All congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses across the world were encouraged to begin holding in-person meetings during the week of April 1.
St. John resident Lisa Lee, who has been attending meetings for over 40 years, said, “The meetings are the place where I meet my extended family members, my spiritual brothers and sisters. I greatly value their hugs and in-person conversations.” She also enjoys being able to raise her voice once again “along with the congregation in heartfelt song.”
For most of the last two years, buildings for worship remained closed globally due to the risks associated with meeting in person. Jehovah’s Witnesses 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. & Caribbean, even though there are fewer than 1.3 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in some 13,000 congregations.
“There is a collective shout of joy among Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world right now,” said Robert Hendriks, Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “While we have prospered in many ways as individuals and congregations 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.”
Guidelines for holding “hybrid” meetings have been sent to all congregations in the U.S. & Caribbean. Over the past six months, many Kingdom Halls have been equipped with the required technology to hold a productive meeting that allows for in-person and remote attendees, all of whom can participate in the discussions. A pilot program was held in October and November in countries around the world to assess how this could be done most effectively. The lessons learned in these pilot meetings have helped 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.”
“I longed for and eagerly anticipated our return to Jehovah’s house… my home,” remarks Lisa. “The things which cannot be experienced on Zoom” are what she and her family again mostly appreciate, during in-person meetings.
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. & Caribbean, 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.