ALL congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world resumed holding in-person meetings during the week of April 1, except where local government restrictions do not permit them to do so.
Ferdinand Masi Sr., 60, a resident of Quezon City, has been attending meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses for more than 37 years now. “I benefit a lot from the Christian meetings. It is a source of refreshment and joy,” he said.
For most of the last two years, the Witness’ houses of worship have remained closed globally due to the pandemic and risks associated with meeting in person. Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Philippines also suspended their public ministry on March 15, 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 344,000 each week in the Philippines, even though there are fewer than 234,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in some 3,500 congregations. “We have enjoyed having so many from our local communities join our virtual meetings, in search of comfort and hope,” said James Morales, National Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Philippines. “We look forward to meeting in person all whom we have only met on screen during our virtual meetings.”
“There is a collective shout of joy among Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world right now,” said Morales. “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.”
To ensure the safety of all whom attend, guidelines for holding “hybrid” meetings have been sent to all congregations in the Philippines. 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 Morales. “We know resuming in-person meetings will bring us even closer together. We’re anxious to see one another again.”
Ginalyn Hernandez, 38, who also lives in Quezon City, expressed, “When it was announced that we can meet again at the Kingdom Hall, we were very happy. Then, as we heard the voices of our fellow worshippers personally and unitedly sang and prayed together, it has been very heartwarming.”
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 Philippines alone, Jehovah’s Witnesses spent more than 49 million hours in virtual Bible studies, writing letters of comfort to their neighbors and making phone calls. Internationally, 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 Morales. “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.”
The move back to in-person meetings precedes two global events being held in all 120,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first is a special lecture scheduled in most congregations for April 10, 2022, entitled, “Where Can You Find Real Hope?” 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. Both of these gatherings will be held in person at local Kingdom Halls with live speakers. No collections are ever taken.
For more information on Jehovah’s Witnesses go to jw.org.