BLOOMINGTON, IL — 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 14 consecutive years, the summers in Bloomington, Ill. featured thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses streaming into the city to take over hotels and fill restaurants as they held their conventions at the Grossinger Motors Arena.
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.
The Grossinger Motors Arena has been home to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ con- ventions since it was first built in 2006. Each summer, two to four conventions were held at the facility, each with an average of 4,000 attendees, and a record peak of 8,000.
Rodney Hodge Sr., a fellow convention organizer from Springfield, elaborated: “When we come into a facility, we will actually clean that facility before we use it because it’s our place of worship for the event. And when we finish the convention, we’ll leave that convention center in as-clean or cleaner condition than how we found it.”
Each convention Hodge attended left him impressed by the unity of the attendees. “Here you have a group of people from all nationalities that truly demonstrate love for one another … just getting along, paying attention to the program, being educat- ed. And when you meet people for the first time, it’s like you’ve known them forever.”
“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” morning’s session will be available for streaming or download.
Congregations around the world are inviting the public to join them in this historic occasion.
“Faith has helped our global brotherhood to con- tinue 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 jw.org ontheweborJW 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, contact Jehovah’s Witnesses United States at (718) 560- 5600 or [email protected]