A cash crunch is forcing the Jehovah's Witnesses Church in Jamaica to join its colleagues around the world in offloading some of its real estate as part of cost-saving measures.
The church is selling some of its larger temples and other buildings, as it tries to operate from smaller, less expensive, and easier to maintain facilities.
One large temple, located on Cowper Drive, close to Washington Boulevard in St Andrew, is among the properties on sale, and sources say the religious group is asking $45 million for the property.
Four other auditoriums, on Elletson Road and Giltress Street in east Kingston, one in Waterhouse, and one in August Town, St Andrew, are also up for sale.
A local Witness, who asked not to be named as he is not an official spokesperson for the religious group, told The Gleaner that some local properties have already been sold while others are on offer to the highest bidder.
According to the Witness, high overheads forced the religious body to take the action.
"Maintenance and electricity costs are killers. And the improvements in technology have made it easier for communication between individuals, and so staffing for the temples became redundant," said the Witness.
When our news team contacted the headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States, a representative said he was not an official spokesperson for the religious group and could not speak on the record.
"All the answers you are seeking can be found on our website. With respect to Jamaica, go to the website and use the search facility, enter yearbook, branch consolidation and you should get an answer," said the representative.
But no information specific to the sale of the properties in Jamaica was found.
The religious group had previously announced that as of September 2012, the oversight of more than 20 of its branch offices would be closed and transferred to larger branches.
"In recent years, improvements in communications and printing technology have reduced the need for personnel in some branches. With fewer people working at larger branches, room became available that could be used for housing some who were working in smaller branches in other countries," said the Witness who spoke with our news team.
According to the organisation's website, "Because of the mergers, qualified ministers who had been serving in small branches can now concentrate on preaching the good news."
The group, whose members are well known for their door-to-door preaching and distribution of the Watchtower and Awake magazines, has also seen a scaling down of this activity, particularly in the Corporate Area, in recent times.
Younger Witnesses are "studying and securing jobs for themselves and their families, so the large numbers are not there anymore. But we still have Witnesses," said one local member of the church.
At the last check, in 2011, Jamaica recorded 50,849 Jehovah's Witnesses, up from 44,203 10 years earlier.
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