JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Coronavirus pandemic has forced Jehovah’s Witnesses to move its annual convention online.
The organization has hosted conventions in the U.S. since 1897 and for the first time, congregations around the world are meeting virtually.
U.S. Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses Robert Hendriks said the country’s 13,000 congregations haven’t met in-person nor continued public ministry since March.
Hendriks said the group applied two Christian values to come to that decision.
“God views life as sacred and so do we,” Hendriks said. “The value of life transcends even the value of Christians meeting together. Number 2, Jesus said the second greatest commandment is love of neighbor. We reasoned that if you love your neighbor, you’re not going to ask them to come to a public gathering to put them at risk, you’re going to provide another alternative. You’re not going to knock on their doors and put them or yourself at-risk or others.”
Due to the health risks associated with large gatherings during the pandemic, the organization decided in April to move forward with hosting its convention virtually.
“From April to the 1st of July, our work was to record the content,” Hendriks said. “Transcribe that content, translate that content into 511 languages and 58 sign languages and then get it to a platform that would be free and accessible to every person in the world, in every environment, every country, and every language.”
What does an online Jehovah’s Witness convention look like?
When congregations gather virtually, Hendrix said the weekend meetings typically begin with a spiritual discussion, and songs.
Then, they can remain in groups or watch the convention’s half-day sessions individually and regroup later in the day for discussion.
The theme of this year’s convention is “Always Rejoice” and Hendriks said it is fitting for what many people are going through during the pandemic.
“In these difficult times, even when everything is crumbling around you, the joy of our heart, the joy that we have over our spiritually and our relationship with our creator cannot be taken from us,” Hendriks said. “That is a powerful gift to the world.”
The convention wraps up at the end of this month but the content will remain online and is also available on Roku and Apple TV.
Click here for more information.