Jehovah’s Witnesses cope during a year without knocking

Credit: Courtesy

Credit: Courtesy

It has been over a year since religious groups of all faiths had to curtail their traditional ways of circulating information in their respective communities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses may have been the most impacted in the Dayton area and worldwide.

Jehovah’s Witnesses — with an estimated 1.3 million in the U.S. and 8.23 million worldwide —are often known for their public presence in neighborhoods as they go door to door to spread the word of their faith and its practices. Since the beginning of the pandemic, people everywhere were asked to shelter in place and encouraged to only go out in emergencies, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This didn’t stop them from getting their message out, but made them get more creative with the way they distributed information. They resorted to sending handwritten letters, making phone calls, and holding services virtually.

“It has been a very deliberate decision based on two principles: our respect for life and love of neighbor,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in a statement. “But we are still witnesses and, as such, we must testify about our faith. So, it was inevitable that we would find a way to continue our work.”

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Reggie Berard, his wife Tanya, and their teenaged daughter Kamdyn were in the process of moving to Troy when safety protocols were put in place. Prior to the pandemic the family would spend time door knocking and occasionally writing letters but wouldn’t have imagined it would be a large part of how they distributed their message.

“Letter writing and phone calls has always been part of our ministry but since this pandemic it has really increased,” said Reggie, an elder of the Troy congregation.

Now, the family’s primary way of outreach is making phone calls and writing letters to neighbors and other residents throughout the Troy area. Tanya is a minister and said their family’s guiding principles of love thy neighbor kept them from door knocking.

“We wouldn’t want to be responsible for getting someone sick because of us. It was definitely something loving from us for our neighbor,” she said.

The family didn’t give up after the world had been altered with the new restrictions.

“We just find our preaching work to be the most important things in our lives and when you look at everything that’s taking place in world people are looking for comfort,” Reggie said. “We strongly believe that God word has all the answer and certainly provides comfort with people specially in these critical times in which we live.”

Although their determination and love for their religion kept them motivated, they were still presented some obstacles. Reggie said one of the greatest challenges was not being able to worship and share encouraging words with members in person, but he continues to see the positives.

“I guess it’s a challenge but it’s also encouraging to know that our worship didn’t stop and come to a halt and we’re able to still share that interchange of encouragement via zoom,” he said.

The family agreed that they enjoy the alternative outreach methods and have plans to continue them after they are allowed to return to in person services at Kingdom Hall and door knocking.

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Kamdyn, a junior at Troy High School, said she shared her parents concern about how she would reach people but found the letter writing to be a form of relief.

“I do find that because of online schooling I’m able to do more in our preaching work and that’s actually served as a stress relief. I’m able to share a comforting thought with my neighbors which also comforts me,” she said.

The Berard family looks forward to when they can return to door to door ministry but can see the positives in their new normal.

“I would say we are definitely reaching a lot of people because when we write letters, if it’s not a vacant home, someone’s getting a letter whereas when we go door to door someone people may not be at home. This way, the letters are getting to them so even when they get home from work, they have good news waiting for them,” Tanya said.

While the pandemic protocols have been lifted for fully vaccinated people the Berard family isn’t sure when new guidelines will be put in place.

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