The anniversary of the death of Jesus Christ is the most important event of the year for Jehovah's Witnesses.
This year, Jehovah's Witnesses here and around the world, who follow the ancient Jewish lunar calendar, will mark the Memorial of Jesus Christ's Death on Monday night.
"Jesus never said anything about remembering the resurrection," says James "JJ" Brainerd. "He said remember the night he died, Luke 22:19." ("Do this in remembrance of me.")
Brainerd, 33, of Lancaster, will speak on "Appreciate What Christ Has Done for You," in a service of the Engleside Congregation at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, 850 Hershey Ave., at 9 p.m. Monday.
In Lancaster County, Brainerd says, there are more than 1,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in 11 congregations, meeting in seven locations. The congregations have no paid staff or pastor but are run by members who volunteer.
Worldwide there are roughly 8 million Jehovah's Witnesses, Brainerd says.
Brainerd is one of eight elders in the Engleside Congregation, with about 95 members. The elders chose him to speak in the meeting on Monday.
"We have no official titles. If you came to a meeting, you wouldn't know who's an elder," he says. "We try to be modest and humble."
Brainerd was born and raised in New Park, York County. His parents began studying with Jehovah's Witnesses when he was 8. He was baptized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses at age 14.
A computer technician contracted to Highmark Blue Shield, in Camp Hill, he works three, eight-hour days a week. On the others days, he volunteers as a Pioneer.
All Jehovah's Witnesses are required to be involved in door-to-door ministry, but Pioneers devote 70 hours a month to door-to-door ministry.
"We try to get around to every place once a year," he says.
Brainerd's wife, Ruth, a registered nurse who works 36 hours a week for Wellspan, in York, also is a Pioneer.
"We do it together," Brainerd says. "We want to do it as long as we can."
One member of the Engleside Congregation, he says, has been a Pioneer for more than 30 years; another, for about 25 years.
"Jesus went door-to-door when he was on earth," he says. "In Matthew 28:19-20, the commandment was given to the Apostles." ("Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, … ")
In a special campaign that began March 22 and will continue through Monday, members of the Engleside Congregation are distributing 18,000 invitations to the Memorial of Jesus Christ's Death service and an annual meeting on "Why Would a Loving God Permit Wickedness" at the Kingdom Hall at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 27.
Four Jehovah's Witness congregations meet at the Hershey Avenue hall: the Engleside Congregation, which covers Conestoga, Millersville and the city west of Prince Street; the East Lancaster Congregation, which covers the city east of Prince Street to Gap; and two Hispanic congregations.
"Most everywhere in this area is covered," Brainerd says.
The East Lancaster Congregation, with about 120 members, will worship on Monday at 7 p.m.
After Brainerd speaks at Engleside's Memorial, the emblems, or bread and wine, will be passed. But few if any will partake in the once-a-year observance, which is not called communion and is observed after sunset.
"It's only for those who feel they have the heavenly call," says Brainerd, citing Romans 8:16: " … it is the Spirit itself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, … "
Brainerd will not partake. Last year, he said, all of the members abstained.
"This will be part of my talk," he says, citing Revelations, 14:1, which states that only 144,000 people will go to heaven.
As of last year, he says, "13,204 partook of the emblems because they feel they are a part of the covenant.
"They started to be gathered at the time of Christ's death. From then to now, there are very few still left on earth who are part of that covenant," he says.
"Jehovah's Witnesses believe the earth is going to be brought back to a paradise. That has not changed. That's my hope. God put Adam and Eve on earth in a paradise. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, the whole earth would be a paradise.
"While heaven is a nice place, I personally feel my hope is here on the earth, as do most of the Jehovah's Witnesses. It's the way the Holy Spirit operates in us."
|Nigeria Jehovah Witnesses’ Bethel: A place of order|
Situated in an expansive land at Igieduma in Edo State is Nigeria’s headquaters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Samuel Ayodele who was taken on a facility tour of the premises, reports.
Travelling on the Benin/Auchi expressway just before Ekpoma is located a small community called Igieduma in Uhunmwode Local Government Area of Edo State. Situated within Igieduma is an expansive land that houses the Nigerian branch office of the Jehovah Witnesses, otherwise referred to as Bethel (House of God).
For many who have visited Bethel, it is not just a place. Many have desribed the place as a model for how the human society should be used and managed while many have described the place as ‘paradise on heart.’
Indeed, Bethel is an uncommon arena. Working at Bethel are Jehovah Witnesses who have dedicated themselves to the service of God (Jehovah) and Bethel. According to a member of Bethel House who simply introduced himself as Jaymes, workers at Bethel are furnished with room and a small monthly reimbursement to assist with their personal expenses. He added that similar facilities in some 110 countries worldwide are financed entirely by voluntary donations from Jehovah's Witnesses throughout the world and coordinated by the world headquarters in Brooklyn, USA.
Jaymes said that members of the Bethel House are part of the over 7 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide that are involved in the preaching activities and that each working morning, the Bethel family in Igieduma comes together to consider a scripture text using the booklet, Examining the Scriptures Daily. He added that a chairman presides over this fifteen minutes discussion and members of the family are assigned to comment on the text. Following the discussion, the family is led in prayer, after which breakfast is served.
Apart from this, members of the Igieduma Bethel work together like one family and study the Scripture together. In addition, they share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple making as they are assigned to congregations of Jehovah Witnesses in and around Igieduma for preaching activities.
Within Bethel, a number of necessary services are performed to keep the entire premises running and there are various departments that perform different tasks. For example, some members of the family work in the kitchen, some ensure that the entire premises of Bethel is kept clean, while there others are in charge of housekeeping, laundry and construction works.
Since the Igieduma House produces all the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nigeria, the publishing department is one important division of the house. The department has three subdivision—graphics, press room and shipping. The graphics sub-division ensures that text, artwork and photographs are merged into page format and that film negatives of the pages are then used to make plates for the printing presses.
The press room is equipped with a printer that can print, fold and glue up to 38,000 magazines per hour while the quality of the print is monitored and controlled at the press console. The last but not the least of the departments is the shipping department that ensures that literature requests from congregations are processed and delivered to over 400 distribution centres across Nigeria.
Other departments at the Bethel House are the kingdom hall construction desk that coordinates the kingdom hall construction; the service department that supervises the preaching activity of over 280 00 Jehovah Witnesses in Nigeria; the hospital information desk that provides hospital liaison committees throughout the country with the latest information on bloodless medical procedure and the translation department that translates various publications from English into Nigerian languages such as Efik, Hausa, Igbo, Isoko, Tiv and Yoruba.
For a first visitor to the Bethel House, what readily attracts the eyes is the friendly ambience that permeates the large premises. From the gate house to the lawn, dining hall, press and the hall of residence, everything seems perfect and the visitors sre usually full of conmendations.
One of such people who was moved by the organisation of Bethel was the former governor of Edo State, Chief Lucky Igbinedion when he visited Bethel in 2001. Moved by the orderliness and organisation of the place after he had been taken on a facility tour of Bethel along with his entourage, the governor was full of commendation for the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation.
"Very distinguished family of Bethel, on behalf of the state government and the good people of Edo State, we thank you most graciously for giving us the opportunity to tour your facility and know the work of God that is being carried out here. I must say, I am highly impressed and so are members of my entourage who have been so opportune to go round and see, first and foremost, how neat and how well kept the place is. It's highly commendable.
"I'll also like to commend the maintenance culture of the family of Bethel. I'll also like to thank you very much for the meal you have provided for us. It's a meal that has been blessed and nourished and we shall continue to appreciate it. It's most satisfying that you have people here that are volunteers, doing the work of God and I've been able to see these people and I'm highly impressed that they are being gainfully engaged in carrying out the work of God. These are young people and it is purely a voluntary will for them to come here. They are not forced; they are not in any way encumbered to remain after they so desire to leave. So I believe all I've heard and the little I've seen. I know there are more that we are not able to cover due to time constraints, but we will try as much as possible to have continued dialogue with the Bethel family."