What it's like to be a Circuit Overseer - Part 2
background first: I was raised a Witness and when I was 16 years old I
was interviewed by a Circuit Overseer at the Woodland Hills Assembly
Hall in Los Angeles, asking about my goals. I said I wanted to be a
Circuit Overseer. Everyone applauded. That was my goal my entire teenage
years, and I especially wanted to be a missionary CO, since the
ex-missionary CO's we had serving our congregation when I was a kid were
the best in my opinion. They were exciting, they had cool stories from
foreign countries, they were legit.
I finally became a missionary Circuit Overseer 12 years later, I really
thought a lot of myself. Every week I would arrive early for the
meeting and walk around talking to people. If I was the new CO and they
didn't know me yet I would get a kick out of them not knowing I was the
CO. They thought I was a visitor, I guess because of my age. So then the
meeting would start. I would make a ton of notes. Did the meeting start
on time? Was each part prepared well? Were there good comments? If they
were recommending someone for elder or servant, how did that persons'
talk go? They always showcased whoever was being recommended. I wrote
down notes for every talk, just so I could have constructive criticism
at the elders and servants meeting. I usually brought something to read
in English as well during the meeting because I was bored and I liked to
Then it was my turn. The CO back then gave 4 talks a
week and Tuesday night was an important one to set the "tone." I would
get up on the platform and say how I was glad to be serving their
congregation that week and how we had a full week of activity bla bla
bla, I felt great to be in that position. I had grown up with the
Circuit Overseer visit being a highlight of the year and here I was on
the platform actually being a CO! Meanwhile I was wasting my youth in a
cult, but anyway. Remember too, I was single. So I was also on the
lookout at that first meeting for cute sisters that I might preach with
that week, without making it obvious, I bet I was obvious, actually. I
would even make a mental note on Tuesday afternoon while I did the
congregation records of single pioneer sisters around my age who had a
"productive" ministry. I would memorize their names and look around for
them at the meeting. Anyway, back to my service talk, I would usually
start with some commendation for something the congregation had improved
on, then I would give my talk. Sometimes the Society gave us an outline
and sometimes we made our own. We were always told to apply whatever
talk we had to local needs. I would usually end with an illustration I
had stolen from a CO in the States, then talk about the activity for the
week. Thinking back now, I was oblivious to real problems, such as who
was depressed, possible child abuse, those suffering from anxiety or
financial or health problems. I had no real training to help those
affected or to deal with real problems.
In fact, I suffered from
stress myself, always beginning Tuesday night, never before. The weight
of an entire congregation was on me for that week starting that day. It
was heavy and difficult. I can see why now, I wasn't qualified to give
real help. I was usually told all kinds of problems on Tuesday afternoon
and I had a week to fix them. But how? By giving talks?
talks I always talked in a conversational tone, I tried to keep it
real, and I tried to address real issues, but it was all cult
indoctrination mixed with some Bible stories and some practical advice
that I had picked up somewhere. It was mumbo jumbo with no real
substance and I didn't realize that. I was anxious and frustrated all
week and I didn't know why. I would say in my talks how unified we are
and how the end is so close and how any problem we have can be solved
with Jehovah's help etc, etc, but I couldn't help with real problems, I
had no solution usually other than wait on Jehovah or try to pray and
then decide, or just pray and look for a solution. I truly believed it,
but inside me there was turmoil. Anyway, no matter how nice the
congregation, I was always wanting the week to end. It was a heavy
weight on my shoulders the whole week.
So that's Tuesday night.
After the meeting I would get out of there so fast. I would go back to
the missionary home and just crash. Still a long week ahead.
How many visits does a CO do per year?
were required to make at least two visits per year per congregation. If
we could not fulfill that due to illness or assemblies or vacation then
we were required to use our substitute CO.
You visit a congregation every week outside of conventions/assemblies right? Do you get any weeks off?
CO's have the most vacation of any special full-time servants. We got
two weeks a year plus one day each year for every year of full time
service. I had 12 years by the time I was a CO. And as a CO I didn't
have to count Mondays and half a day Tuesday. So I could add on a day
and a half for every week of vacation. That meant over a month a year of
vacation. My family would buy my ticket and I would go back home and
work at odd jobs and give a bunch of talks and come back with about
$2000 or so, which would last me a year. Pizza and movies.
What did you do when someone came to you for advice instead of the elders?
ha I listened to them. It usually was either of two things. One, they
had committted a sin and they were afraid of the elders and knew I was
merciful and I would tell the elders to be merciful. And two, it would
be about a mean or spiteful elder. I always listened.
The reason I
said ha ha is because we werent supposed to listen to problems or
complaints of individual members of the congregation unless it was the
week of my visit. I did it anyway. Eventually I got another letter from
the Branch telling me I wasn't the Branch Office and to only talk to the
friends about their problems during that visit and to refer those
situations to the Branch or to the local body of elders.
once you woke up, your view on who would make a good companion or wife,
obviously was affected... So how difficult was it to change your view
from what the Watchtower teaches - as to what a good mate/spouse is - to
what normal people view, what makes a person good marriage material.
Especially since there are many people who have long, happy marriages,
(50 years and above) who never factored in things like (pioneering,
studying WT publications, etc.) How long did it take to discard WT Ideas
on what makes a good partner/wife.
I had no idea how twisted and wrong I was about women. I thought I viewed everyone equal and respected women. I was wrong.
I returned from my assignment and I was working secularly I had a habit
of mentioning the fact that someone was a woman although that was
irrelevant. For example I would say "female manager" and "female
doctor." I was called to account on that by management.
little I changed my viewpoint. I will write more on that later.
Eventually I met a sister who didnt respect my past CO career at all.
She also dressed the way she wanted, going against elders counsel. And
she didn't fawn over my "spiritual comments" in car service groups
I married her.
It took her a couple of years after
me, but she is out mentally now also. We are faded. But I am still
adjusting my viewpoint, what a mess of our minds the Watchtower makes.
us some times and examples about removing elders from position and for
what reasons? Was their any times that you needed to make a major change
to the body of elders in certain halls?
I removed a lot of
elders during my 7.5 years in the circuit work. Usually i gave them six
months to improve. Low service hours, never prepared for talks, being
unkind to the friends, borrowing money from everyone in the hall and not
paying any of it back, heavy drinking, missing a lot of meetings,
I also was assigned by the Branch to a lot of special
cases in other circuits to assist the local CO with prominent elders
being accused of something. Alcoholism, married elders having an
emotional affair with a sister telling her he loved her, stealing from
the congregation accounts, stealing from work, fraud, homosexuality,
lesbianism, stalking, porneia, dating two sisters in two different
congregations at the same time, voyeurism, having a sister at work
perform a striptease. Lots of sordid stuff. In my role as a CO, I never
was excited by any of this. I was appalled and although I rarely
disfellowshipped elders, I would really lay into them with the Bible and
remove them and reprove them. I was used by the Branch a lot because
they trusted me to be fair. Once I was assigned to investigate a City
Overseer who was giving huge monetary gifts to a young sister and his
wife found out. He was prominent and haughty and called everyone a liar.
I enjoyed removing that guy. Another elder got angry at an assembly
hall cleaning and lifted a chair over his head and chased brothers
around threatening to hit them. He denied it even though we had 17
witnesses. He said it was a conspiracy.
In cases of fraud, I had a
team of elders who owned businesses. If an accusation of fraud came up
in an elders business, I used them to investigate and form a committee
if necessary. The reason? Too much time involved, i just couldn't do it.
That and experience. Fraud is hard to prove and all those invoices and
paperwork from businesses and subtle tax laws took forever, plus trying
to figure out if the elder or servant was lying. Some elders were under
investigation for months.
Once I served a congregation that had a
perennial deficit. I called my handy-dandy missionary buddy elder who
had been an accountant to help me investigate. The Branch allowed this
and they liked my thoroughness. The missionary/elder/accountant found
this Ministerial Servant was cooking the books and stealing congregation
money and had been for years. I of course wanted to disfellowship him
but the Branch wouldn't let us. The Coordinator said we would never get
our money back. So we reproved him and put him on a payment arrangement.
He paid it off in two years. So much for basing decisions on
repentance. This reproof decision was based solely on money, the Branch
wanted their money back.
I have a million stories, good, crazy,
weird, funny, sad. But I wasn't a hatchet man. If it wasn't a judicial
matter I would almost always give the guy until the next visit to fix
whatever it was.
Sometimes I felt like I really helped people, I
often went to the Hall on an off day and coached elders and ministerial
servants in giving talks in my spare time. I tried to give good counsel
during my visits. I guess some of it was practical, sometimes. Mostly
though I was judging and interfering in personal lives. And recommending
and deleting men from a position that shouldn't exist. That whole
system is garbage and I took it seriously for years and years.
recently DA'ed. I know the elders aren't supposed to read the letters.
What questions would you ask regarding those situations? Would you ask
the elders what led up to it or what their thoughts were?
someone stopped going or became inactive or disassociated themselves
the policy is always to find out why. But that depends on the CO. Some
will spend less than 30 seconds on the matter. The CO will say, "So I
understand you received a disassociation letter. What is the gist of the
matter?" Then the elders say, "Well, he had some doubts and we tried to
help him and then he sent this letter." Then the CO says, "OK well he
made his decision. Keep the letter on file and inform the Branch."
an elder will secretly read the letter. It's possible. But remember
that as soon as someone doesn't agree with the Society they are viewed
as wrong. They have "doubts". That's their fault. We all know the
organization isn't perfect, but we keep on serving Jehovah. Bla bla bla.
If someone disassociates themself then they are soon forgotten.
least that's the way it used to be. It seems more elders are willing to
talk about why people are leaving. I have read a lot of conversations
on this forum of elders having discussions with those who later
disassociate. That can help them to think later on.
I think what
is going on now in terms of conversations taking place about the UN, the
ARC, blood, shunning, is unprecedented. People ARE waking up. I did. Is
it a huge exodus? Not yet. Is it more and more people? Yes it is.
Let's keep it going.
knew of a CO who rolled into town one day and people started getting
removed from positions and pioneering. Then people started getting df'd
for nothing. A few petty, grudge holding people used th Co's toxic
presence to get revenge. He stayed his full time, even with all the
turmoil, and to my knowledge was never disciplined or removed.
tried not to get embroiled in those big rifts and controversies with
one family against another and all that. I would just move the elder to
another hall. Hat usually helped. Unless he was a mean person, then I
would delete him. I would always work with those problem elders in
service. I could tell if they were a nice person in general by how they
treated people in the territory. It seemed to work most of the time.
there were problems in congregations I could never fix and I was never
qualified to fix. Congregations shouldn't exist, elders and ministerial
servants shouldn't exist, neither should there be deletions and reproof
How much cash was palmed to you, on average, per week?
$50 average. That covered my gas and a little more sometimes.
Any secret "sin", masturbation et al?
District Overseer meets with the Circuit Overseer once a year to
encourage him and to give him any needed suggestions. So that week I
give some talks and he gives others. Then on Sunday we have a private
meeting where I can bring up anything I want. So this one DO, a real
intrusive guy, starts asking me about my personal habits, he
specifically mentions how almost all the single CO's and single special
pioneers and elders have a "problem" with masturbation.
surprised at his candor about everyone else. I was also not going to
tell him anything personal about myself as I had personally witnessed
him drunk at a special Branch dinner for missionaries, saying crazy
things into a microphone and just acting drunk. He also hated me for
going above his head on a bunch of different matters. So I didn't tell
him anything. Every week at least one brother confessed to me about
masturbation. So did sisters occasionally, even a couple of older
sisters confessed to me. I just told them that Jehovah is patient and to
keep fighting against it. Of course, I had my own fight against it, so I
tended to go easy on everyone else.