The Jehovah’s Witness community has started transitioning back to in-person worship for the first time in two years as COVID-19 cases receded and some semblance of normal returns.
“Zoom has allowed us to continue our worship without interruption which we’re really grateful for,” Idaho resident Butch Petersen said.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone shifted to a “new normal” — staying indoors and avoiding large groups. In 2020, the Jehovah's Witness organization did the same. The community has traditionally gone door to door in the past and held in-person worship at different congregations, but with virus activity across the country, they switched to a virtual setting.
"As emotional as this was, it was a simple equation for us to say, its got to stop and how do we find a way to do this better in these times," U.S. Jehovah's Witness spokesperson Robert Hendriks told Idaho News 6 last year.
In addition to virtual worship meetings, they also switched up their typical door-knocking ministry to writing letters and reaching out in COVID-19-safe ways instead.
After going virtual for two years, the group has returned to in-person worship since April 1.
“It's a happy occasion for us. We love being a part of Jehovah’s Witnesses' organization. We love worshiping together so it feels more normal to be together and to have the opportunity to congregate together,” Petersen said.
“It's definitely a blessing to have Zoom we made lots of friends around the US with a bunch of different people in different states. It's been hard because we haven’t gotten to get that connection with our friends in person, but overall it’s been a blessing,” Nyah Petersen said.
About 5,000 Jehovah's Witnesses call Idaho home. There are approximately 3,900 in the Treasure Valley and 30 congregations across the state — all returning to in-person.
“While Zoom was a nice provision at the time. The closeness that we feel when we’re together and when we can embrace our friends and feel their happiness and just being in the same building and worshiping all in the united ways is something we are really looking forward to going back to doing,” Tisha Petersen said.