Virtual Worship: A Blessing for Some

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Logging on for each of their virtual meetings, Reuben and Lachelle Jefferson prepare special ways in which to greet their friends, from personal nicknames to saying “I love you” in American Sign Language. Their aim is always to reach out and encourage.

The Jeffersons were concerned whether the virtual platform would provide the encouragement that they and their friends needed, and also whether some of the older ones who were not as tech savvy would be able to figure out how to navigate the virtual meetings. They were relieved to find that rather than struggling, the lively routine of worship and association on video conferencing with their congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses was filling the gaps—and then some.

“Knowing that we’ve all been through this together gives a really good feeling, togetherness, the unity that we all share,” explains Lachelle.

Hugs and handshakes at their Kingdom Hall were replaced by smiles and waves over video conferencing when Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide suspended in-person meetings in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 threat.

Since then, Reuben and Lachelle have been forging friendships both in their local congregation and with fellow worshippers worldwide, from New York to as far away as Africa, right from a screen in their living room in Phoenix.

Others with more serious challenges to in-person gatherings have seen the silver lining to the temporary transition to video conference services as well.

A single whiff of perfume from across a room can land Shane Brown in the emergency department—or worse. A new cleaning product sprayed down the hallway in the hospital once cut off his breathing for over a minute. Long before COVID-19, Brown was wearing a mask and social distancing due to mast cell activation syndrome, a rare disorder causing life-threatening allergic reactions.

Although unable to attend religious services in person, the 50-year-old from Hollywood, Fla., has kept his faith alive amid unrelenting isolation. For years, a telephone tie-in has been his connection to listen to Bible talks and hear fellow worshippers’ heartfelt expressions in his congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Attending his first video conferencing meeting, Brown could at last put friendly faces to names and voices he’d heard for years. “I almost couldn’t contain myself,” he said. “I was so happy.”

Brown’s advice echoes that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its Coping With Stress webpage, which encourages readers battling pandemic loneliness and depression to connect with community- or faith-based organizations.

Weekly worship also helped many to maintain regular routines and structure in life, which “can buffer the adverse impact of stress exposure on mental health,” according to a 2020 review in the Journal of Global Health.

As weeks of lockdowns turned into months, groups of friends in the Jefferson’s congregation found creative ways to beat the pandemic blues, organizing everything from movie nights to virtual talent shows and concerts, and even regular “coffee and talk” hours to support those who may be alone and need the extra support.

“I think… one of the most intense forms of punishment is solitary confinement… you have to interact to give your life meaningfulness,” explained Reuben. “The virtual meetings give you that contact on a weekly basis, and that feeds everything that makes life meaningful. You’re able to get the encouragement that’s necessary for life.”

To connect with a local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, visit the About Us section of the organization’s official website,