As the sun went down on April 4, San Quentin’s Catholic Chapel opened its doors for a Jehovah’s Witness Passover memorial service. Lee Tomaselo, Doug Niman and Paul Dawson, three Jehovah’s Witness brothers from the community, held the service for several dozen inmates.
Jehovah’s Witness brothers greeted the guests as they arrived. The greeters were inmates Richard Richardson, Aaron Martin, Richard Meyer, Darryl Kennedy and Marvin Arnold.
“The greatest act of love” was God’s sacrifice of His first-born son, said Brother Niman. The memorial service was intended to recognize and appreciate this deed. “Why did He do this is what this talk is about,” he said.
Niman read from Luke 22:19-20 as the basis for the memorial service. He explained to the audience why mankind in biblical times needed deliverance and the significance of Jesus’ death in accomplishing this.
“Humans needed to be delivered because of sin,” he said. He went on to explain how this sin originated with Adam’s consumption of the forbidden fruit. “As Adam’s sin condemned all mankind, Jesus’ perfect life saved all mankind.”
“Why did he do this is what this talk is about”
“Jesus instituted a different way of dealing with His people,” said Richardson. Nowadays, this change is represented by a series of sacraments during the memorial service.
Participants received unleavened Matzah crackers during the ceremony. Eating the bread symbolizes the act of once again becoming perfect and sinless, he said. “The cup represents a new covenant with God and the virtue of the blood of Christ.” Prison regulations, however, would not permit the inmates to receive wine.
During the memorial, the inmates also sang Hail Jehovah’s Firstborn and The Lord’s Evening Meal.
This memorial celebration occurs in 236 countries around the world, Niman told the audience. “Passover begins at sunset in New Zealand and goes around the world.”
Last year, more than 19 million worldwide attended memorial services, according to Niman. “There were 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses, so the majority of people who attended the memorial were not Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he said.
According to Niman, memorial services happen everywhere in the world; in homes, prisons and even in bomb shelters. He said there are services even in places where practicing Jehovah’s Witness is banned.
Jehovah’s Witness meetings are held on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. for English-speaking inmates and on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and noon for Spanish-speaking inmates.