Jehovah's Witnesses -- a sect founded by Charles Taze Russell in the United States during the 1870s -- have a number of practices that set them apart from other branches of Christianity. In addition to the banning of holiday celebrations and their refusal to accept blood transfusions, door-to-door evangelism, adult baptisms, regular services and shunning are all rituals central to the faith.
All Jehovah's Witnesses who are physically able are expected to help spread the word of the faith, often by door-to-door evangelism, and distribute copies of their publication, "The Watchtower," with the goal of discussing scripture with people at their homes and persuade them to become a Witness. A positive reception can lead to return visits and in-home Bible studies. Witnesses do not aim to change people's minds overnight, but instead focus on gradual, authentic conversions.
Witnesses are not baptized as infants, rather as teenagers or adults. They must first make a commitment to evangelize door to door, attend several lengthy meetings and speak about their faith on a weekly basis. The religion does not accept baptisms by other churches. The baptism is always performed by full immersion, in front of the congregation.
Witnesses meet together at locations known as Kingdom Halls. Services are usually held one or two times a week and involve the participation of the congregants, similar to a classroom setting. Held on Sundays, the church's public meeting is a short Bible-based lecture, while the Watchtower Study is a one-hour meeting covering the topic published in "The Watchtower." Kingdom Halls usually host congregation Bible studies, ministry schools and service meetings during the week. Witnesses are expected to attend meetings in addition to studying the Bible daily at home with their families.
Shunning, or "disfellowshipping," occurs when a member of the faith is found by Witness elders to be guilty of spiritual sins. Those members are expelled from the congregation. Theft, adultery or drunkenness can all be grounds for removal from the church. Active Witnesses are forbidden from having contact with those who have been disfellowshipped. According to the BBC, Witness elders disfellowship between 50,000 and 60,000 people per year. In order to be reinstated, a Witness is required to demonstrate their repentance; the BBC says that around 30,000 to 40,000 people are reinstated into the faith annually.
- BBC: Witnesses History
- BBC: Witnesses Customs
- BBC: Following Jehovah
- Spotlight Ministries: The Jehovah's Witnesses Practice of Baptism
- Lubbock Online: Jehovah's Witnesses Share Stories of Faith During Baptisms at Convention
- Jehovah's Witnesses Official Media Website: Gathering Together
- Jehovah's Witnesses Official Media Website: History & Organization
- JW.Org: Baptism & Your Relationship with God
- The Birmingham News: Jehovah's Witnesses Baptize 28 in Pool at BJCC Arena