Kerri and Samantha Dowridge. Photo: Supplied

This coming Thursday, Jehovah’s Witnesses nationwide will go back to door-to-door preaching, after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

For Bed-Stuy couple Kerri and Samantha Dowridge, the return comes with a few nerves, a lot of excitement, and the need for new pairs of sneakers.

The married Jehovah’s Witnesses, both in their early 30s, said they are preparing mentally, spiritually and physically to go out and meet neighbors in person again.

“There’s some nerves there, of course,” said Samantha—who has been baptized for 19 years.

“But I’m so excited to get back out there and meet our neighbors in person again. We’ve all gone through so much during the pandemic.”

The Witnesses will return to door-to-door ministry on Sept. 1. Photo: Jehovah’s Witnesses

Kerri, baptized for 15 years, echoed his wife’s excitement. “We’re all set and ready to go,” he said. “It’s a great energy of anticipation. We’re thrilled to be a part of going back in person.”

The couple—married 6 years this October—said their day will start with a good cup of coffee and making sure they’re at their best. That includes preparing with the right pair of walking shoes. “We haven’t had to use those in a while,” Samantha quipped.

The couple will go door-to-door together and have been preparing for the big day by practicing on one-another and at their Kingdom Hall, located at 1260 Bergen St. in Crown Heights.

Kerri has ministered in Brooklyn—and Bed-Stuy—for a good portion of his life and said over the years, he has seen the demographics change. But overall, he just sees an enduring commonality between people wanting to live better lives and improve their mental health.

He has never had a situation where things got out of control. But he recognizes that door-to-door ministry is not welcomed by all.

“This is Brooklyn, so everyone is not receptive. We respect everyone’s decision or choice, and we leave just as good neighbors,” he said.

“One of the things you learn is how to interact with people. Even if people are not receptive, that’s alright; sometimes it’s a bad time. It’s just about being relatable and sharing neighborly love.”

“I feel a little rusty going in,” Samantha said. “But during the pandemic, we got to write letters to our neighbors and speak on the phone. And the message we’re sharing is all the same. It’s just the matter of the location.”

The Kingdom Hall where the Dowridges worship. Photo: Google Maps

The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ suspended door-to-door ministry in March 2020. The decision was a proactive response by the organization to keep communities and congregants safe, it said.

“It was a very difficult decision, because preaching is not just what we do; it’s really who we are,” said Robert Hendriks, a U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses told BK Reader. He noted that the pause came before the pandemic had even fully reached some states.

Prior to that, Jehovah’s Witnesses had been preaching door-to-door without interruption for more than 100 years through an economic depression and two world wars. But COVID-19 demanded a different response.

“Many, many hours and prayers went into that decision. And no doubt at the end of the day, even though it was a shock to the system, the wisdom was clean,” Hendriks said. “Without question it was a decision that saved many lives.”

During the pandemic, the Jehovah’s Witnesses pivoted to virtual ministry, letter writing and phone calls. Hendriks said they believe it’s possible that hundreds of millions of letters were sent by Witnesses in the months that door-to-door ministry has been on pause.

The pandemic also saw some surprises for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The number of newly-baptized Witnesses worldwide jumped by more than 400,000, with a 3% increase in the United States (there are nearly 1.3 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in the U.S. now).

Photo: Newyork10r at English Wikipedia

In Brooklyn, there are 43 physical houses of worship for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a total number of 9,012 congregants.

It’s estimated that thousands of those newly-baptized had never interacted with the organization before, Hendriks said.

“If someone asked me three years ago could that ever happen, I would say of course not.”

Despite this, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have no plans to abandon door-to-door preaching for virtual, with Hendriks saying it is still the most effective way of ministering to the people.

As more than a million Jehovah’s Witnesses prepare to go back to door-knocking this week, he says many, like the Dowridges, will be preparing for an act of courage.

“We do it because we want to share something most important to us, and in the best of neighborhoods in the best of times in the best of weather, knocking on the door of someone you don’t know is always an act of courage.”

Hendriks said the Witnesses know they’re going back to a changed world, and some communities more changed and divided than others. Masks will be optional, and Witnesses will take their neighbors cues.

“We’re also dealing with our own inhibitions and feelings of inadequacy because we’ve had no practice at this for 2.5 years,” Hendriks said.

“Christianity is at its best about practicing, not perfecting, and we’ve been out of practice with this aspect. So we’re very much looking forward to being in a rhythm and routine and seeing what our neighbors reactions will be.”

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

Join the Conversation

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  1. Thank you so much for your enlighten article. I have been going door to door as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for over 60 years. I am older and not much energy, but looking forward to the ministry

  2. This is an awesome article. We have new ones in Alabama who have never had the privilege of going from door to door. Looking forward to working with them.

  3. What a fine article! Thank you Jessy Edwards, and thank you, my Brother and Sister Dowridge; may Jehovah give us all the strength to do our job!

  4. So proud of you and the courage Jehovah gives you each day. I am unable to go out due to ill health so do what I can writing letters and have my husband place them.

  5. I am so proud of you. Due to ill health I can not go out but I write letters and give them to my husband to place. May Jehovah continue to bless you.

  6. I too am happy to read your positive words .. I am in Tacoma Washington across the country. Jehovah’s people spread the word.😁

  7. Thank you Jessy Edwards.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this very clear and well written article. I’m glad I took the time to do it.
    My husband and I have been Witnesses since October 2000. I thoroughly enjoy being able to share the good news with everyone, as I know how much my friends and I and my family benefited from it, when I first heard it. I still continue benefiting from it every single day, as I keep learning more from the Bible about God and the wonderful blessings He has in store for all those turning to Him.
    He really can make wonderful things happen, despite the difficult times we all had to go through, such as during this pandemic.
    I’m sure we are going to make many new friends, now that we will get a chance to speak face to face and I’m looking very much forward to it.

  8. I’m sixty nine year old and a year later after I was born, my mother began studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She and I were baptized in 1966. We have had so many wonderful experiences in the preaching work. It will be wonderful to return to preaching from door-to-door. I see it as a blessing from the Almighty Jehovah God.

  9. I also want to thank you, Jessy Edwards, as well as all in the background that helped, for this well written article. You have done it in such a way that it is very clear to anyone reading it. I too am nervous about resuming our house to house ministry but know that with full reliance on Jehovah God I will be fine. May Jehovah bless and keep you and yours safe. Have a lovely day/evening. Greetings all the way from South Africa.

  10. Thank you for such a positive article about the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses as they return to a good thing in all communities!
    The most important work in all the earth and for all times they go forward out of love and face the public once more.
    They hadn’t forgotten their neighbors needing to know that soon the creator Jehovah God and his son Jesus Christ through their Kingdom arrangements will bring true peace security and happiness here on earth forever!!!

  11. Thank you to everyone I am also looking forward to going door to door also thank you all my spiritual brothers and sisters

  12. The article was well written, however, there are more than 8,000,000 Jehovahs Witnesses world wide.

  13. What a great article. Very well written. The young lady who put this article together is a credit to her profession. I can’t thank you enough for a wonderful bit of news. Jehovah sure knows how to take care of his people. If only everyone would take to heart what we are trying to let them know. Wonderful things are going to happen, and I’m sure if everyone would take God’s message to heart they would see this is all for their benefit.

  14. Terrific article. The prospect of living forever on the earth is not well known. It is simply stated by the 37 th Psalm verse 29. Jehovah’s Witnesses will be glad to explain this arrangement to anyone who would be interested in living on the earth forever under paradise conditions. This will be the real life.

  15. Wonderfully written and faith strengthening article. I’m so privileged to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Thank You so much!!

  16. Today in service, returns (intrested people who we’ve not seen in 2 & 1/2 years) was uplifting on both sides. Requested free Bible studies were started, Bibles were asked for, and people now convinced we are living in the “Last Days” as we’ve been explaining to them, now want to understand more of what it truthfully is. We use any Bible they have, and help them understand what Jehovah and Jesus has been wanting them to also. We definitely are in it. Over 8 million strong worldwide, people are learning and see Jehovah’s Witnesses teach what the Bible says.

  17. Thank you very much for such a lovely and truthful article! It was a pleasure to read. I have been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses here in York, Pa for almost 44 years. And yes, it will be a change to go out in the public ministry once again but hoping it will be like riding a bike and all come back to us pretty fast. And Jehovah will surely bless us for doing his will and sharing good news of his Son and the Kingdom which we all need so desperately. Thank you again!

  18. May all of Jehovah’s servants continue to witness and praise His name.
    A beautiful article of truth has been written for everyone to see and read about those who are serving and finding those who are looking for the creator’s truth about His word.😊

  19. Welcome back to all of our brothers and sisters. What a joy it is to see and greet our neighbors again.😊

  20. It was such a joy to be in service again. I thank Jehovah for continuing to teach us and for preparing us for this day. Thank you for this article, it truly brings praise to our God and Father, Jehovah.

  21. I really enjoyed this article. It was well written and helped others to learn more about the preaching work.

  22. Very nice article. Well written. Even though this world is in chaos it’s nice to have some things back the way they were.

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