SINCE MARCH 2020, the once bustling Kingdom Halls have stayed eerily silent, devoid of Jehovah’s Witnesses activities, after the organization decided to put a halt to meeting together in-person worldwide due to safety concerns over the fast-spreading COVID-19 virus.
The stillness ends today when Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide reopen for in-person meetings. Local meetings at Kingdom Halls resume on Sunday.
“After more than two years of staying home, the members of our congregation have very much looked forward to being able to meet again in person,” said Russ Avery. “This is especially true for new ones who have moved into the area that we have not had the opportunity to see in person.”
Avery, 61, has regularly attended meetings his entire life, 46 of those years in the Sequim congregation, where he met his wife of 39 years, Cindy Avery. Now their sons, their wives and grandchildren are also in the Sequim congregation.
“While we have enjoyed our ‘virtual’ meetings, we miss the companionship from face-to-face socializing. For me, I am looking forward to being able to enjoy having hugs with my spiritual brothers and sisters,” he said.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in the U.S. also suspended their public ministry on March 20, 2020.
Since that time, they have carried on their ministry through letters and phone calls while holding twice-weekly meetings in a virtual format. Average attendance at these meetings exceeded 1.5 million each week in the U.S., even though there are fewer than 1.3 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in some 13,000 congregations.
As the in-person meetings resume, and out of concern for the health of attendees, all are asked to please be vaccinated and to wear a mask inside.
“There is a collective shout of joy among Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world right now,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “While we have prospered in many ways as individuals and congregations by using technology to bring us together, nothing can adequately replace being together in person. We have longed for this moment for the better part of two years.”
The move back to in-person meetings coincides with two global events being held in all 120,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first is a special lecture, which is scheduled locally at the four Kingdom Halls on the Olympic Peninsula — Port Townsend, Sequim, Port Angeles and Forks — for April 10 entitled, “Where Can You Find Real Hope?”
Then, on the evening of April 15, congregations have a special meeting to honor the annual commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ, which is the very date Jehovah’s Witnesses believe he sacrificed his life 1,989 years ago.
Both of these gatherings will be held in person, with a live speaker, at local Kingdom Halls.
The public is welcome. No collections are ever taken.
“The timing of resuming in-person meetings could not be better,” said Hendriks. “Bringing everyone back together for these special events will have a powerful effect on the worldwide congregation.”
Guidelines for holding hybrid meetings have been sent to all congregations in the United States. Over the past six months, many Kingdom Halls, including those on the Peninsula, have become equipped with the necessary technology to host Bible-based meetings for both in-person and remote attendees — all of whom can participate in the discussions.
Pilot programs of hybrid meetings were held in various countries around the world during October and November in order to assess how this could be done most effectively. The lessons learned in these pilot meetings help form the plan for moving forward with reopening all Kingdom Halls, where the law permits.
“It has been heartwarming to see the peace and unity among Jehovah’s Witnesses during this very divisive time,” said Hendriks. “We know resuming in-person meetings will bring us even closer together. We’re anxious to see one another again.”
Door to door
As of now, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no plans to resume their public ministry, though their alternative ministry continues. In fact, since the start of the pandemic through November 2021 in the U.S. alone, Jehovah’s Witnesses spent more than 400 million hours in virtual Bible studies, writing letters of comfort to their neighbors and making phone calls. They have released 77 new language translations of the Bible and held two global virtual conventions in more than 500 languages.
“No time was wasted in the past two years,” said Hendriks. “Our congregants have been busy and productive helping each other and their neighbors through this most challenging time. That’s what love and unity are all about.”
For more information on Jehovah’s Witnesses, go to jw.org.