Guide me oh Thou Great Jehovah

jw 003

http://www.jw.org/en/

Clearly the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been by. There was a Watchtower magazine and an invitation to a memorial service to commemorate Jesus’ death stuck to the door of our house. It was from Maria, who lives near Lincoln, and often visits our house. I was curious, so I googled “Jehovah’s Witnesses Memorial of Christ’s Death” and from what I could gather, aside from weddings and wedding anniversaries, the memorial is one of the only events Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate. Since it was their primary celebration I decided to attend.

JW YC
Yuba City Kingdom Hall

Maria’s invitation listed a Kingdom Hall in Lincoln where the celebration would be held. However, I’m trying to focus on visiting places of worship in the Yuba/Sutter area and was pleased to see the Kingdom Hall in Yuba City listed as a place where people would be gathering for the same memorial. (Also, I didn’t want Maria to get her hopes up that I was interested in the Jehovah’s Witnesses for more than academic reasons.)

Although I drove to the Kingdom Hall in Yuba City intending to get there early, the parking lot was already full when I arrived. I parked on George Washington Boulevard, near the Nazarene Church, and remembered hearing about a recent controversy in which the Jehovah’s Witnesses complained about the shadow of a cross on top of the Nazarene Church falling on the Kingdom Hall. That problem was eliminated when the cross was turned to face a different direction.

I walked into the huge meeting room and soon realized I was a bit under-dressed for the occasion. Sometimes I just don’t know what to wear to these different churches, since some are a bit more formal and many are simply “come-as-you-are” churches. I guess I should have known to dress up a bit more, since it was the Jehovah’s Witnesses only celebration.

I was guided by an attendant to a seat close to the front and sat in quiet anticipation of the festivities that I expected to soon take place. The crowd was mostly made up of Caucasians but there were quite a few African-Americans present. I’ve been to a multitude of African-American churches, and for the most part, they are usually spirit-filled and lively. So I assumed, only to find out later how wrongly, that this service would have the spirit of celebration.

Maybe because the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have any other official celebrations, they apparently set the celebratory bar pretty low. Basically the event consisted of a song at the start of the service, a prayer, a talk by one of their brothers, the passing of unleavened bread and wine, another prayer, and a closing song.

Now I like to sing in church. However, I couldn’t join in because it appeared that the congregants brought their own song books. There were no song books for visitors, no words on a big screen, nothing. My wife, a long-time church pianist/organist would not have been needed here; their piano music was all prerecorded.

As for the message from Tom Allen, who came from New York to speak, it was fine. Can’t say I agreed much with the theology that we are meant to live forever on earth, and thought of a few Bible quotes that seem to point out otherwise, but his message about appreciating what Jesus has done for us was good. I had a little chuckle when Mr. Allen talked about what life on earth would be like once God’s, I mean Jehovah’s, kingdom is restored. When he said we could be playing with all the animals, and mentioned swinging through the trees with the monkeys, I just couldn’t help thinking: clothed or unclothed? Now I really don’t want to have that thought in my mind the next time a Jehovah’s Witness knocks on my door.

When the time came for Holy Communion, or whatever they call it, I was a little anxious. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m supposed to partake in a church’s communion unless I’ve been baptized in their faith. However I didn’t have that problem this time. People were simply passing the crackers and wine without partaking.  So, trying to fit in as best I could, I passed the plate as well.

There was a closing song after the sermon and that was it.

I’m in a bit of a quagmire because I’m trying my best to be positive about my experiences when I attend worship services. Although my visit to the Kingdom Hall in Yuba City wasn’t bad I can’t say it was particularly uplifting. Also, I did some research on the internet and it appears that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have no room for other belief systems. Ethicist, writer and talk-show host Dennis Prager used to hold a popular radio show in Los Angeles called Religion on the Line.  Talking about his past experiences hosting that show, Prager said the Jehovah’s Witnesses were the only major denomination that refused to come onto his program.

That being said, it’s hard not to be impressed by the dedication many Jehovah’s Witnesses have to their faith and the difficulties they experience while trying to convey their message door-to-door. Maybe they could stop by the Episcopalian Church and give a little pep talk on how they do it. Now that would be a miracle; Jehovah’s Witnesses speaking at a church other than their own, and Episcopalians knocking on doors to proselytize.

Grace 2
Location of possible pep-talk. (I’ll need to get permission first.)

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