Jehovah’s Witnesses believe there is room for only 144,000 people in heaven. They don’t celebrate birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter. They don’t vote, participate in political discussions or join the military. And they’ve already miscalculated the end of the world at least once. Armageddon, they said, would be in 1975.
The population of Brooklyn Heights is about 22,500. We celebrate almost every possible holiday, especially the Fourth of July, and even host a canine costume parade for Halloween. We think the end of the world will probably be the result of global warming, or at the hands of George W. Bush. Whichever comes first.
Both groups love their real estate, but besides that, do we have anything else in common? The majority of Heights residents know very little about Jehovah’s witnesses, despite the fact the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society has made its home in the neighborhood since 1909.
I decided it was time for a religious mission of my own.
The Witnesses typically meet for three gatherings a week and last Sunday morning was open to the public. The meeting was entitled, “Coping with Life’s Anxieties.” Perfect, let me just get a cup of coffee first.
The Sunday talk welcomes the public, and about 20 percent of worshippers at Sunday’s gatherings are not part of the regular congregation. But they are other Witnesses, people from across the globe — Venezuela, Haiti, Australia, Belgium — religion tourists to the sect’s world headquarters. It seems I was the only member of the public with a three-block commute.
Inside the Brooklyn Heights “Kingdom Hall,” which is on Willow Street near Orange Street, there were no crucifixes or images of any kind — only a simple auditorium and an unassuming pulpit for speakers. No stained glass. No relics. It hardly looked like a place of worship.
I told the woman next to me that I lived down the street and am unaffiliated with the Witnesses. She looked surprised. “That’s very brave of you,” she said.
Brother Clark, an elder, took to the front wearing a simple suit. The answer to dealing with anxiety, he said, is to put your suffering on “Jehovah,” until you can find a more permanent cure in God’s kingdom. Shoot. I’m screwed.
Clark gave several examples from the Bible, like how Noah built the arc despite ridicule from his neighbors. Just like Noah, he said, the Witnesses have been asked to carry out the word of the ministry. To go door-to-door, talk to strangers, preach and carry out Jehovah’s will.
And Jehovah’s will is clear — spread the word of the Second Coming of Jesus, which could happen at any moment.
The pressure is on to get the word out.
When the Bible study ended, several people approached me to chat — which is one of the major elements of their religious mission.
“You don’t have a Bible,” one said. “I can tell you’re not from here,” said another. “I really like your dress,” said a third.
I met Carmen, a young woman who lives on Henry Street. She invited me to tour the Witnesses’ many buildings in the area next week, gave me her phone number and smiled warmly.
I was intrigued and her sentiment was refreshing, but with Jesus’s second coming looming in the distance, it was hard not to think her approach had ulterior motives.
But then again, as New Yorkers we tend to question everyone’s authenticity. Is anyone nice just to be nice? After two hours at the Kingdom Hall, I didn’t find a major commonality between the congregation and myself. But as far as individuals go, Carmen is one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. And until she proves otherwise, I’m happy to call her my neighbor.
Juliana Bunim is a writer who lives in Brooklyn HeightsThe KITCHEN SINK
Heights resident Paul Giamatti is hosting his own film festival entitled, “Paul Giamatti Selects,” at BAM. The six-week series will feature dark classics like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” “Dr. Strangelove” and “Dawn of the Dead.” … Does your favorite coffee joint suddenly feel empty? If so, it’s probably because the Brooklyn Law School zombies who have been studying all summer for the New York Bar Exam were set free last week. Now let’s just hope they passed. … Spotted former New York Post morning editor, now District Attorney spokesman Jerry Schmetterer, walking down Montague Street at lunchtime. He paused in front of Five Guys Burgers, but kept on walking.Stoop@Bro
©2007 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.