Jehovah’s Witnesses Back on the Streets of Chicago After Pandemic Pause
Jehovah’s Witnesses Resume Public Ministry Two Years After Going Virtual
If you happen to be around Millennium Park soon, you may notice that a pre-pandemic fixture is back on the sidewalks: smiling faces standing next to colorful carts featuring a positive message and free Bible-based literature.
Thousands of these carts will be rolling down the streets of communities in Cook County as well as across the world this week as Jehovah’s Witnesses recommence their global public preaching work some 24 months after putting it on pause due to the pandemic.
“I’m extremely excited!” Gale Blackshear said about returning to the park with a cart full of Bible-based literature. She looks forward to interacting again with people visiting Chicago from all over the world and sharing a message of hope. “After two years, I am ready to go back!” she said.
The Christian organization will return to its public ministry for the first time since March 2020, when all in-person forms of their volunteer work were suspended out of concern for the health and safety of the community.
In response to the global decision, 354 congregations across Illinois are now beginning to reopen their cart locations. The site at the southwest corner of Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue is among the many.
The local congregations will also resume free in-person Bible studies along with personal visits to those who have invited them back to their homes. This comes two months after the organization began gathering at their Kingdom Halls once again for in-person meetings.
“While we understand that the pandemic is not over, we are entering into a phase of learning to live with COVID,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “We are sensitive to the risks that still face our communities and our volunteers, which is why we will not resume door-to-door ministry at this time. Each volunteer will make a personal choice as to whether their ministry will remain strictly virtual or whether they are ready to make in-person visits again. We are excited that we all have a choice!”
Mobile displays of Bible-based literature have been part of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ public ministry in the U.S. since 2011. While “cart witnessing” began in large metropolitan areas around the world, the practice quickly spread to the tens of thousands of smaller communities, becoming a fixture in rail and bus stations, airports, harbors and main streets.
Since 2012, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Chicago began offering a selection of Bible literature in English, Chinese and Spanish at the carts for morning and evening commuters and on weekends to be accessible to as many community members as possible.
“We share a positive message with our neighbors, a message of hope from the Bible,” Blackshear said. “When they approach us, we give them a contact card that directs them to the website jw.org. Some passing by have told us, ‘You’re doing a good job.’”
To learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses, their history, beliefs and activities, visit their official website jw.org, featuring content in more than 1,000 languages.
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