Columbia, MO

After 2 years Virtual - Jehovah's Witnesses are Back In Person

John Krause
In-Person MeetingsJohn Krause

Jehovah's Witnesses Return to In-Person Meetings

After Two Years Virtual, Congregations Began Meeting Together Again April 1

All congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses across the world were encouraged to begin holding in-person meetings starting the week of April 1.

Tianna Ellis has been attending meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses for as long as she can remember. “Those meetings have been a lifeline for me over the years,” the 29-year-old said.

When the Columbia, Missouri, resident arrived for her local congregation’s first in-person meeting, she said she felt like she “was at home.”

“Seeing everyone buzzing around greeting each other made me so happy,” Ellis said. “It made me realize just how much I missed being with my congregation in person.”

For most of the last two years, buildings for worship were closed globally due to the risks associated with meeting in person. 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.

“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 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 during the month of April. A special lecture titled “Where Can You Find Real Hope?” was scheduled to be given in most congregations early in the month. Additionally, the annual commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ will be held on April 15, 2022, the very day he sacrificed his life 1,989 years ago. This gathering will be held in person at local Kingdom Halls with live speakers. No collections are ever taken.

“The timing of resuming in-person meetings could not be better,” Hendriks said. “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 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 helped form the plan to move 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,” Hendriks said. “We know resuming in-person meetings will bring us even closer together. We’re anxious to see one another again.”

Ellis agreed. While she appreciated the convenience of attending meetings via videoconferencing, she said singing and talking with her friends before and after the program impressed upon her the value of being together. It “helps draw us closer and unites us in our worship,” she said. “It was well worth the effort!”

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,” Hendriks said. “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.”

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