Jehovah's Witnesses have restarted their door-to-door ministry after more than two and a half years on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, reviving a religious practice that the faith considers crucial and cherished. From coast to coast, members of the Christian denomination fanned out in cities and towns Thursday to share literature and converse about God for the first time since March 2020, per the AP. In the Jamaica Plain neighborhood on the south side of Boston, Dan and Carrie Sideris spent a balmy morning walking around knocking on doors and ringing bells. Dan Sideris said he'd been apprehensive about evangelizing in person in "a changed world," but the experience erased any traces of doubt.
"It all came back quite naturally because we don't have a canned speech," he said. "We try to engage with people about what's in their heart, and what we say comes from our hearts." The couple were surprised at how many people opened their doors and were receptive. One man took a break from a Zoom call to accept their booklets and set up an appointment to continue the conversation. At another home, a woman spoke of how many family members died in the last two years—something the Siderises could relate to, both of them having lost parents recently.
Jehovah's Witnesses suspended door-knocking in the early days of the pandemic's onset in the US, just as much of the rest of society went into lockdown, too. The group also ended all public meetings at its 13,000 congregations nationwide and canceled 5,600 annual gatherings worldwide. That was an unprecedented move not taken even during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, which killed 50 million people worldwide. Witnesses continued their ministry by writing letters and making phone calls, but it wasn't the same because it lacked a personal touch, said Robert Hendriks, national spokesperson for the denomination.
Even in prepandemic times, door-knocking ministry came with anxiety, as Witnesses never knew how they would be received at any given home. In 2022 that's even more the case, and evangelizers are being advised to be mindful that lives and attitudes have changed. "It's going to take an additional level of courage," Hendriks said. The organization is not mandating masks or social distancing, leaving those decisions to each individual. Other than that, getting back to door-knocking is a big step toward "a return to normal," Hendriks noted. (Read more Jehovah's Witnesses stories.)