Raising a kingdom

Jaime Day, left, of Mount Jackson, and Java Gooden, 23, of Lynchburg, right, help with bricklaying the exterior walls of a new Kingdom Hall for area Jehovah's Witnesses. Rich Cooley/Daily

EDINBURG — Standing in the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Kelly Osborne points out the kitchen where full-time ministers stop by for a bite to eat on a sunny, snow covered Wednesday afternoon.

Two weeks to the day prior, all that was here was a vacant lot and a foundation.

In the Jehovah’s Witness faith, churches are built over a two-week period called a “build out” by volunteers from four to five states with donated materials.

Before the two-week period in mid-January, where 450 volunteers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia descended on the town of Edinburg to raise the church, Osborne and other men in the congregation demolished the old building, which was constructed in 1992, poured a new foundation and prepped the site.

Osborne, who is the coordinator of the church’s seven-man “body of elders,” said building the church was three years in the making.

Bethany Meadows, 34, of Ruckersville, finishes the walls inside the new Kingdom Hall in Edinburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

“It took us three years to raise the funds, line things up with the county and gather the materials,” Osborne said. “We sat down and started looking at the costs of renovating the old building, but we figured we could get a lot more use out of a new building.”

Over the years, the congregation, which serves all of Shenandoah County, has grown to 215 members, with services being taught in English and Spanish. Osborne said while a kingdom hall can be likened to a church, it is really an “educational center.”

“We are here to teach what the Bible says, so we really focus on trying to get that message out,” Osborne said. “One of the main reasons for this building is to organize our doorstep ministries, like how to treat people, what to do at the door and how to be tactful and respectful of other religions.”

For 30 years, Osborne has been involved with church builds in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, including area churches in Winchester, Martinsburg, West Virginia and Charles Town, West Virginia. Osborne said as far as builds go, the Edinburg church went smoothly, except for the weather.

“I have never seen such extreme weather like we did on this build,” he said. “The day we started, it was five below zero with a wind chill of eight below and we had people putting in trusses. You couldn’t pay a man to do that.”

Canditia Duerrero, 24, of Lynchburg, mixes paint inside the new Kingdom Hall in Edinburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Most of the volunteers had contracting backgrounds, including Osborne himself. He said by last Sunday, the church was 95 percent complete and all that was left was clean up and a little touch up work.

The church also saw some new additions, such as an energy efficient furnace, better insulation and better lighting, Osborne said. One of the most notable changes was the addition of windows, he said.

“We always had people in the community asking what we were doing in here, so we decided to put in windows to be a little more welcoming and inviting,” Osborne said. “All we do here is teach the Bible.”

Osborne credits the speed of the church build to his faith’s value of hard work and service.

“You get that level and determination from our faith because we are interested in serving our creator Jehovah as well as showing love to our fellow man,” Osborne said.

Kelly Osborne, body of elders coordinator for the Edinburg Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, stands in front of the stage at the newly constructed church. Osborne said the stage is used for Bible readings, skits to illustrate scenarios at doorstep ministries and other educational services. Henry Culvyhouse/Daily

Osborne added, “When you knock on thousands of doors, you end up tending to people who may have experienced loss or illness and have an impact on their lives. This building is where it starts.”

During the construction phase, people from a variety of economic, social and racial backgrounds volunteered on the site. Osborne said his faith does not discriminate.

“We judge people based on their character, not on the color of their skin or where they’re from,” Osborne said. “God is not partial and we are taught we are all equal in his eyes.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses falls out of what is considered “traditional Christianity” due to its interpretations of the nature of hell and non-Trinitarian beliefs. Eight million members strong and ministries in 239 countries, the appeal of Jehovah’s Witnesses are related to its honest interpretation of the Bible, Osborne said.

“Our goal is not to unteach people what they already know, but instead to try to show them what is true and let them make a judgment call,” he said. “One of the things that attracted me to the faith is its members’ willingness to admit they are wrong.”

The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses is located at 16555 Old Valley Pike in Edinburg. Osborne estimates services will begin in the first week of February and there will be an open house and dedication in the spring.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com