OCTOBER 1, 2022
“The Governing Body has decided that barring any local governmental restrictions, we will encourage all congregations to begin holding in-person meetings the week of April 1.” That announcement, posted on jw.org in early March 2022, thrilled Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. But the COVID-19 pandemic was not over. a What modifications, supplies, and equipment were needed to protect meeting attendees from the virus? After some two years without in-person meetings, would our Kingdom Halls be ready?
Actually, our brothers had already been preparing for many months to resume meetings at Kingdom Halls.
Different Needs, Different Solutions
Only one month after in-person meetings were suspended in 2020, the Worldwide Design/Construction Department (WDC), in Warwick, New York, began analyzing how COVID-19 would affect the way we use our Kingdom Halls and what steps were needed to make our meeting places safe.
What was needed in one part of the world often differed from what was needed elsewhere. Matthew De Sanctis, who works with WDC, explains: “In some lands, one issue is a lack of handwashing facilities. When Kingdom Halls have no running water, water needs to be purchased or carried from a local river or well. In other countries, some governments adjusted their requirements regarding air-conditioning, air exchange, and signage about health and hygiene.”
How did our brothers meet those challenges? They found that for many Kingdom Halls, “simple, low-cost solutions proved to be very effective,” says Matthew. In Papua New Guinea, for example, basic handwashing stations were set up using 20-liter (5.3-gal) plastic buckets fitted with taps. Our brothers were thus able to equip a typical rural Kingdom Hall for only $40 (U.S.). For Kingdom Halls in Africa, over 6,000 high-quality handwashing stations were purchased from a supplier in Asia.
Other adjustments included installing or modifying fans and air-exchange units to improve Kingdom Hall ventilation. Many congregations purchased boom poles for roving microphones so that the microphones would not have to be passed from hand to hand. Efforts were made to minimize and regularly sanitize touch points, such as door handles and faucets, which can transmit viruses. In their restrooms, some congregations installed sensor taps, which turn on automatically. In Chile, implementing the needed changes cost an average of $1,400 (U.S.) for each Kingdom Hall.
While giving priority to making Kingdom Halls safe, our brothers also endeavored to conserve donated funds. In some lands, for example, they took advantage of tax exemptions for handwashing stations and boom poles. Branch offices collaborated to save funds by buying supplies in larger volume than usual. Branches and the Global Purchasing Department often arranged to purchase items directly from manufacturers, thus reducing not only the price but also the delivery times.
“The Sense of Security I Needed”
The arrangements to make Kingdom Halls safer have protected and reassured those who began attending meetings in person. Dulcine, a sister in Peru, admits that she was “a little scared” when she learned that we would be returning to the Kingdom Hall. “I got COVID-19 soon after the pandemic began,” she says. “So I felt uneasy about going to the Kingdom Hall, knowing that I could be exposed to the virus again. But when I arrived at the Kingdom Hall, I noticed that the elders had implemented many safety measures, such as the use of hand-sanitizing stations and microphone boom poles, as well as a program to disinfect the hall before and after each meeting. All this gave me the sense of security I needed.” b
Sara, a sister in Zambia, faced a different challenge. She explains: “Several months ago, my husband died from COVID-19. I worried about how I was going to feel when I attended an in-person meeting for the first time without him.” How did things turn out for her? She says: “In-person meetings have proved to me that Jehovah is with us during these last days. Now, even more than before, I feel that I get the encouragement, warmth, and support I need from the elders and the rest of my brothers and sisters.”
Our dear fellow worshippers around the world are grateful for the opportunity to return to their Kingdom Halls. Thank you for your donations, many of which were made via donate.jw.org. These donations helped us ensure that centers of pure worship are both comfortable and safe places to meet together.