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Jehovah’s Witnesses’ convention, streaming on platform, focuses on families

Jehovah's Witnesses from throughout the South have met in Birmingham for their annual conventions for more than 40 years, as this photo from a past event at the BJCC shows. For the first time this year the gatherings have been moved to a virtual platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (PROVIDED PHOTO)

As pressures created by the coronavirus pandemic continue to affect local families, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Birmingham area began sharing information on their “Always Rejoice”! convention program that has been prepared specifically to help adults and children cope with current stressful circumstances.

This year, for the first time in their history of holding conventions, Jehovah’s Witnesses have moved the highly anticipated annual event to a streaming platform, throughout August. Typically, annual conventions have been held at area venues, but they were cancelled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our worship is centered on our mutual love for our God and for each other, irrespective of where we are physically,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “This year’s convention program underscores the unity of our international family and the joy that people can have against a backdrop of stress and despair.”

The program is to be released in six installments, each corresponding to a morning or afternoon session of what would have been three successive convention days. Many congregations and families viewed the first convention session during the weekend of July 11-12. The final weekend of the virtual event is scheduled for August 29-30.

The program 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? 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.

“The virtual meetings we have held [since March] have proved to all of us that it’s not about where we are physically. It’s about where we are spiritually. In many ways we are closer as a spiritual family than ever before,” said Hendriks.

Those interested in viewing the convention can contact their local congregation or access the program on jw.org, available under the “Library” tab. There is no charge for viewing the convention.

The convention’s theme explores how achieving a state of sustained joy can be possible even under seemingly impossible conditions, and the four-part symposium “Cultivate Joy in Your Family” will “consider how husbands, wives, parents and children can find comfort and joy through the family arrangement, even in these stressful and anxious times,” said Brian Williams, local spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The two Christian principles guiding the Witnesses’ historic decision are respect for the sanctity of life and love of neighbor. “As much as we long to meet together, life is far too precious to put at risk,” said Hendriks.

Each year many who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses attend the annual conventions. There are more than 8.6 million active Witnesses worldwide, yet the 2019 conventions had a peak attendance of more than 14 million. With the program available online in hundreds of languages, this may be the most attended convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses to date.

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