Isolated but united: Jehovah’s Witnesses to hold annual Bible convention through streaming
After canceling large gatherings in more than 50 venues due to COVID-19, some 223,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) in the Philippines have turned to video streaming platforms to attend their annual Bible convention which they described as “spiritual refreshment in the time of pandemic.”
Every weekend of July to August 2020, the Witnesses will watch the series of Bible-based lectures for the first time in their homes through Zoom video conferencing, according to Dean Jacek, national spokesman for JW.
With this year’s theme “Always Rejoice!”, the convention will be streamed in 11 languages—English, Filipino, Bicol, Cebuano, Chavacano, Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Iloko, Pangasinan, Waray-Waray and the Filipino Sign Language (FSL) to benefit the community of the hearing-impaired.
“As much as we long to meet together, life is far too precious to put at risk,” said Jacek.
He said the program will answer 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?
Those interested in viewing the convention can contact their local congregation or access the program on jw.org, under the “Library” tab, and click “JW Broadcasting.” The website is available in 1,023 languages. There is no charge for viewing the convention, said Jacek.
The program is released in six installments, each corresponding to a morning or afternoon session of what would have been three successive convention days. After each session, participants will meet in smaller “break out” groups to discuss convention highlights. The final weekend of the virtual event is on Aug. 29-30, 2020.
Since March 15, 2020, Witnesses who belong to more than 100,000 congregations around the world, have closed their places of worship called Kingdom Halls and have been holding their weekly public meetings through Zoom, said Jacek.
He said they also temporarily suspended their house-to-house ministry and other public in-person ministry “out of respect for the sanctity of life and love of neighbor.” Instead, they have been using the telephone and other alternative methods to assist those interested in the Bible message.
Jacek said their conventions are usually held in stadiums, arenas, conference halls, and smaller gathering places around the world.
Originally, the Metro Manila conventions were to be held from June through August at the Metro Manila Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses near Novaliches, Quezon City. Over 46,000 were expected to attend during the three months. But these were canceled 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 Jacek, who has been volunteering to teach the Bible in FSL.
“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,” he added.
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