By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Jehovah’s Witnesses meet again in person

After two years of meeting online because of the pandemic, Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations in Yamhill County and around the world are returning to in-person gatherings April 1.

“I’m looking forward to the singing,” said Steve Helzer, who is part of one of three congregations at the McMinnville Kingdom Hall at 2010 E. Tilbury St. He joked, “I’m tired of only hearing my own voice.”

All jokes aside, Helzer and the approximately 600 other Witnesses in Yamhill County are eager to see each other in person, rather than on a screen.

The announcement that Kingdom Halls would reopen was met with “jubilation,” said Aaron Purvis from the world headquarters office in New York.

“There have been a lot of dark days during the pandemic, such as funerals, when we couldn’t even be together to show that kind of love to others,” he said

“There’ve also been a lot of joyful events, marriages and births, when we couldn’t get together,” he said, adding, “our motivation really is love, compassion and encouraging others.”

Purvis said congregations will follow local COVID rules and take precautions, such as disinfecting halls between meetings. Masks will be strongly encouraged, but not required.

Vaccine proof will not be required. The church supports vaccines; in Purvis’ office, more than 99% of staff are vaccinated. However, he said, it leaves it up to members to make the decision about whether or not to take the vaccine.

Still, Purvis said, the virtual meetings helped Witnesses stay united since coronavirus closed their halls on March 20, 2020.

Using Zoom, he said, they have been able to continue their worship and even expand their reach, accessing speakers from other parts of the country and drawing people who previously weren’t part of their church.

Some people who couldn’t be at Kingdom Halls have been able to attend online, he said. Visitors have swelled attendance, as well.

Using phone calls and letters, Witnesses also have been able to continue their outreach — “witnessing” to others, as the religion’s name implies.

“When you receive a letter in the mail, it’s moving,” Purvis said.

Someday, Helzer said, he hopes Witnesses can return to the door-to-door witnessing for which they are known. But he’s seen a lot of good come from calls, letters, emails and texts, too.

The religion now has about 8.7 million followers worldwide, including 1.26 million in the U.S, about 45,000 of them in Oregon, Purvis said.

Six congregations meet in Yamhill County, with two English-speaking groups and one Spanish-speaking in McMinnville.

McMinnville’s groups have grown during the pandemic, Helzer said. Several new members have been baptized through full immersion in a local pool, he said.

Worldwide membership has grown about 3%, as well, Purvis said. About 19,000 new members have been baptized in rivers, pools or even Jacuzzis, he said.

Purvis and Helzer said guests are welcome at Jehovah’s Witnesses meetings. McMinnville’s English language congregations meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, as well as 10:30 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. Meetings in Spanish are scheduled at 7 p.m. Wednesday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Two special events are planned in April. At meetings the weekend of April 10, congregations will hear a special lecture, “Where Can You Find Real Hope?” The next weekend, April 15-17, is their annual commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ.

For more information, go to the website,, or call the McMinnville Kingdom Hall at 503-435-1370.



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