Come and knock on our door, we’ve been waiting for you…
The multilingual signs distributed around Centre County by Ben Wideman and the rest of 3rd Way Collective aren’t nearly as catchy as the theme song to “Three’s Company” — but the sentiment is more or less the same.
“No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”
That’s the English translation of the same exact turn of phrase that on the sign is also represented in Spanish and Arabic.
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“You see them more and more every day, and it just feels like there’s a movement happening here,” Wideman said.
It’s really been students looking for something different than what’s out there.
Wideman is the Penn State campus pastor of 3rd Way Collective, a student organization centered on faith inspired work for justice.
Past projects have included a Palm Sunday Peace Walk and a collaboration with RAWtools to demonstrate how guns can be turned into garden implements.
“It’s really been students looking for something different than what’s out there,” Wideman said.
University Mennonite Church in State College sponsors the program but turned to Wideman to help give some shape to the endeavor back in 2014.
“Ben has been an effective bridge builder and collaborator, encouraging cooperation and cross promotion of peace and justice activities across differing student groups, campus ministries and community groups. His voice has been a call to action, in support of peace and justice, that was previously absent,” said Marv Friesen, lead pastor at UMC.
Wideman’s challenge has been to find the common ground bridging issues of faith and justice.
“Just because you’re a person of faith doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care that global warming is real,” Wideman said.
The sign project was originally conceived at Immanuel Mennonite Church in Virginia, where Wideman’s friend Matthew Bucher serves as pastor.
Immediately people were asking where to get them.
Conceptually, the idea has traveled well. The collective started distributing signs in November and has since handed out more than 300 of them to folks throughout Centre County.
“Immediately people were asking where to get them,” Wideman said.
At present, the answer to that question lies with Lynn Cockett, of Central Pa. Showing Up for Racial Justice.
The organization has been selling the signs for $10 each — and there are only a few left in stock. For first dibs on the leftovers, contact CentralPASURJ@gmail.com. Failing that, it’s onto the waiting list you go.
Cockett hopes that the signs can help inspire an ongoing dialogue among neighbors.
“At Central Pa. SURJ, we believe that now is the time to be clear that racism is a minority opinion, and that we are standing in support of our friends and neighbors who do not live with the same comforts and benefits as we do because of our whiteness. We are using our privilege to help others in any way we can,” Cockett said.
Wideman is originally from Ontario and his wife grew up near Hershey. He has lived in State College for a couple of years now but says he can still empathize with the perspective of an outsider.