So, I went to the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall yesterday. It was quite the interesting experience, I must say. There is a new Kingdom Hall out in Roy that is located not far from a friend's house. When we turned in, there was an illuminated sign that welcomed us:
I do have to say that I love that everything there is bilingual (Spanish and English). I welcome diversity and love seeing it everywhere.
Before I get to the main body of the text, I want to have a minor rant.
Churches, temples, Kingdom Halls, synagogues, mosques, what have you, if you post on your website that your services start at a certain time, and then you get there and the sign says the same time, but you walk in 15 minutes before that time and the service is going, that's not cool. Their website said that they start at 7:30 PM on Thursdays. When we got there a lovely sign said that their services start at 7:30 PM.
When we walked in at 7:15, they were halfway done with Bible study. I asked one of the members later why this was the case. He said that they had a circuit overseer there and so the meeting was special (more on that later) but then said, "Most Kingdom Halls in the area have meetings at 7:30 on Thursdays, but we meet at 7." Really? Then maybe you should update that on THIS SIGN ON YOUR DOOR:
Okay, rant is over.
I wasn't expecting much in the way of atmosphere here. Especially from the exterior we were greeted by. It was very stark and the lighting was very harsh. It wasn't terribly inviting on the outside.
I wanted to snap a picture of the inside of it, but I couldn't because Bible study was in session because their service time sign and website lie to us, and I didn't want to be rude.
Since you didn't get to see the inside I'll do best to describe it for you. When we first walked in, it looked like you were entering the reception area of a hotel or office building. There was a front desk and I couldn't tell where we were supposed to go. A teenage boy came and welcomed us. Then asked if he could find us a seat. After seating us. He showed us the Kingdom Hall which was quite different than I had anticipated. It was decorated in various shades of beige and tan with gold trim. It looked very much like early to mid-90's decor. There was an elevated section at the front, basically a stage that had two faux marble columns, again in beige, on either side of the stage against the wall. On the front of the stage was a podium where there was a man leading the Bible study, three wooden chairs, only one of which was occupied, and a table behind the speaker that wasn't used at all during the service. On the wall on either side of the stage was written (one side English, one side Spanish) the famous line from the Lord's Prayer, "Let your Kingdom come."
We were seated in what I call event chairs, which are not quite permanent chairs, but they're far more comfortable than fold out chairs being that they're covered in more plush and better material and do not fold. These particular ones were grey and interlocked with one another forming rows that vaguely resembled pews.
Overall, the inside was less plain than I had anticipated, but the ugly 90's decor I found atrocious. Especially considering this congregation is new (2 months they said). So there is no excuse for the building being decorated like that.
I didn't get a chance to meet with or talk to people prior to the service because again, the service time sign and website lie to us. Of what I observed, the group was a mixed group. A lot of white/elderly folk, but many of other age groups and people of multiple ethnic and racial backgrounds. Everybody was well dressed and groomed.
Apparently, in these meetings, you need their literature, their hymnal, and their Bible. None of which is available at the entrance or on the seats. Luckily this nice lady named Heidi let us borrow her Bible study guide and her hymnal. Afterward, she and her extremely well dressed and articulate husband came and talked to us. They were nice, seemed to have mixed feelings about us when we explained who we were and why we were there. I think they were equal parts curious and suspicious. But they were very polite to us. Aside from them, nobody else really talked to us.
I got the impression that I was being sized up the whole time, or people were wondering why we were there. An interesting thing for people who proselytize a lot.
I didn't get to see the first part of the service because the service time sign and website lie to us.
I got to see the last 20 minutes of Bible study, which luckily I got to borrow the book for from that lovely young lady. The name of the study guide was called Draw Close to Jehovah. The lesson was on how much Jehovah loves us as mankind and was done in Q&A style. When I say Q&A, I don't mean that someone asked questions and they answered with their opinions or thoughts on the matters. Instead, the man at the pulpit would read a paragraph, ask a question from the book, then they would pass a microphone to someone who had raised their hand. That person would then then repeat, often verbatim, the next sentence in the book. They were then told by the person leading the discussion, "That's very true," or "Thank you for that insight." There was no individual thought in the matter at all which I found quite interesting and wasn't expecting. I thought it was going to be much more of a discussion based Bible study like others I've been to in my life.
After Bible study, they sang a song from their hymnal called Sing to Jehovah. I didn't recognize a single hymn in the book, so I'm assuming they're all unique to the Jehovah's Witnesses. The name of the song we sang was called "Stay Awake, Stand Firm, Grow Mighty." I could make a seventh grade joke about that, but I'm just going to let it be. The song was pretty. Very basic tune. Both songs we sang had a very basic piano tune without any real frills or inspiration to it. But they were very short and sweet. I did like the hymns overall.
Next came the sermon delivered by one of the elders, the details of which are below. The service finished with another song, this one called, Enduring to the End.
The sermon was about endurance and how much we can endure as humans. It had a very doomsday feel to it, which is not surprising considering Jehovah's Witnesses are historically a doomsday religion. They believe that the destruction of the world by Jesus Christ is imminent. They talked about things like, suppose the world changed and people began persecuting them and sending them to concentration camps. (Which the Nazis did to them. Jehovah's Witnesses were declared enemies of the state and sent to the death camps just like the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and other people and groups deemed less than by society.) He told a story of this tough as nails woman who wouldn't slow down in her work. He asked her how she was able to keep going. She replied something I actually really enjoyed, "As long as I keep moving, they can't bury me." In a brief, one sentence summary, the whole message was, endure to the end.
We chose a very good time to go. They kept saying that the Circuit Overseer was there. Indeed he was sitting directly in front of me with all his paperwork and everything. I guess they pull out all of the stops when he comes to town. I didn't know who this guy was, so I looked that term up when I got home. Apparently, they are men who are personally appointed by the Governing Body (the 8 most powerful men in the Watchtower Society that runs the Jehovah's Witnesses) to go and oversee the conditions of individual congregations. We basically went when they were getting evaluated by the highest authorities, so I feel I saw them at their finest.
Overall, this was an interesting service. The hour and a half we were there flew by, I actually enjoyed myself while I was there. However, there was also a very weird vibe in that place. It had a very strong sense that they were involved in almost every aspect of each other's lives. I know that many of them work full time going door to door teaching about their religion, without pay. They call the most dedicated of these people "pioneers" and they devote up to 120 hours or more a month to that. Their website actually encourages them to often give up their full time jobs so they can do so if their means allow. This is an insane notion to me and is exploitation at its finest.
I would say the Jehovah's Witnesses' Kingdom Hall was a fun and educational experience. It was more fun and entertaining than expected, but I wouldn't be back anytime soon.
Tomorrow, I will be putting my pre-service blog up for Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church. I'm actually really excited to go back to the Greek church. It's an experience unlike any other you will find.
Until then, peace be with you.