Construction is now underway on the new Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Prince Albert, thanks to hundreds of volunteers from across the region.
Comprised of skilled tradespeople and helpers from every corner of Saskatchewan, as well as some from Alberta and British Columbia, the immense squad of volunteers means the new worship centre will be built at a lightning pace.
With Wednesday marking the official start of construction, the congregation is hoping to have the new Kingdom Hall -- located at 4350 Second Ave. W. -- complete by the end of the month.
“A construction company can’t afford to have 200 volunteers or 300 volunteers show up on a day, right?” congregation elder Dale Zimmerman noted. “They have a smaller number of people working together, and so there’s no way they could do it in the same time.”
“The other thing, too, is everyone’s come here as a volunteer and their heart’s really in what they’re building,” he added. “If there are problems -- and there’s no project without problems -- rather than focusing on who’s to blame or that, everyone just kind of works together to get around the problem and make it work.
“So there’s a real spirit of co-operation that you don’t find on a commercial project.”
From this week until Aug. 31, the volunteers will be engaged in an intense building period to complete the building as soon as safely possible.
Fellow elder Simon Squire noted that part of the reason for the speedy construction is the wish of congregation members to get back to their central mission of educating people about the faith.
“It’s a desire to get it done … The reason we all get together and build a Kingdom Hall like this in a short period of time is so that none of us spend all our time doing this and we’re not able to study the Bible with people,” Squire said.
“So we all get together for a couple of weeks, we build the hall, finish it and then we can all go back to what our main goal is -- teaching people the Bible.”
In that regard, he pointed to the latest worldwide campaign of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which involves the use of the Bible to answer life’s big questions and directs people towards the faith’s website, www.jw.org.
The actual building of the Kingdom Hall marks the fourth phase of the construction of the new worship centre. The first three phases included site preparation, footings and pilings, and floor and curbing.
One of the main reasons the congregation began planning a new Kingdom Hall eight years ago was the relative lack of parking space.
“Especially in the wintertime, that made problems with parking for our neighbours, because the parking lot that we had just wasn’t enough room,” Zimmerman said. “So we were using up a lot of street parking, and you know what it’s like in the winter here with the snow on the sides.”
With the long-gestating project now nearing completion, Zimmerman described the congregation as “very excited” to see the fruits of its labour.
“It’s been something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time,” he said. “So everybody’s working really hard, the local people are volunteering in the kitchen and on site doing other things and providing squares and pies and things to feed the volunteers, and everyone’s really excited.”
The volunteers include skilled tradespeople in a variety of fields such as electricians, carpenters and landscapers, many of whom have been plying their trades for a decade or longer.
In each Jehovah’s Witness congregation, worshippers are invited to volunteer to help out with what is known as the Regional Building Committee program.
Saskatchewan alone boasts more than 1,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses who have volunteered to use their skills to help building a new Kingdom Hall.
“We have a database of who’s volunteered and what their skills are, and so when there’s a project that comes along, each department can draw from that list of volunteers and can arrange in advance for them to show up and to help out,” Zimmerman said.
There’s a real spirit of co-operation that you don’t find on a commercial project. Dale Zimmerman
While many of the volunteers will help out for a few days, others -- such as department heads, kitchen helpers and electricians -- will be on site for the full 12 days.
Workers usually arrive at 8 a.m. and leave the site at 6 p.m., working according to a timeline.
Safety is a major priority for the congregation. Every morning, along with a prayer, the workers hold a daily safety meeting.
“Throughout the day we have people who are trained in safety watching the work as it goes on to make sure that if they see something dangerous, they alert the workers,” Zimmerman said.
“All of the workers have safety training. If anyone is doing hot work like welding, they have specific training for safety to watch out, anyone that’s doing work where they’re elevated, they have fall protection harnesses and they have training in that.”
Once the building is complete, the city must inspect the structure before it can actually be put to use.
With plenty of new furniture for the new Kingdom Hall, little will have to be moved from the old worship centre at Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue West, which is now up for sale.
The congregation is currently planning to host an open house for the public after the new building opens.
“We won’t do that until the parking lot is paved,” Squire said. “But we’re hoping (that will be done) in early September.”