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Vermont

Jehovah’s Witnesses return to NJ door-knocking after long COVID hiatus


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When Susan Cohen knocked on the door for Jehovah’s Witnesses after a two-and-a-half-year pandemic hiatus, she feared the door could be slammed in her face.

“After COVID, I didn’t know what to expect,” stated the Montclair girl, who has shared her religion via the Witnesses’ door-to-door evangelism for practically 45 years.

Her worries proved unfounded this fall when she and her colleagues around the globe returned to the sector. Cohen, a self-proclaimed “people person,” spent her first day sharing tales and literature with neighbors in Glen Ridge and West Orange.

“People were so happy to be able to talk face-to-face,” stated Cohen, whose vitality appears to betray her 76 years.

It was a special expertise than earlier than the pandemic, when individuals had been not often at dwelling and sometimes refused to communicate, she recollects.

“You’re taking your time now,” Cohen stated. “Many feel vulnerable after what we’ve been through – the war, a terrible economy, so many people dying from COVID. People are in a desperate situation and many are longing for hope.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination with more than 8.6 million adherents around the world, including 1.3 million in the United States, according to the Warwick, New York-based group.

Face-to-face appeals are not only a mainstay of the faith, but a practice that the group has fought for decades to preserve, said spokesman Robert Hendricks. In June, Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrated the 20th anniversary of a US Supreme Court ruling that protected their right to knock on doors without being required to seek government approval.

The group suspended door-to-door evangelism in the early days of the pandemic, just as the rest of society went into lockdown. It has also closed its 13,000 US congregations and canceled in-person gatherings. (The members met again in April of this year).

“The pandemic has taught us that there are many ways to reach people,” said Robert Acevedo, a Jehovah’s Witness elder in Elizabeth. “We’ve discovered to attain individuals via letters and telephone calls and digital Bible research.”

“Awareness is key”

Cohen continued her ministry through letters and phone calls to strangers and found she could reach more people remotely than she could on foot. With many working from home — and craving human connection — she found people who were grateful for uplifting conversations.

The modified insert was still successful, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The group grew during the pandemic, baptizing an additional 500,000 people worldwide, Hendricks said. COVID has been difficult, but “it has made us stronger and higher,” he said.

Yet such tactics lacked the face-to-face interactions that Witnesses believe are vital.

“Outreach is fundamental. It’s a seminal teaching of Jesus,” Hendricks said. “The last thing he ever said was about evangelism. We picked up this coat. This is us. We are witnesses. If we do not testify about our Creator, then we are not witnesses. We don’t preach for ourselves, we turn to our neighbors.”

Door-to-door visits formally resumed on September 1st.

Since then, Cohen has discovered loads of Zoomsters prepared to step out of the digital grind to focus on deeper points.

During her travels round North Jersey, she requested one individual why youngsters undergo and what occurs after demise. Another needed to speak about associates and relations misplaced to COVID-19. A pair who communicate solely Turkish had been thrilled when Cohen confirmed them a brief Bible video in their very own language.

More: She’s been knocking on New Jersey’s doorways for many years. Then COVID modified every little thing

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One girl dropped on her entrance door and stated she by no means needed a Bible examine earlier than the pandemic however is now longing for it. Cohen stated she would return to her usually.

On a current journey, Cohen went door-to-door with Montclair colleague and pal Sandy Massillon, who turned a member a decade in the past after taking a free Bible examine course. The return to the sector is gratifying, she stated.

“It helps us feel more connected to our neighbors,” she stated, “and personally offer them the comfort they need.”

Origins of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination whose beliefs differ from conventional Christianity. It grew out of the Bible Students motion based by Pittsburgh preacher Charles Taze Russell within the late 1870s. The teachings of the faith are established by a gaggle of elders primarily based in Warwick.

MPs who’re politically impartial view a lot of secular society as morally corrupt. Holidays like Christmas and Mother’s Day are usually not noticed by beliefs that declare their pagan origins. The group additionally doesn’t settle for most blood transfusions, citing a biblical prohibition on taking blood. In critical circumstances, members sometimes request that medical doctors search the perfect various that respects their non secular beliefs.

Famous members included the late singer-songwriter Prince, who was christened as an grownup; Michelle Rodriguez, the “Lost” actress who was raised a Jehovah’s Witness; and tennis champion Serena Williams, who was raised within the religion.

According to the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Study, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who make up lower than 1% of grownup Americans, are among the many most racially and ethnically numerous non secular teams in America: 36% are white, 32% are Hispanic, 27% are black, and 6% are black one other race or a combined race.

“Being part of such a diverse denomination means I’m part of the largest family on earth,” stated Massillon, who’s of Haitian descent. “It has been my experience that I can find myself in any part of the world and find a family that will love me and accept me as their own.”

The overwhelming majority, 65%, are converts who had been raised in a special religion, in accordance to the Pew examine.

That consists of Cohen, who was raised in a conservative Jewish household in Passaic earlier than changing practically half a century in the past. Although she discovered Hebrew as a baby, she by no means studied the Bible or linked a lot along with her household’s religion or traditions, she stated.

In 1975, when she was a divorced mom with a younger son residing in Verona, she heard a knock on her entrance door and opened it to a Jehovah’s Witness. She wasn’t in search of faith however needed to know what the Bible says and commenced finding out with the Witnesses, she stated. Eventually she joined the group.

Cohen is aware of firsthand how highly effective the human connection of the “witness” may be.

“Face-to-face contact is far more private. With eye contact, individuals really feel reassured extra simply,” she said. “This can help them feel more comfortable asking the questions that are on their hearts and pave the way for more meaningful discussions.

“My purpose isn’t to pressure anybody to turn into a Jehovah’s Witness, however to use the Bible to reply their questions and inform them their objective on this planet,” Cohen said. “Whatever they do with that data is up to them.”

Deena Yellin covers religion for NorthJersey.com. For full access to her work, which explores how the spiritual intersects with our daily lives, Please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

E-mail: [email protected]; Twitter: @deenayellin

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