So I was asked to give a presentation at the Oxford Forum which is sponsored by a local Presbyterian church. It's a very old church founded in 1758. It's way out in a rural area and if your interested here is their web site.
For a quick look at a beautiful setting: http://www.oxfordchurchlex.org/ Yes this image is eye candy but up close the architectural detailing is pretty impressive............ there is no way you are going to confuse this church with a Jehovah's Witness soon to be closed Kingdom Hall.
The pastor told me that they would have 15 to 20 people attending my presentation about the JW life and beliefs. It would start at 10AM and end at 10:50. He would open the meeting with a brief prayer and welcome. I was also welcome to stay for their 11 AM service........ this being on a Sunday.
He opened with a simple prayer then introduced me.
I greeted every one, some of whom my wife and I knew. You live in a population of some 7,000 sooner or later you get to know people.
Then I said “that prayer, this group, this church would have caused me to be disfellowshiped from the JW community if they knew I was here. Shunned by close family and long term friends for the rest of our lives!”
I have never seen people look so startled....... I went on to explain even being in a church, participating with church goers, bowing my head even slightly is forbidden for a JW. They have the truth …......you don't.
They had been encouraged to ask questions so hands were up and I began to answer their questions and explained the various things that a JW could not do. The Blood Ban, no voting, no military service. Shocked faces as my words and implications sunk in. Especially the pedophile issue.
They really got hung up on Blood Transfusions. It got clearer when I said that a JW carried around a suicide note on their person. Got a lot of strange looks until I said it's their NO Blood card........ it works well enough to make sure you don't get a life saving Blood transfusion. Especially if you experienced a traumatic life threatening accident and your unconscious. A lot of frowny faces with that JW belief.
Nor were they impressed with the lack of higher education or the ramification of shunning within families. After a while people were looking at one another with one of those 'what the hell' looks.
They are the only religion that doesn't permit a Blood Transfusion I said. One guy said he was once a Christian Scientist and even they would consent to a BT. Which got a laugh from the group.
They shook their heads. Then some one asked how did you become a JW? I used my knuckles to knock on the wooden table I was sitting at And said, in my life and my wife’s it started with a JW knocking on our door. It always did until JW's had born-ins.
If a home owner was willing, they came back for another visit, more scriptures. Then followed up with a a Bible study. This is the process they used to convert you. You are treated as a special person. Invited to their Kingdom Hall to hear a public talk, meet a ton of people who are as friendly as can be.
I then paused and said “but the friendships are conditional, the respect and love is conditional, if you leave this faith it all goes away in a heart beat.”
I told them about this forum and how we had many Ex JW's devastated by difficulty of losing family and friends.......... many just by doubting some aspects of the teachings....... being shunned........ suffering the loss of family, a divorce, losing their adult children and so forth.
We talked about Armageddon, the retention rate of born-ins, the lack of higher education, even the Elder arrangement. Everyone was following along asking more and more questions. I was able to answer everything. I had been forewarned that they would ask questions. Being on this forum for the last 7 years had prepared me to handle that situation. I was better trained by you guys then any old Ministry School could.
As we had kind of gotten into a darker discussion about Jonestown and the delusional nature of and dangers of..... high control religions.......... I didn't want to end on that note. They were going to their church service in a few minutes and I thought I owned them the respect and would try to be positive and maybe even get them to smile.
Thankfully the Pastor said something that was pretty funny and everyone laughed...... the serious nature of our discussion was replaced by smiles and laughter. That was my opportunity to finish on a light note. Something upbeat.
So I asked them if they would like to hear about a few Church signs and bulletin board messages where one word was misspelled and it changed the entire meaning. Absolutly! They were ready for a chuckle.
So I ended with the following and I hoped that no one would be insulted.
They got the jokes pretty quickly and laughed so hard, especially the Pastor, that I had to wait before I could read the next one. I dedicated one of these to the pastor who laughed longer and harder then anyone else......... that one will be easy to spot . Laughter is infectious in a group so these may not be all that funny sitting at your computer/phone reading them.
However you may not want to be sipping coffee while reading this.
This was my finishing remark.
Church signs and bulletin board messages:
“Please put your donation in the envelope along with your deceased person you want remembered.”
“The Church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.”
“Potluck super Sunday at 5 PM –prayer and medication to follow.”
“This evening at 7 PM there will be hymn singing in the park across from the church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.”
“The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.”
“Low esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 P.M. Please use the back door.”
“For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.”
“At evening service tonight the sermon will be 'what is hell? Come early and listen to our choir.”
“Weight watchers will meet at 7P.M. Please use the large double door at the side entrance.”
“Ladies don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.”
Thanks to all of you who schooled me with the things we debate and reference.