In a world where joy and unity may seem impossible to achieve, millions of Jehovah's Witnesses have "united" together virtually to stream their six-part annual summer convention.
Available in 511 languages worldwide, the streaming program themed "Always Rejoice" is divided into six installments, each corresponding to a morning or afternoon session of what would have been three successive convention days.
The final two sessions of this convention program will be streamed on jw.org this weekend and Aug. 29-30, completing this historic event for the Witnesses around the globe.
"While we would love to be together with our united family, we realize it is important to consider the safety of all those who would like to attend the convention," said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses, in a news release. "Viewing the convention from a streaming platform has provided families the opportunity to draw close together and form a stronger relationship as they take in this vital spiritual food."
Typically, these conventions are held in stadiums, arenas, conference halls and smaller gathering places around the world. The Bakersfield event was expected to drawn around 30,000 Witnesses and guests to Mechanics Bank Convention Center in July and August.
In early April, the decision was made to cancel all in-person conventions due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This signature event, held by Jehovah's Witnesses for over 100 years, was redesigned to be streamed from a digital platform, allowing attendees to enjoy the convention from the safety of their homes.
Two basic principles motivated the decision to move online: the love of neighbor and value for life. The online platform also allows viewers to absorb the information at a personalized pace, reviewing and repeating discourses as desired.
During the upcoming fifth and sixth sessions of the convention — what would have been Sunday — the program will highlight fundamental principles that encourage all to cultivate a joyful attitude during difficult times and the importance of developing a relationship with God.
Event attendees will look forward to the conclusion of the feature-length film "Nehemiah: The Joy of Jehovah Is Your Stronghold." This film focuses on the life of the Bible character Nehemiah showing how he helps the ancient nation of Israel find joy in their worship of God.
While there are 8.6 million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, more than 14 million people attended the 2019 annual convention. These yearly conventions are open to the public each year, and most who attend are guests. With the program available online in 511 languages and with millions of downloads/streaming per session, this spiritual event has proven to be one of the largest in history for the Witnesses.
All members of the public are invited to view the streaming convention by accessing it on JW.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, under the "Library" tab. Those that are interested may also contact their local congregation. Previous sessions are also available for viewing and download.
There is no charge for viewing the convention, and personal information is not gathered upon download or streaming.
With a theme of “Always Rejoice," Jehovah’s Witnesses around the globe are planning to celebrate their annual convention safely online.
Starting this weekend, the convention launches on a streaming platform. This is the first time in the event's history that it has not been held in person.
“Our worship is centered on our mutual love for our God and for each other, irrespective of where we are physically,” Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said in a news release. “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 Bakersfield event would have drawn tens of thousands of Witnesses and guests to Mechanics Bank Convention Center in July and August. Organizers opted to cancel the large gathering in March due to the pandemic.
Congregations, families and guests from more than 240 countries will view the program from the safety of their homes.
The decision to move the convention online was guided by the Christian principles of 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,” Hendriks said. “The virtual meetings we have held over the past four months 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.”
Starting this weekend, the program will to be released in six installments, each corresponding to a morning or afternoon session of what would have been three successive convention days. The virtual event will conclude the weekend of Aug. 29-30.
A number of topics will be explored including how to find and sustain joy, cultivating joy in the family and remaining 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.
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.
— Jehovah's Witnesses news release