The second meeting on Thursday nights was the Service Meeting. This meeting featured assigned material from a monthly flyer called “Our Kingdom Service.” The focus of the meeting was the ministry – how to be effective, encouragement to do more (read: guilt tripping); but it covered organizational matters as well – assembly dates and themes, how to dress for a visit to the World Headquarters, encouragement to give more money (again, guilt tripping). Often, demonstrations were given of suggested presentations to use at the door. Anyone could be drafted to give a presentation, another 5 minutes or so of terror.
We were often regaled with an experience about some person who had seemingly impossible circumstances who still managed to engage in the full-time ministry (pioneering) or to increase their hours temporarily (auxiliary pioneering). A composite of this beknighted individual would be a single mom with 5 kids under the age of 10, a wooden leg, no car, and a full-time job breaking rocks in a quarry using a sledge hammer. Dang, if she could do it, why were you being such a cream puff?
I actually responded to this arm twisting one time and auxiliary pioneered for 6 weeks (I tried it out for two weeks just to make sure I could do it before I submitted my application) while working full time. That meant I had to get up and 0-dark-30 and head down to the area around the train station (with a group of similarly motivated JWs) to give away magazines, thus putting in some time before work.
After work I was picked up by a car group who were covering not-at-homes (homes that had been called upon at another time of day but without finding someone at home) during the dinner hour, an activity which did not endear us to the community. As you can imagine, when I finally limped home in the evening I was pretty well tapped out, and we often dined at the sign of the golden starches.
On Saturday I put in a full day in the ministry, and on Sunday I was out for a long afternoon. And just where did I fit in housework? I dunno. I think we just lived in squalor for that month.
The month of the pioneering was May, and we were living in Eastern Massachusetts at the time. During the first week of that month we had a snowstorm of 8 inches, and on the last day of the month the temperature soared to 100 degrees. In between, on one Saturday, we were surprised by a phone call in the wee hours to come help a single mother whose child had been in a car accident. When we returned home we had a year-old baby and a 3-year-old with us.
The rest of that story can be summed up in a few words: We had no children, we knew nothing about children, the baby was still breast feeding, and I had never changed a diaper in my life. I’m sure you can imagine how that day went.
But I digress.
The parts on the Service Meeting were generally assigned to elders or ministerial servants and sometimes involved strong counsel directed at the congregation as a whole. This meeting was also the one where any disfellowshippings or other disciplinary action would be announced.
Rounding out the week was the Sunday meeting which featured a public talk, usually by a visiting speaker who would bring his family with him. The outlines (or manuscripts) for these talks were provided by the Watchtower Society, and usually each elder in the Circuit had three or four outlines that he had developed into talks and would give wherever assigned. For those who had to listen, it was usually an hour-long struggle to keep your eyes open.
My ex-husband was an elder, so often on a Sunday we’d be traveling to another congregation. Some of his talks I heard so many times I could have given them myself. I was not particularly outgoing, so it was exhausting for me to muster the traditional elder’s wife’s toothy grin and buoyant personality. After the meeting I would have to put up with a bunch of women coming up to me and telling me what a wonderful man my husband was, and blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, he’d have given the closing prayer and be milling around on the platform with the local elders.
Afterward, we often had to go to someone’s house for “hospitality,” meaning we’d have lunch with them and it was another few hours of torture for me while I had to keep the toothy grin plastered on my face. By the time it was all over and we were headed home I’d be exhausted and asking for an ice cream. The only good point of being the visiting speaker was that we weren’t expected to participate in field service after the meeting. Sometimes we could even beg off after the talk and leave.
After the public talk comes the Watchtower Study which is a consideration of an article from the Watchtower magazine which featured question and answer much the same as the Book study (read: a big yawn-fest). This was another instance of needing to prepare well in advance or at least give the appearance of having done so.
There you have it. In addition to field service, JWs spend 5 hours over 3 days of the week attending meetings and more hours preparing for them. In my case, that means that I never saw any TV program that was scheduled for a Tuesday or Thursday, leaving me woefully out of the loop on a chunk of the pop culture.
One of my current favorite things is to wake up on a Sunday and know that I don’t have to get ready for a meeting (you always get dressed up for meetings, so there’s no jeans and t-shirts – it’s suits, ties, skirts, and pantyhose) or to turn on the TV on a Thursday night and gloat that I don’t have to gulp my supper and run out to a meeting. Yay! I’m free!