Jehovah’s Witnesses head into three-day convention

First large gathering since 2019 to explore the quality of patience, highlighting its modern-day relevance through scriptural examples

After a three-year pandemic pause, one of the largest convention organizations in the world has once again chosen New Providence to host its global three-day event, the 2023 “Exercise Patience”! Convention.

“Patience is a beautiful quality that all Christians desire to display in their daily lives,” Mark Taylor, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in speaking to the theme for the convention. “Despite our good intentions, however, maintaining patience in the face of life’s many challenges can be a daily struggle. Spending three days exploring aspects of this quality will be very timely for all of us.”

The Kingdom Hall will host the first large conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses since 2019. On Friday, June 2 the Witnesses will bring that tradition back to New Providence in English and Haitian Creole.

From Friday through Sunday, six convention sessions will explore the quality of patience, highlighting its modern-day relevance through scriptural examples. A live baptism will be performed following the Saturday morning session and a pre-recorded drama will be featured in two parts during the Saturday and Sunday afternoon sessions.

The program will be held at the double Kingdom Hall located on Edmond Street in Highland Park. The convention is open to the public and no collection is taken.

“As much as we loved the convenience and quality of our virtual conventions, nothing can replace being together in a large group setting,” said Taylor.

“While our online conventions reached millions around the world and kept our communities safe, we long to get back to our joyful fellowship at these large gatherings.”

Prior to 2019, summers in New Providence were marked by Jehovah’s Witnesses attending their annual conventions at the Kingdom Hall. In 2020, the pandemic interrupted that tradition. The Witnesses canceled their in-person events worldwide and held convention programs as virtual events in more than 500 languages.

Some 6,000 conventions will be held worldwide as part of the 2023 “Exercise Patience”! Convention series. In the United States alone, more than 700 conventions Jehovah’s Witnesses officials say will be held in 144 host cities.

The convention series in The Bahamas comes on the heels of Jehovah’s Witnesses dedicating their new Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Abaco, more than three years after Hurricane Dorian devastated the facility.

The Abaco Kingdom Hall, accommodates 115 people at capacity, a 25-seat increase, over the facility that had been damaged.

At the time, Ritchie Eyma, Jehovah’s Witnesses public communications representative, United States (US) branch told The Nassau Guardian, “Seeing the hall rebuilt, also rebuilt our family.”

The new edifice is located on Forest Drive in Marsh Harbour, and was erected with increased hurricane guidelines. The roof is rated to withstand 200 miles per hour winds. The glass door and windows are rated to withstand 200 miles per hour winds. The foundation anchors, holding the walls down to the foundation at about two feet apart. The uplift is top-notch, with all the additional hurricane straps installed at two feet apart, tying the roof structure to the walls.

The new Kingdom Hall was rebuilt on the site of the previous 27-year-old structure that had been built in 1992 and that had been completely destroyed. After the passage of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019, the only thing left standing was the concrete slab. The Jehovah’s Witness place of worship had been totaled. Their only recourse was to tear down what was left, and rebuild.

From September 2019 to December 2019, most of the Witnesses had evacuated Abaco and joined other congregations on Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and New Providence.

From December 2019 to March 2020, they met in the large dining room of the Jehovah’s Witnesses relief center near Leisure Lee, Abaco.

From March 2020 to April 2022, the congregations on Abaco met on Zoom. In April 2022, they resumed in-person meeting and met at the newly built Kingdom Hall.

Their return to in-person conventions also comes nine months after Jehovah’s Witnesses restarted their door-to-door ministry after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Door-knocking is considered not just a core belief by Witnesses, but also an effective ministry. The trademark ministry began September 1, 2022.

At the time, Taylor said they were excited to get back out there to share the wonderful message of hope with people.

Many Jehovah’s Witnesses at the time said they had missed interacting with people and looking them in the eye to discern their reaction and how they truly feel about what they are hearing. They said the in-person interaction allowed people to also get a better sense of them actually caring for them.

The decision to resume their door-to-door ministry marked the complete restoration of all pre-pandemic in-person activities.

Robert Hendriks, United States spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said at the time that they were ready and eager to reconnect with their neighbors once again – person-to-person, face-to-face.

“It’s not the only way that we preach, but it has historically been the most effective way to deliver our message of comfort and hope,” said Hendriks.

Houses of worship (called Kingdom Halls) were reopened on April 1, 2022.

The return to in-person meetings coincided with two global events held in all 120,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Witnessing in public places resumed on May 31. And now in-person conventions.

The return to in-person ministry coincides with a global Jehovah’s Witnesses campaign to offer an interactive Bible study program. Released in late 2020, the interactive study platform combines text, video, illustrations and digital worksheets to help learners of all ages.

“This study program is designed to match the learning style of the 21st century,” said Hendriks. “We’re excited to begin sharing it with our neighbors as we return to making personal visits.”

The pandemic forced Witnesses to pivot to virtual meetings and conventions while conducting their ministry exclusively through letters, phone calls and virtual Bible studies.

Despite their virtual reality in the pandemic, Jehovah’s Witnesses report a growth in meeting attendance and congregants with more than 400,000 newly baptized Witnesses joining the ranks of 120,000 congregations globally in the first two years.

Jehovah’s Witnesses suspended door-knocking in March 2019, as much of society went into lockdown. The organization also ended all public meetings at its congregations and canceled 5,600 annual gatherings worldwide – an unprecedented move not taken even during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1919, which killed 50 million people worldwide.

Witnesses continued their ministry by writing letters and making phone calls.

Hendriks said no time was wasted as their congregants remained busy and productive, helping each other and their neighbors through challenging times, which he said love and unity are all about, as they prepare to explore the topic of peace.

Jehovah’s Witnesses returned to door-to-door, face-to-face ministry on the heels of a six-part virtual convention in July and August 2022. Witnesses explored the topics of how love leads to inner peace and peace with others; why the Bible can be called the “road map” to family peace; how to attain peace even when suffering illness, economic problems, natural disasters or other difficulties; what people from around the world are doing to enjoy peace; and why friendship with God can lead to true peace.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have been holding global conventions for more than 100 years, the last three years featuring virtual events.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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