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What is it like to be a Jehovah's Witness in Ireland?

Is it different from any other faith? We found out.

Image: Pete via Flickr/Creative Commons

ON THE ISLAND of Ireland, there are around 6,000 “publishers” in the Jehovah’s Witness faith.

Publisher is the name given to someone actively involved in spreading the word of the church. Around double that amount attend the church’s annual Memorial event, which commemorates the passover of Jesus.

Worldwide, there are around 8 million publishers and around 14 million people who attend regional conventions. In Ireland alone, there are around 100 congregations.

The religion was formed late in the 19th century and is a restorationist Christian faith. This essentially means that they believe in simpler, more primitive church that would be run along the lines of what is known about apostolic churches.

The differences

The Jehovah’s Witness faith’s key difference to Catholicism is the use of a different Bible, though many use a number of translations of the Bible.

The New World Translation, as it is called, differs significantly on certain things from the Catholic bible.

It differs on whether Christ is God (it teaches that Jesus was God’s son, but inferior to him) and whether there is a hell (the wicked are “eternally destroyed”) among other things. There is also the matter of blood transfusions, which Jehovah’s Witnesses are staunchly against.

Meetings for worship are held at Kingdom Halls, with many people attending twice a week. The meetings last around two hours and will usually feature a focus on a specific topic of the day. The mass itself is informal, with little in the way of decoration. However, they don’t have a clergy.

Jehovah’s Witnesses also don’t celebrate birthdays or Christmas.

In Ireland

This can make you stand out as a child, says Philip Joyce.

Joyce grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness but no longer practices. He says that Irish people are generally unfussed by people of different religions.

“It was fine for me, it was more the issue that other people had with it.

“The biggest one was Christmas, which everyone thought was really strange. That would almost be an embarrassing thing, coming out on Christmas and not having the clothes and stuff, but we didn’t really care.”

Generally, Joyce says, people don’t comment on the religion, outside of discussions around Christmas.

Likewise, he says, his family didn’t discuss many parts of the doctrine, much in the same way few Catholic families discuss Catechism around the dinner table.

“It wasn’t a strict household, but we didn’t discuss things like blood transfusions.”

He says that growing up and hitting his teenage years made him a little more self-aware of his religion, but the nature of the community is what stands out to him.

“The one thing that always stands out to me is that the people were always so nice.

“They were so welcoming into their house every week for meetings.”

This is the second in a series on minority religions in Ireland. If you are a member of a minority faith and would like to tell your story, email paulhosford@thejournal.ie

Read: What is it like to be a Mormon in Ireland?

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