REGION – Breaking a century-old tradition, the largest convention organization in the world has moved its annual in-person event to a virtual format for the second time in as many years, canceling nearly 6,000 conventions in 240 lands.
For nearly four decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses from Vermont traveled outside the state for their annual convention. Some drove over three hours to locations such as Amherst, Mass., Albany, N.Y., and Portland, Maine. In 2020, the pandemic unexpectedly interrupted that tradition moving the international religious organization to cancel in-person conventions throughout the world and launch a global virtual event. This was a first for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have held public conventions in stadiums, arenas, convention centers, and theaters around the world since 1897.
“Powerful by Faith!” is the theme of the 2021 global event, which will be delivered in more than 500 languages to households throughout the globe over six weekends during July and August 2021, uniting some 15-20 million people in 240 countries. Since the convention is typically held from Friday through Sunday, the program will be available in six installments corresponding to morning and afternoon sessions. Friday and Saturday’s sessions are currently available for streaming or download.
Before the pandemic, the Noiseux family of Wilmington, Vt., got ready each year to make the drive to Albany, N.Y., for the weekend to attend the annual convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nathan Noiseux, 44, looked forward to what he called “the buzz of feeling a part of something bigger.”
“I liked being with my friends and socializing,” said Luca, 17. Claudia, 15, and Syrah, 12, looked forward to making candy bags to hand out to friends and going out to dinner after the convention program.
Luca said he’s always been impressed with the quality of the video dramas. “You can tell they really do their research,” he said. Claudia said that she is shy and doesn’t like to sing in public, but she really enjoys everyone singing together and the feeling that comes with it. Her mom Kathy agreed. “The sense of unity is amazing.”
The Noiseux family has enjoyed starting new traditions while watching the virtual version of the convention the last two summers. Nathan and Kathy set up a special breakfast bar for the family to gather around. The family still dresses each weekend as if they’re attending in person. They then settle into the living room with their notebooks or tablets and schedule breaks during the program to walk around and let their three dogs out.
Kathy said the family has found some unexpected perks of being at home. “I’m not as distracted,” she said. “My mind isn’t going in different directions, and I retain more.”
Luca added, “I can pause it, and I don’t miss anything.” The family also makes an effort to stay connected with friends that they would see at the convention.
“I talk with my friends, and we share ideas on how to break up the program,” said Claudia. “We also talk about what we like about the video drama.”
The planning and translation of a program of this magnitude takes months of effort. With the uncertainty of whether it would be safe to bring thousands of people together in cities around the world, the organization opted for a virtual platform for the second consecutive year. However, the move has not curbed the enthusiasm for the annual event. Congregations around the world are inviting the public to join them in this historic occasion.
“Faith has helped our global brotherhood to continue to thrive even during a pandemic,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Our faith will continue to unite us in worship – even virtually – as millions gather in private homes around the world to enjoy a powerful and inspiring spiritual program.”
All are invited to attend the event by going to www.jw.org or JW Broadcasting on the free JW Library app available for iOS or Android, or on streaming platforms like ROKU TV, Apple TV, and others. The program is free and accessible to all.
For more information, please contact Jehovah’s Witnesses United States at 718-560-5600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about the 100-year history of conventions presented by Jehovah’s Witnesses and how these global annual events were adapted, translated, and made available to the public during the pandemic. Click here to watch.
The Yankee Stadium attendance record was set in 1958 during a convention presented by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Listen to how this event impacted Ronald Carritue as he was growing up in Brooklyn as well as what to expect from this year’s “Powerful by Faith” spiritual program. Click here to listen.
A highly anticipated event of the convention is the two-part feature film entitled “Daniel: A Lifetime of Faith.” Few stories have captivated readers as much as the account about the prophet Daniel. During his lifetime, a nation is conquered, a family is divided, and his faith is tested. The account highlights principles that can be used to overcome modern-day challenges. “Daniel: A lifetime of Faith Part 1” was released to stream or download July 26.