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Jehovah’s Witnesses using letters, phone calls to reach people during pandemic

  • Richard Lawrence, a Jehovah’s Witness, adjusts to COVID-19 safety protocols by writing letters at his home in Massachusetts. He volunteers time each week to reach people in his community with an encouraging message. Instead of the door-to-door preaching synonymous with their faith, Jehovah’s Witnesses have increased the use of phone calls and handwritten letters to reach the public during the pandemic. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Rhode Island resident Marta Melucci, a Jehovah’s Witness, writes a letter of encouragement. Instead of the door-to-door preaching synonymous with their faith, Jehovah’s Witnesses have increased the use of phone calls and handwritten letters to reach the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Jehovah’s Witnesses Allan and Audry Jackson write letters from their home in Massachusetts. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Robert Badore, a Jehovah’s Witness in Vermont, regularly writes to those in his community to offer encouragement from the Bible. Instead of the door-to-door preaching synonymous with their faith, Jehovah’s Witnesses have increased the use of phone calls and handwritten letters to reach the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO



Staff Writer
Monday, January 25, 2021

GREENFIELD — Do you have a moment to talk on the phone about Jesus Christ?

Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken to telephones and letter-writing to reach people during these unprecedented times. Synonymous with their faith, their door-to-door ministry has been suspended in an attempt to spread their message without spreading the novel coronavirus that has killed 361,000 Americans.

“What’s being done in Greenfield is really a reflection of what Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing globally. This is an organizational change. It’s not just a Massachusetts or Greenfield-area change,” said Erik Glass, a church elder in Longmeadow.

“As soon as this virus started emerging around the world and in the United States, our organization, they really made a deliberate decision to suspend our public ministry. And it was based on two principles: the first one was our respect for life, and our love for our neighbor.

“I mean, that’s why we go door-to-door, anyway. We love our neighbors. We want to share the good news with them,” Glass said. “So, out of love, you have to show the action as well. And, so, we don’t want to spread the virus to our neighbors and we don’t want to get the virus ourselves.”

Northfield resident Jay Whitney, an elder with the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses at 290 Shelburne Road in Greenfield, said meetings were temporarily discontinued at the hall the first week of March. Local Witnesses have been reaching out to those in their area, writing and calling people they’ve met during previous years of volunteer work. They also get contact information from public directories.

But Glass and Whitney said alternative means of communication are nothing new to the faith.

“We have always been writing letters and making phone calls, but that wasn’t our primary focus. To share an encouraging message from the Bible, it’s really so much nicer to do it in person, if possible, and we’ve really enjoyed that,” Whitney said.

“But when this happened, we just simply shifted our emphasis from door-to-door, and then we just kicked into the letter-writing and phone calling. And the response has been very positive. We’ve gotten letters back, thanking us.

“We’ve gotten calls back, too. We’ve had quite a bit of interest,” he added. “We’re very pleased with the response, and we’re finding that we’re reaching some people that we might not have reached in our door-to-door work, too, which is good.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses cite specific Scripture, such as Matthew 28: 19-20 (in which Jesus told his followers to “make disciples of people of all the nations”), as their reason for their door-to-door preaching. They also typically distribute two pieces of literature called “The Watchtower” and “Awake!”

Chicopee church elder Andre’ Martine, who along with Glass handles media relations in this region of Massachusetts, said that before widespread lockdowns, all Kingdom Halls were instructed to sanitize chairs, tables and high-touch surfaces before and after each meeting. He said the most recent in-person meeting in Chicopee was March 12.

Whitney said local congregants were very understanding of the safety procedures “because it makes sense.”

“You just have to roll with the conditions and adjust as it goes,” he said, adding that church services are now typically held via the online video conferencing platform Zoom.

The three elders interviewed said in-person meetings and door-to-door ministry will resume once the pandemic ends. Whitney said the initial anxiety produced by the pandemic seems to have been replaced by what some are calling “COVID fatigue.” Glass said people, perhaps now more than ever, are looking for relief and solace.

“We’re still here. We’re still here to provide comfort,” he said. “We’re here to teach, direct people to the Bible. But, for now, it’s via alternative means — virtual, telephone, letter-writing.

“Even though our knocking has gone quiet, our love remains very much alive,” Glass added.

There are about 13,000 congregations in the United States and 8.6 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in 240 lands, Glass said. The faith’s official website, JW.org, is translated into 1,000 languages.