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World religions paper...

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#1
My Visit to a Kingdom Hall.

The world is full of various religions and philosophies. Religions often influence a society through their customs, rituals and beliefs. Some religions are very bold in declaring their views, while others seem to be passive when it comes to telling others about their beliefs.

While I was in high school, I had encountered several other religions. I had one friend who was very close to me and she was very kind. She was also a Muslim. I had other friends who where not of the Southern Baptist background I was, but none of them interested me as much as the few who where Jehovah’s Witnesses. They wouldn’t celebrate holidays, their birthdays, and they wouldn’t even salute the flag during the morning pledge. That is why I chose to go to a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall for my religious visit.

On February 27, 2005, Jeff Tinsley, Chris Mitchell, David Swarenga, and I went to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness in Vidalia, Georgia. The Kingdom Hall was located at 2000 McIntosh Street in Vidalia, Georgia. We attended their 1:30 Public Talk session and stayed through their 2:30 Watch Tower reading.

The building was average size, and the worship room, sanctuary, was located in the back of the building. In the back of the room was a place to get the some information about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other related material like their Watch Towers magazines. This place was actually a separate room with a window that connected to the worship hall, and it had the word literature written above it.

The worship room was the size of the performance hall in the Millar Music Building. It had about 110 people in attendance. Instead of benches like a Baptist church they had rows of individual seats. At the front of the worship room was a stage with the pulpit for the speaker.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses were very friendly and many welcomed us all individually. The majority of the people were African Americans, with a fair amount of Caucasians. It was a fair balance for gender, but there did seem to be more adults than children. They all dressed in very formal attire. All of the men dressed suits and ties and most of the women had on a skirt and a nice blouse or sweater. However, they all still seemed to be of the middle class.

The worship service was very different from a Southern Baptist service. We arrived about ten minutes early to the service. We walked in and were greeted by several people. Even up until the beginning of worship we were greeted by the congregation. The people were very kind.
They were genuine in there kindness as well. The week we visited their Public Talk, the Overseer, the person who was over 20 of the local Kingdom Halls, was there to speak. He saw us and saw that we were visitors. He immediately introduced himself and did everything he could to accommodate us. He had people bring us hymnals and personally gave us copies of their Watch Tower magazine.

The service started promptly at 1:30pm. The Hall leader opened the service with the usual welcome. He also gave announcement and then led us in their songs. They opened with a single hymn. The hymn was entitled Jehovah’s Attributes. This hymn did not really speak of any of Gods character. It talked about Armageddon and God’s judgment. It was also a very drab hymn, very slow and just didn’t seem worshipful to me.
Then the Hall leader introduced the Overseer. The Overseer proceeded to give his talk. This talk was about Wisdom and the World. He talked of how there are several different groups of Christians who claim to have the truth yet are lying. He taught from several Proverbs and used several other references in the Bible. However he never spoke of Christ’s crucifixion, sin, or atonement. These are all things that are often part of a Southern Baptist sermon that were not in his message.

He also did not show any enthusiasm as he gave his talk. He spoke for almost an hour and did not really seem to care if you understood what he was saying or not. He had no emotion in his talk and I know I nodded off once or twice. He did speak very clearly, but even that was not able to provide me with any direction in his talk. In short, he left me very confused. Finally, he ended that talk with prayer and the audience applauded. They ended the Public Talk session with another very dry and boring hymn.

Then another man came up and asked everyone to take out their Watch Towers. The Watch Tower magazine was basically their Sunday school curriculum. It had an eight page lesson with questions to go with each paragraph of that section. At the end of the section were some follow up questions to the lesson.

The man began by reading the summary questions from the end of the section. He then proceeded to read the title of the lesson, and then asked the questions provided that were to be asked with the first paragraph. After he read the Questions he encouraged the audience to give what they thought were good answer to the questions he had asked. The people would raise their hands and the man leading the session would call out names of certain people by saying brother/sister and their last name. When he had chosen who he would ask to respond one of two younger men would carry a microphone on a pole to the person selected so that everyone could here the responses.

Most of their responses came directly from the Watch Tower magazine. Some people would add a verse that helped their personal clarification, but it would still stay fairly close to what was written in their magazine. After each person had finished speaking their response, the leader of that session would compliment the responding person. He had two or three people respond to each question. Then at the end he restated the summary questions and had the audience answer them as well.

After the Watch Tower service, since the local Overseer was in attendance, we had a second talk. Before the talk they sang another dry song. This talk was about maintaining order in a disorderly world. The Overseer really didn’t teach the second time. In fact, this speech was more or less a pep talk. He talked about what he saw as good in that particular group. Then he addressed their weak points. He addressed the need for them to go out and spend time in field service, and it was quite clear he was preaching a salvation by works doctrine. He finished and they closed the service with one more of their very dry hymns.

After the service, many people wished us well and one lady gave us a few things to read. The literature they had given to us was a few different Watch Towers and some things that explained some of their view and some of their doctrines. Finally, the women gave us a copy of one of the tracts they used in their door to door out reaches. We thanked the leader for allowing us to observe the service and left.

To a Southern Baptist, there were a few things that were rather odd to me. First was the attire. Baptists dress in a respectful yet relaxed style. Jeff and I had gone to make sure it was okay that we visited the day before, and they seemed very adamant about wearing a suit to the service. So, the four of us did as we had been requested and wore the suit. In my opinion, I’ve always taken a come as you are approach to worship.

Another thing that was different was how friendly they were. I’ve never received such a warm welcome form a Baptist church. Personally I try to great all the quests while I’m at my home church in New Jersey, but several people greeted all four of us, and even attempted to start some small conversations. That is something I would like to see more of in the Southern Baptist churches.

A third thing that was very different was their overall attitude toward worship. While it was clear that the thought very highly of their worship time, it seemed very dry and unemotional. I know that some people think I’m a little on the expressive Baptist side, but I just could not feel that they had the desire to be there. Even the leader and the Overseer did not really seem to enthusiastic about serving Jehovah.

Some other differences that I noticed seemed minor in my opinion but still were different than what I have been accustomed to. The music for their hymns was played on a karaoke type machine instead of a piano or organ. The hymns were all slow and almost bitter instead of the emotional hymns we love like “Great is thy Faithfulness†or “Victory in Jesus.†Those hymns have always played a strong part in setting the attitude of worship.

While it wasn’t one of those things you wish you had never done, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the Kingdom Hall. I had the privilege to go with Jeff on his visit to the Kingdom Hall in McRae and they were not as accepting of our differences there. I’ve known several Jehovah’s Witnesses but I don’t see anything really attractive about their worship practices or their doctrines. I will say this, after attending to of their meetings I can now say with a lot more joy that I’m glad I got to a Baptist church.
 
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#2
lol! Mine's due on the 4th. I am going to compare aspects of Christianity and Buddhism.
 
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#3
My professor made us pick a Place of worship of a different religion or denomination, and visit a service at that palce.
 
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#4
Have you turned in your paper yet? This sentence has me confused and I'm wondering if maybe it needs revised:

I had other friends who where not of the Southern Baptist background I was, but none of them interested me as much as the few who where Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This one also. Should you maybe remove worship room or sanctuary? If not, then maybe it should read: The building was average size. The worship room was located in the back of the building.

The building was average size, and the worship room, sanctuary, was located in the back of the building.
Where is that music building located? (for those of us that don't know where it is)

The worship room was the size of the performance hall in the Millar Music Building.

This sentence seems to run together. Confuses me again.

The week we visited their Public Talk, the Overseer, the person who was over 20 of the local Kingdom Halls, was there to speak.

Just trying to help out! I know those were things that I was critiqued on when writing papers.

It was a very interesting read though. I enjoy hearing about how other denominations are. What struck me odd though was when you say you've never been greeted so warmly at a souther baptist church. I have never NOT been greeted very warmly... :lol:

I used to be a member of a southern baptist and when someone new walked in the door, the members would make sure to approach them, welcome them and thank them for coming. They have also done this at the other churches we've been visiting (Non-affiliated Baptist churches).
 
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#5
I ran it by my english professor before handing it in because another person had pointed out some of the same things you did. She said those were all just preferences that a professor really can't call improper. It's not the common english format, but she said those were acceptable.

The music hall was a reference to a campus building to give for comparative purposes.

The comma usages are all just personal style things. Each time the instance is a descriptive clause that could be separated, but it's not incorrect the way it is. However, it will be interesting to see if my World Religions professor's preference will factor into my grade.

As for my Southern Baptist experience, you have to remember I come from the spiritually weak northeast. First I have to find a Baptist church. However, since coming south, I have found some more friendly Baptist churches.
 
R

Reinhold

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#6
As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, I always find it fascinating to hear the impressions people get when visiting a Kingdom Hall. I thought your report was well done and I'm sure you'll get a good grade.

I would like to expand on a few of your points a little and fill in some questions. I'm not looking to get into a doctrinal debate but if you or anyone else have any questions, I'd be glad to try and answer them.

Brutus/HisCatalyst said:
The building was average size, and the worship room, sanctuary, was located in the back of the building. In the back of the room was a place to get the some information about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other related material like their Watch Towers magazines. This place was actually a separate room with a window that connected to the worship hall, and it had the word literature written above it.
Typically the main worship room is simply referred to as the auditorium. They layout of each Hall varies a bit, but what you describe sounds fairly typical.


Instead of benches like a Baptist church they had rows of individual seats.
Some Halls have benches, but inidividual movie-theater style seats are more common.

It was also a very drab hymn, very slow and just didn’t seem worshipful to me.
There are over 100 songs in the songbook with a wide variety of styles. Although I will admit, some are a bit drab, but not most. Although it depends a lot of what you're used to.


He taught from several Proverbs and used several other references in the Bible. However he never spoke of Christ’s crucifixion, sin, or atonement.
Obviously that depends a lot on the topic of the talk being given. Some talks are very Christ-oriented and some are not. JW talks tend to be fairly focused on a specific topic.

He also did not show any enthusiasm as he gave his talk.
Some speakers are a little more or less engergetic in style. And talks given by the circuit overseer tend to be more focused toward those that are already Witnesses and are not usually what I would typically refer to as an introductory talk for newcomers, but they can serve that purpose as well.

Most of their responses came directly from the Watch Tower magazine. Some people would add a verse that helped their personal clarification, but it would still stay fairly close to what was written in their magazine. After each person had finished speaking their response, the leader of that session would compliment the responding person. He had two or three people respond to each question. Then at the end he restated the summary questions and had the audience answer them as well.

After the Watch Tower service, since the local Overseer was in attendance, we had a second talk.
...
This talk was about maintaining order in a disorderly world. The Overseer really didn’t teach the second time. In fact, this speech was more or less a pep talk. He talked about what he saw as good in that particular group. Then he addressed their weak points. He addressed the need for them to go out and spend time in field service, and it was quite clear he was preaching a salvation by works doctrine. He finished and they closed the service with one more of their very dry hymns.
On a normal meeting, when the overseer is not visiting, the Watchtower lesson is a little longer, with the actual paragraphs being read and more time given to answers from the audience. There is not usually another talk after the Watchtower lesson. As you surmised, the second overseer talk is always focused to the needs of the specific congregation.


As for a "salvation by works" doctrine, that is often the impression people get based on the emphasis we put on works. However, we do firmly believe that works come as a result of faith, and works themselves do not gain one's salvation. And a lack of works can be an indicator of a lack of faith which can be a threat to one's salvation. We are not required to perform a certain amount of works or a specific amount of time preaching door to door. Everyone's circumstances are different and we all just try to do out best to serve God.

Jeff and I had gone to make sure it was okay that we visited the day before, and they seemed very adamant about wearing a suit to the service. So, the four of us did as we had been requested and wore the suit. In my opinion, I’ve always taken a come as you are approach to worship.
While it is typical for Witnesses to be dressed as you describe, it's common for visitors to be wearing just about anything. There's no dress code that'll keep you from being admitted to the Hall, all are welcome.


Again, I enjoyed reading your account, warts and all! :)

-R
 
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#7
Does that mean I can call in your help if my professor gives me a B? I realize that there is a reason we are different denominations, so I tried not to get to antsy about the small things.
 
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Reinhold

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Brutus/HisCatalyst said:
Does that mean I can call in your help if my professor gives me a B?
Haha, sure no problem! As long as your professor is just looking for your experiences and impressions, then I don't think you have to worry. Hopefully he's not looking for a detailed doctrinal breakdown since that would basically be impossible after a single visit.

-R