After more than two years of virtual worship services, Jehovah’s Witnesses have now been given the go-ahead to resume in-person worship as of Friday.
There are more than 50,000 Witnesses who are part of more than 300 congregations in Dallas-Fort Worth, and there are more than 8 million Witnesses worldwide.
At the outset of the pandemic, starting in March 2020, most of the Witnesses’ Kingdom Halls were closed in favor of biweekly meetings conducted via Zoom.
“We feel like, while we’re not past the pandemic, we are at a point in which we can make this decision and move forward with the choice to come to in-person meetings at our Kingdom Hall, and to remain safe in doing so,” said Robert Hendriks, a national spokesperson for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Really, spirituality is not about a place. It really isn’t even about in-person worship. It’s about a connection to our creator, a connection to each other, and sharing our spirituality together, which we have managed to do in a beautiful way in the last two years,” Hendriks said.
Despite the potential drawbacks of conducting remote meetings, as opposed to traditional, in-person services, attendance actually grew during the pandemic, according to Hendriks, with an average of 1.5 million people logging on each week. For perspective, there are fewer than 1.3 million baptized Witnesses in the United States.
When asked why the number of attendees may have risen during the pandemic, Kasey Cox, a Witness who lives in Keller, provided a quick answer.
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“It opened us up to an opportunity to speak to people we might not have ever had the opportunity to,” Cox said. “Now we have the opportunity to be able to literally go into people’s homes, via Zoom or other video conference services, and talk to them, and help share this wonderful message.”
That being said, Cox noted that he is eager to return to in-person meetings.
“I know I, myself and my family, are ready to get back and see the ones we haven’t seen in-person, give them hugs, embrace them, express ourselves to them, see their smiling faces in real-time, real-life,” Cox said.
As of now, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no plans to resume their public ministry, which includes the familiar door-to-door preaching work that Witnesses are known for. In its place, Witnesses have been conducting letter-writing campaigns and making phone calls to connect with people.
Hendriks, the national spokesperson, said that he is encouraged by how his fellow Witnesses have managed to move forward during the pandemic.
“I don’t think there is ever going to be ‘normal’ on this side of the pandemic. We will never be the same. Not as individuals, not as an organization. And that’s okay,” Hendriks said. “We’ve gone through this very difficult trial together. We’ve come out of it more united than ever, loving each other more than ever, and recognizing that we need the organization, we need the congregation more than ever.”