Members of Jehovah witnesses in Nigeria and across the world are not deterred by the ongoing pandemic as they prepare for this year’s convention with the theme “Always Rejoice”, but this time around the program would be on streamline platform against the tradition of large gathering. The reason is not far-fetched, it is aim to protecting the lives of the would be attendees against the COVID-19 pandemic, for them ‘Life is too precious to be put at risk’.
In a world where achieving a state of sustained joy may seem elusive—even impossible—for many, millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their invited guests in some 240 lands will “attend” a global convention with the theme “Always Rejoice”!
For the first time in their history of holding conventions, Jehovah’s Witnesses have moved this highly anticipated annual event to a streaming platform. Congregations, families, and guests will view the program during July and August 2020. Typically, these conventions are held in stadiums, arenas, conference halls, and smaller gathering places around the world.
In Lagos and most cities in Nigeria, the convention was scheduled to be held from September 4, 2020 to December 18, 2020 at the Daluwon, Lekki, Ota and Badagry Assembly Halls, where a total peak attendance of 119,000 was expected to attend. In 2019, Jehovah’s Witnesses held over 50 of such conventions in and around Lagos at the above-mentioned venues. The program was presented in English, Gun, Pidgin, Yoruba, Igbo and French. Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses usually result in increased commercial activities around the venue, with hotels, stores and transport service providers making brisk businesses.
The 2020 convention series was cancelled in March, 2020 in response 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 Jama Onwubuariri, 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 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 be put at risk,” said Jama Onwubuariri. “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.”
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 will view the first convention session during the weekend of July 11-12.
Congregations have been encouraged to hold a brief spiritual discussion over a videoconferencing platform to open the session and then announce that the convention program can be viewed on JW Broadcasting from the participants’ homes. Arrangements have been made to bring smaller “breakout” groups together at the conclusion of each session to discuss convention highlights. 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.
Those interested in viewing the convention can contact their local congregation or access the program on jw.org, available under the “Library” tab. Then click on “Latest Videos”. There is no charge for viewing the convention.
Jehovah’s Witnesses shifted their weekly public meetings to video conferencing and streaming platforms back in early March, closing all local Kingdom Halls to public assembly. Their public in-person ministry has also been temporarily suspended since March . Instead, they have been participating in alternative methods of assisting those interested in the Bible’s message.
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 2020 convention program available online in hundreds of languages, this may just be the most attended convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses to date.