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martes, 1 de octubre de 2013

Jehovah’s Witnesses quick to break ground

September 20, 2013

Within a day of council approving their new building development permit, Prince Albert Jehovah's Witnesses broke ground on their new Kingdom Hall worship centre.

It's been a long time coming, elders Simon Squire and Dale Zimmerman explained, noting that the congregation of more than 200 decided about eight years ago that they would move out of their current Kingdom Hall, at 683 Seventh St. E.

The new building, at 4350 Second Ave. W., will be more modern than their current building, built in 1976, and will have more parking -- "something we sorely lack right now," Zimmerman said.
The new building's 5,000 square feet will be an upgrade from their current building's 4,000 -- an increase that will accommodate their growing membership.
The original floor plan put forward last year didn't accommodate for the worship centre's Cree language programming, Squire said, adding that he's thankful the building committee faced delays, allowing time for a new plan to go through.
The new floor plan, which includes a 45-seat room to accommodate a Cree language service in a separate room from the main 148-seat worship space, "is a much better solution to our needs than what we were going to build," he said.
Jehovah's Witnesses have a long history in the Prince Albert area, dating back to the 1950s, when the first Kingdom Hall was built in the city's west flat area.
Their current east hill area building was constructed in 1976, which now accommodates both the east and west congregations, with their original building sold in 2009.
About eight years ago, the regional building committee came to a crossroads with their east hill area building. They would either conduct extensive renovations or rebuild elsewhere.
After deciding on the new building option, years passed and plans changed, with the committee purchasing the long-vacant lot at 4350 Second Ave. W. about three years ago.
In 2010, the Canadian branch of Jehovah's Witnesses invited four Prince Albert-area Cree speakers to translate the Bible into their native language, sparking discussion in the area about expanding local services.
"That got us thinking about the number of Cree speakers in our local area," Zimmerman said.
"We did some research, and in Canada, one of the largest populations of Cree-speaking people is in Saskatchewan, and in Saskatchewan one of the largest populations of Cree-speaking people is Prince Albert."
Not counting the surrounding reserves, Prince Albert houses 8,000 Cree language speakers -- a population whose religious needs will be met with the new Kingdom Hall, which should first open its doors for a service late next year.
They anticipate a positive turnout, with between 35 and 40 Cree-speaking people showing up for last year's Memorial of Christ's Death event.
"It's true that many of the people who speak Cree also speak English in our area, but what really reaches people's hearts is their own language -- their first language," Zimmerman said.
"A relationship with God is a very personal thing, so it's best built on their first language."
Now that the ground has broken for the new Kingdom Hall, things are expected to progress quickly.
Designed and built entirely by volunteers, using funds donated by Jehovah's Witnesses, about a dozen people were seen on-site this week, preparing the site for construction.
By late next summer or early autumn, hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses from across the province will be on-site, constructing the building from the ground up within a few weeks.
An open house will accompany the building's completion, at which time local Jehovah's Witnesses will perform their most publicly visible activity in order to drum up interest -- door-knocking.
"We found that the Bible's advice is very practical and useful and adds to the quality of a person's life, and we'd like to share that with others," Zimmerman said.
Reiterating the commonly heard phrase "God is love," Squire asked, "How does he demonstrate that love? It's by giving us practical advice."
Following the principle of loving thy neighbour, he said, "If we have something that will help them, we'll share it."

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