Jehovah’s Witnesses go virtual
Last weekend Jehovah's Witnesses around the world began their first virtual convention.
Held simultaneously in countries around the globe over several weekends each summer, the event draws huge crowds. There is a general attendance of two million Witnesses in the US alone; in Bermuda, the convention usually attracts more than 600 people.
But this year, as a result of Covid-19 precautions and social-distancing protocols, the traditional convention has been replaced with a virtual one instead.
“This is the first time in our history that we have cancelled all conventions worldwide,” said Alexander Mosley, the media contact for Jehovah's Witnesses in Bermuda. “We have replaced them with a virtual convention that will allow our congregations to view the programme from their homes. This will happen internationally on six weekends throughout the summer.
“Locally, the convention was scheduled to be held [this weekend] at the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium in Devonshire, where over 600 were expected to attend. However, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, all in-person 2020 conventions have been cancelled. We love spending time with all in our community that attend these conventions in person with us yet we are even more excited to be able to have hundreds of others, some who may not normally be able, join us to view this year's convention programme through our website, jw.org.”
The convention began last Saturday and will continue until the end of August. Its theme, Always Rejoice, might seem “impossible” for many of us with everything that is happening at this time, said Mr Mosley.
The idea behind it however, is that joy is something that can be achieved even during the worst of times.
The convention is divided into instalments, with a new one released each weekend.
“The programme explores questions like: what contributes to finding and sustaining joy? How can you cultivate joy in the family? How can you remain joyful in difficult times?” Mr Mosley said. “A key feature will be a Bible-based drama that considers the life of Nehemiah and how he helped the ancient nation of Israel find joy in their worship of God.”
Last weekend the convention explored the many factors that contribute to joy. The discussion covered such things as a simple life, a clean conscience, meaningful work and true friendships.
“We viewed the difference between circumstantial joy and lasting joy, referring to Psalms 16:11 to point out that true joy comes from a personal relationship with Jehovah and being guided by him through the path of life. People can be led to that relationship by having a free virtual or home Bible study with Jehovah's Witnesses.”
An annual highlight of the convention has always been a live baptism. This year the baptisms will be held privately and streamed worldwide.
Access to the convention is free of charge via jw.org. Organisers anticipate unprecedented viewers given the streaming capabilities. Although this is the first time Jehovah's Witnesses will not meet in person for the convention, there is hope that it will still be well received and impactful for the faith's millions of followers around the world.
“Our worship is centred on our mutual love for our God and for each other, irrespective of where we are physically,” said Robert Hendricks, the US spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses. “This year's convention programme underscores the unity of our international family and the joy that people can have against a backdrop of stress and despair.”
• Learn more about the Jehovah's Witnesses' convention at jw.org or send an e-mail to Alexander Mosley, firstname.lastname@example.org