LIMA — Next weekend, the West and East Congregations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses will be having an open house to celebrate the new Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses which the two congregations will be sharing. The event, which will be from 1 to 4 p.m., is the official open house, but the building was completed in October 2012 and has been in use since then.
“Probably the best reason we didn’t do this sooner is the weather,” explained Mike Skinner, long-time member of the east congregation. “We wanted to be able to have all the volunteers back to the open house and didn’t want anyone to have to travel in bad weather.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses were started by Charles Taze Russell in 1872. Russell came from a Presbyterian family but was fascinated by religion. In 1875, Russell decided to devote his life to faith. He started Bible study groups and a religious publishing company. By 1880, there were many congregations based on his teachings around the United States and eventually, they came to be called the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. It wasn’t until 1931 that the denomination became known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
According to their own materials, Jehovah’s Witnesses differ from many main stream denominations in that they do not believe in the Trinity or that Jesus was divine. They also do not believe in immortal souls, hell, fate or a clergy class. Throughout the years, they have endured persecution for their adherence to pacifist beliefs. They adhere to high moral standards and believe strongly in evangelism and volunteering their time and energies toward Kingdom work.
“We are a people who try to go by the Bible and its teachings,” explained Skinner. “We believe we need to preach about God’s kingdom to everyone on earth, teach the Bible, live morally, and keep the kingdom of God first and foremost in life.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses have almost 112,000 congregations in more than 200 different countries. While they are divided into congregations, the mindset is of one organization. Congregations are organized into regions. The congregations within that region regularly volunteer with and for each other in areas of their individual skills and interests.
Skinner is the owner of Golden Lane, a senior community in Lima, but volunteers around 20 hours a week as the construction overseer of the Ohio Regional Building Committee. This volunteer position entails overseeing the maintenance and building of Kingdom Halls throughout the northwest Ohio region for Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations. He is also over about 20 other volunteers who oversee various departments such as electrical and plumbing committees.
“Basically, we do the building and also the maintenance or repair work needed on Kingdom Halls throughout the region,” said Skinner. “We are also trained in disaster relief.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses has two congregations in Allen County. They each met in separate buildings, one on Allentown Road and another on Sugar Street. With the construction of a new Kingdom Hall, the two congregations now share one building, making maintenance and upkeep easier.
The site for the new building was chosen because it was centrally located for each congregation.
The land for the building was purchased in the spring 2010. Skinner, who put many hours into this project, said that just clearing off the land took thousands of hours. It also cost the congregation $17,000 in dump fees to do that cleanup.
The vast majority of the work, both the cleanup of the land and the construction of the building, was done by congregation volunteers.
“We all help each other,” said Skinner. “There are no distinctions between us. We are part of the same group.”
There are 45 congregations within the Northwest Ohio region, which means there are more than 900 volunteers available. “Of those, 426 came to Lima to work on this project,” said Skinner.
More than half the volunteers were women with no construction experience at all. They learned to lay brick, pour concrete or do electrical work on the job.
While there were several skilled carpenters, Skinner explained that these men would teach volunteers one specific task such as hanging doors or finishing woodwork. The volunteer would then just do that task and also be trained for future projects in that area.
The actual construction began in May 2012 and was completed in October 2012, and required more than 20,000 volunteer hours. The cost for the entire project was almost $460,000.
“Some of the money for the project was raised beforehand,” explained Skinner. “We sold the two existing buildings, which provided more of the needed funds. The balance was paid for with a loan taken through the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization at zero percent interest for 10 years. As we pay off our loan, that money is freed up to loan to other congregations across the world.”
The open house is open to the public and light refreshments will be served. Visitors will be able to tour the new facility and fellowship with members.
Event: Open house
When: 1 to 4 p.m. May 4
Where: Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 703 W. Bluelick Road, Lima