Jehovah's Witnesses host open houses at new world headquarters

Offered tours of the campus, including museum of rare bibles


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  • Photo by Erika Norton Jehovah's Witnesses invited the local community to visit their new world headquarters in Sterling Forest over the past two weekends.




  • Photo by Erika Norton Featured in the new world headquarters are several museum exhibits, including a display of 75 rare Bibles dating back to the 1100’s.




  • Photo by Erika Norton To wash the clothes and linen of the more than 800 people who live at the headquarters, a complex laundry system run by 40 workers is set up to handle the nine tons of clothing/linen per week. Each garment has a barcode corresponding with each resident, and in the press room, 2000 dress shirts and 800 slacks are pressed every week.




  • Photo by Erika Norton




  • Photo by Erika Norton The campus consists of seven buildings and a parking garage, all of which occupy 40 to 50 acres of a 253-acre property along Blue Lake. Four residence buildings house the 800 Witnesses that live and work at the headquarters offices.




BY ERIKA NORTON

Jehovah's Witnesses opened the doors to their new state-of-the-art world headquarters in Sterling Forest over the past two weekends in an effort to allow local residents and those who contributed to its construction a chance to see the finished complex and learn more about their organization.

“It's our way of saying thank you to the community for warmly welcoming us,” said Robert Warren, a spokesperson for the organization. “We've had such wonderful relations with the local communities, the town boards, the local officials. We just kind of wanted our neighbors to be able to come in and see the place now that it's finished and show that we definitely appreciate being part of the community.”



Over the two weekends, 863 people visited during the open houses, the majority of which were non-Witnesses.

After purchasing the Warwick land in 2009, a volunteer effort of more than 25,000 came together to construct the world headquarters. Upon completion in September of last year, the entire Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society — the official nonprofit corporation of Jehovah's Witnesses — slowly moved out of Brooklyn, the organization's home since 1909.

The new campus consists of seven buildings and a parking garage, all of which occupy 40 to 50 acres of a 253-acre property along Blue Lake. Four residence buildings house the 800 Witnesses who live and work at the headquarters offices and maintain the museum exhibits, including a bible display.

The complex also houses an auditorium, where the Witnesses who live at the headquarters meet on Mondays for a bible study and attend a lecture every month. The Long Meadow congregation, one of the 90 branches worldwide, also meets on Sundays in the auditorium.

Eco-friendlyAn aspect of the headquarters the organization is most proud of, according to Warren and other Witnesses, is how eco-friendly the campus is — with it already receiving awards for “being green.” The Green Building Initiative (GBI), an organization which offers environmental assessment and certification programs for commercial buildings, awarded the headquarters the highest possible rating of Four Green Globes for all seven buildings.

According to GBI, out of 965 projects nationwide, only 64 buildings have received Four Green Globes.

“We took into account the environment and we built responsibly,” said Troy Snyder, who was on the Construction Project Committee. “We had a unique situation in that we're building in a state forest and so we needed to build in a way that would harmonize with the forest and nature.”

Some of the features that makes the buildings so sustainable are the 120 geothermal wells that take the groundwater temperature and run that energy into the complex's heating and cooling plant, augmenting heating and cooling more efficiently. They also installed 218,000 square feet of green roofing and several bio retention ponds, which both help to control stormwater.

A major issue they had to resolve was repairing the severely deteriorating Blue Lake Dam, which after identifying leaks and damage, the state Department of Environmental Conservation classified as “high-hazard” due to it's proximity to the 195-home Woodlands at Tuxedo subdivision less than a mile from the lake. According to Snyder, the construction team fixed and fortified the dam so that it now meets the codes and industry standards for safety.

And while hundreds of trees were cut to construct the large complex, according to Snyder, an equal number of trees that were harvested were planted, and all of the harvested wood was recycled.


Bible museum Jehovah's Witnesses also hope the three self-guided museum exhibits will be a draw for visitors, including a display of 75 rare bibles dating back to the 1100's.
“We take one item that really is at the core of what is the underpinning of our beliefs,” said Museum Director Enrique Ford, “which is the bible.”
The two second floor galleries are more interactive and show the history of Jehovah's Witnesses from the 1870's to modern times. The exhibit, titled “Faith in Action,” features numerous touch-screens that visitors can use to learn about the current initiatives of the worldwide organization.
According to Ford, the goal is “to communicate who we are as a people, what's our focus, what's our history and what are we doing today.”
They are hoping that not only Witnesses, but scholars and academics will come to the headquarters to see the bibles and historical artifacts on display. Already, at the first open house, Warren said they had a visitor from another bible society.
Community responseSo far, the response from the community has been positive, according to Warren, with visitors submitting comments after taking a tour.
“I've studied the area for over 50 years,” said Dr. Richard Hull, professor emeritus of history at New York University and the Warwick town historian. “The Witnesses have done a very good job marrying their needs with the natural surroundings, even considering the needs of the park's wildlife.”
What Warren wants other local residents to know is that they are welcome to visit their facilities and to ask questions.
“We make it open to the public because we want them to know why we're here, we want them to know what we're doing and how this facility contributes to Bible education worldwide,” Warren said. “But most importantly, that they know that we're their neighbors and that we're thrilled to be in this community, thrilled to be in these beautiful surroundings in Sterling Forest and on the lake.”




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