by Allegheny Mennonite Conference and installed as the Anabaptist campus pastor at University Mennonite on October 26. Conference pastor Donna Mast participated in the service, and John Stoltzfus, conference youth minister for Eastern District and Franconia Conferences and youth pastor at Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, delivered the morning message.
As a new organization on campus, 3rd Way Collective aims to serve as a bridge for faith-based organizations and those that focus on a specific peace and justice issue. “We’re excited by the students, faculty, and staff who have reached out and the many ways they are joining with us to tackle these challenging topics,” Wideman says.
3rd Way Collective is off to a busy start. So far, activities have included an interfaith peace meditation and prayer service, a weekly peace/justice/faith conversation group, community service projects, and other informal gatherings for students to engage—on campus, in downtown coffee shops, and beyond State College. Over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Wideman and Penn State students joined with four other campus organizations to lead a service and learning trip to Washington, D.C., which focused on racial issues, gentrification, and homelessness. Wideman has also launched a weekly podcast called “Peace Signs,” which gives five-minute glimpses into the peace, justice, and faith perspectives of members of the Penn State community.
On March 20, 3rd Way Collective will host The RawTools PeaceMaker Tour, an effort to raise awareness and encourage dialogue around the issue of gun violence. Held at the State College Presbyterian Church, the event will feature a blacksmith transforming a gun into a garden implement (referencing “beating swords into plowshares” – Isaiah 2:4) outside the church, while inside the sanctuary—as the blacksmith demonstration is video streamed live—individuals who have been affected by gun violence will share their experiences. State College’s mayor and police chief, as well as several campus organizations, have expressed support for the event. Continue reading