THEY roam the streets knocking on our doors, a home delivery bible service carrying the message of God in their hearts and pamphlets in their hands.
But what do you really know about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Ahead of their annual circuit assembly at TRECC this weekend, The Northern Daily Leader sat down with Owen Wellock, an elder from one of the two Tamworth congregations, to speak about the little-known faith.
Most of us only have contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they knock on our doors of a weekend. Why do you impose on people like that?
It’s what Jesus did. He went to people and had a message about the kingdom. It’s important to give people an understanding about the scriptures. Many people are lost and they don’t have answers to the basic questions in life: Why are we here? Why is there so much suffering? Learning the answers to this has given us a lot of peace in our lives so we want to share it.
What sort of reactions do you get from people?
It’s mainly apathy; they can be very indifferent. They’re not normally aggressive; not as much as I thought they would be anyway. Sometimes people are wary at first. I think they’re worried its the taxman at their door (laughs).
The JWs don’t celebrate birthdays, Christmas or Easter. Why is that? Isn’t it cruel to deny children such an occasion?
We’re not against having gifts. When I grew up we would have “present days”, which in some ways were better than a birthday because they were spontaneous. Birthdays, Easter and Christmas trace back to pagan roots. We have an event at Easter as a memorial to Jesus’ death, but we don’t call it Easter. We try and keep our worship as clean as possible.
What about denying blood transfusions? Surely if it was a matter of life or death you would accept a transfusion?
Blood transfusions are outright condemned. If I was dying, I would try everything possible to avoid having it and even if it came to the crunch, I would still deny it. It’s very clear in the scriptures that blood transfusions are forbidden. There are many other treatments that don’t involve blood.
Is it true members of your church get ex-communicated and are unable to contact their family and friends if they decide to leave?
There’s no quick answer to that. If they outright rebel, then people wouldn’t really want to mix with them. But they are always welcome to come back if they want to. It’s obvious when you become a Jehovah’s Witness that you give your life to serving God. My parents didn’t force me to join the church, I chose it myself in my mid-teens.
What sort of people are Jehovah’s Witnesses? How many people practice in Tamworth?
There are people of all ages, races and professions. There are about 180 members in Tamworth. But at our international convention in Melbourne later this year, there will be 60,000. For more information, visit www.jw.org