MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Churches are getting back to normal as the pandemic wanes—Jehovah’s Witnesses are no exception—we talk with Robert Hendriks, the spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses about the joy and relief in the return to in-person meetings.

Guest: Feeling like we’re moving into the next phase of this. Obviously we’re not out of the pandemic phase yet, but to be able to understand how to deal with it, how to live with it is important for our organization and for our congregants, and to be able to do that and be together. To encourage one another to see each other’s faces. To be able to hear each other’s voices. To get those hugs again to have in person ministry and also have the option to be hybrid so that we can have a virtual audience is really a great step forward for us as an organization and as congregations.

Anchor: So why now and why did it take so long?

Guest: I, I think at the beginning everybody recognizes that this was a mysterious disease. It was new. We didn’t have an understanding of it and and it was frightening. It was it almost felt like it was a death sentence. If you got it and then going through delta again, frightening, we didn’t get it. We didn’t understand it as well as we should have or could have. And then and then we we entered into the phase of of being able to to to receive therapeutics. The phase of being able to receive vaccines and boosters understanding this is an airborne disease, understanding that that masks actually work, and they’re not all created equal all of that. Has kind of put us in a different place as as a community and thus as an organization we can now move forward and allow people to make a personal decision when it comes to in person meetings.

Anchor: How has the organization, as large as it is, has remained together?

Guest: I think that’s a tribute to to how we are unified and how we we trust our organization and our congregations to make good decisions and to give us. Good guidance, and now we we trust now going back we can make personal decisions as to whether to go back to those meetings. And and really see that unity at a different level after the last two years of what we’ve been through.

Anchor: What have been the lessons from all this? What are the Silver Linings from this?

Guest: I think we’ve been able to embrace many more congregants. It’s very clear to us that the hybrid meetings are here to stay, at least for the near future, and we see many taking advantage of that, and that has expanded our congregations 300,000 more. Each meeting are attending than are Jehovah’s Witnesses, just in the United States and so we also have seen that that spirituality is not about a building. It’s really not even about in person meetings that we can sustain spirituality that we can continue a close unified brotherhood even without seeing each other in person. And that has been a real lesson for us that that will prove very useful in the future. So adjusting to COVID-19, it’s peeled back the layers of a lot of organizations.

Anchor: What is do you think it is revealed about Jehovah’s Witnesses?

Guest: I think that that we really would love that we lead with love love of neighbor we we certainly preferred to go to them and knock on their doors. We’re not doing that now. We prefer to get together, but preferences had to be put aside and principles had to be put up. Put ahead of those. And those principles are love of God, love of neighbor and love of life.