Flowery Branch Kingdom Hall
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and 10 a.m. Sunday
Where: 4442 J M Turk Road, Flowery Branch
More info: www.jw.org
A large plot of land on J M Turk Road in Flowery Branch was once covered by a forest, but has been cleared away in the last year to make room for a new Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall.
The hall opened in May after eight months of construction, said one of the congregation elders Robert Rankin.
“We used all-volunteer labor,” he said. “No one was paid to do this.”
The term “kingdom hall” was adopted by witnesses to describe their place of worship instead of the word church. They say biblically, the word “church” describes a group of worshippers, and not the place they congregate.
Kingdom halls are thus places for witnesses to meet and learn about the kingdom of God.
The Flowery Branch kingdom hall was designed with a more modern, “educational center look,” Rankin said.
“This is the new design,” he said. “You used to build them with a more residential look, with the sloped roof, you know. But in the long run, this outlasts that.”
His wife, Mary Rankin, said it is a commonly used international design, because it meets codes in just about any part of the world.
Robert Rankin said the facility is made of absolutely no wood, which saves time in construction because nails don’t have to be driven into planks. And the building’s flat roof allows air conditioning and utilities to be stored on top.
The hall also has a dehumidifying system to help keep the temperature comfortable, Mary Rankin said.
“I always have a problem being too cold,” she said. “But this is great.”
As witnesses or visitors enter the kingdom hall, they enter a bright, open lobby area with a wall of windows. Against another wall is a community board, showcasing lists and schedules. All duties in the hall are shared, including who cleans every day.
The kingdom hall has one large space used primarily for worship with a capacity for about 235 people. Each Sunday, it seats just less than 150 attendees. A nearby “overflow room” is used as a private meeting room, seating about 50 people.
A third auxiliary room toward the back of the building seats closer to 25.
All three rooms have mounted televisions, with the goal off streaming video in all of them, Robert Rankin said.
The facility has spacious mens’ and womens’ restrooms, a family restroom, a walk-in coat closet and a small, private meeting room close to the front doors.
“We have one lady in our congregation who can’t do the fluorescent lights,” Mary Rankin said. “But she can sit in there. For a while she wasn’t able to come, but now she can sit and hear the whole program.”
“And if someone has something personal they want to talk to one of the brothers about, they can do that here,” Robert Rankin added.
The new hall was constructed because of vast growth in the area, the Rankins said.
“It’s the fastest growing religion in the world,” Mary Rankin said.
Robert Rankin said more than 8 million witnesses are in the world. Already two other kingdom halls are in the Hall County area, one on Stephens Road in Gainesville and another on Ednaville Road in Braselton.
“That’s where we moved out of,” Robert Rankin said. “Because we had actually six congregations in the one building. So there are two here now and a Spanish congregation that meets here as well.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not follow the “megachurch” model with one preacher or minister to a single, large congregation. Every kingdom hall has multiple elders. The Flowery Branch facility has 12, with Robert Rankin as the coordinator of the body of elders.
“When you have a meeting of the elders, the coordinator just provides an agenda,” he said. “But he has no more authority than any others. And ministers are not paid.”
The kingdom hall has a midweek meeting — what other denominations might call a worship service — at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and a weekend meeting at 10 a.m. Sundays.
Meetings begin and end with song and prayer and include audience participation in Bible examination and study, like a classroom discussion. They are open to the public, not just Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“It’s pretty good,” Robert Rankin said with a laugh. “I’ve been in it since I was a young guy. It does increase your knowledge. It doesn’t just give you a speaking ability or train you, but it gives you information.”
Meetings at the Flowery Branch kingdom hall often start with a 2-3 minute video, to introduce a topic or subject. The screens throughout the hall are used for this purpose.
Collections are never taken at any kingdom hall. Instead, donation boxes are fixed to the wall, one for local facility maintenance and another for world donations.
“Getting these halls built in third-world countries — everybody contributes,” Robert Rankin said. “But there is no requirement. Everyone just takes care of each other.”
He said if anyone has questions about Jehovah’s Witnesses, what they do and what they believe, they can read some frequently asked questions and watch informational videos at www.jw.org.
Mary Rankin said commonly asked questions include “Why does God allow suffering and evil?”
“A lot of people ask us that,” she said.
Robert Rankin said the greatest and simplest hope for the kingdom hall is to be available to people and to educate.
“We’ve gone out for years and heard people say, ‘But you don’t believe in Jesus,’” he said. “But that’s just ridiculous. What hope is there, unless he is there? Our feeling is, as the scripture (says), Jehovah is the creator and Jesus is the Son of God who came here and willingly died for us. And we’re here to promote that.”