Sunday, April 17, 2011

fifty-first visit: April 17th 2011 Jehovah's Witnesses

7:30pm sunday
Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses
observance of commemoration of Jesus' death
5311 Mossfield St, Pittsburgh PA 15224
stanton heights

I had been wanting to attend this place of worship for some time. Impetus came to my door in the form of a flyer-invitation to this particular service. Apparently 100 others ...100 beyond the regular membership also rose to the occasion. At this service, worshipers spill out onto chairs in the front lobby, where I find my spot. I am the only female in the room, though it's easy to tell that otherwise we (the group in the lobby) are of all walks of life, all ethnicities and races. Honestly, this surprises me a little.

Here we listen to the sermon via ceiling speakers. Verses from Revelations, Jeremiah, Isaiah. I look for something to draw, to mark my visit. Because some of us are standing against walls, others seated on chairs lining the walls, I notice that I can see everyone's shoes, something not possible with pews. So I draw each and every shoe that I see, blind contours, some not blind. Some feet wiggle and standing ones step before I can finish.

Here's what I learn:
• God is referred to "our gracious heavenly father Jehovah."
• Jehovah's Witnesses are a Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs.
• During communion, a plate of bread and a glass of wine is passed, but only the 144,000 members of the "anointed class" are condoned to physically partake. These are the only members who are "born again" and it is believed they are the only who will go to heaven.
• Because followers object to military service, Jehovah's Witnesses' activities have been banned or restricted
in some countries.
• Holidays such as Christmas, Easter and birthdays are not celebrated due to the believed Pagan origins of these days.

After the service, a member named Nyah introduces herself, introduces me to everyone in our pathway, and makes sure I see the sanctuary before I go. She offers her phone number and encourages me to call if I have any questions, or would like an in-home Bible study. She interacts with me kindly and convivially.

This following notion suddenly becomes clear to me, as I start to collect myself to leave. The timing is a mystery; the thought arrives in the same sudden manner in which it will almost seem out of place in this blog. It suddenly dawns on me that, as an adjunct professor, I never tell my college art students specifically what they should believe—except for encouraging belief in themselves—because it has always been obvious to me that it's not my job, though I never really directly thought this through. And I suddenly consciously realize why: some artists (not all, but I'd venture to say many)... many artists would feel that they could not be artists if they were told what to believe. But instead, through our work, that's what we are trying to figure out. Secularly, yes... but even spiritually, there is some overlap I think, with the questions we ask.

1 comment:

  1. I love how the thoughts and inspirations around this project keep evolving... the relationship between religion and questioning is an interesting one... I think I'm only able to embrace my beliefs because I was allowed to question things early on... Judaism seems to do this best. but maybe it's more of an individual exploration