Jehovah’s Witnesses, their associates, friends and well-wishers in Ghana on Saturday began an annual three-day regional convention, going virtual this year, in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic.
Portions of the three-day convention themed “Always Rejoice”! are being released incrementally in six segments, starting July 6, 2020, on jw.org.
The theme is based on the Bible Book of Philippians 4:4, which reads: “Always rejoice in the Lord. Again I will say, Rejoice!”
After showing videos of Witnesses enduring arrests, imprisonments, torture and other forms of persecution for their neutrality in world affairs and Kingdom preaching work, conventioneers applauded and thrilled to films of the disabled taking part joyously in the Kingdom evangelization work.
Witnesses and their associates, tied in via zoom from various locations, joined in singing beautifully, expressing their reasons for joy from the hymnal “Sing Joyfully to Jehovah.”
With warm greetings from the world headquarters, Mr Kenneth Cook and Stephen Lett, both members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses took turns in welcoming delegates to the assembly, meant to equip them “to find joy even when life is hard.”
As a result of the Covid-19 the hitherto large assemblies have been cancelled, and the two Governing Body members commiserated with conventioneers on their various losses, including dear ones, assuring them of the prayers of the hierarchy of the religious organization.
Featuring talks, video and drama, and dramatized Bible readings, the programme is encouraging delegates on the application of Bible principles in learning what true joy is, ways to promote it in the family; the role of husbands, wife and children and the Christian brotherhood and in the evangelization ministry.
“We’ll learn what true joy is, how to cultivate it, how to maintain it…. so that we can serve as beacons of light,” Mr Lett said.
He added: “May this convention become a milestone in your development as a joyful imitator of our happy God.
In a telephone interview, Mr Nathaniel Gbedemah, Communications Officer and Spokesman of the Public Information Desk at the Ghana National Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the decision to hold the conventions online was made in the interest of public health and safety.
He said: “The decision to hold our conventions online was not made lightly. Millions of people benefit from these public gatherings, which are always free of charge, around the world each year.
“But in the interest of public health and safety, it was clear that cancelling our gatherings was the right course, even in places where they would have been permitted.
“Our Creator values life highly, and we believe this arrangement honours that high standard.”
With reference to a letter from the Governing Body to the media, Mr Gbedemah, said for the first time, since 1879, no large venues for gatherings of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been scheduled.
He quoted from the letter that: “For the first time in our history, the grand-scale, multi-day conventions that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ have hosted each year at numerous large venues across the globe will not be held. This year, conventions will be virtual in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic.
Portions of the three-day “Always Rejoice”! programme will be released incrementally in six segments, starting July 6, 2020, on jw.org. The convention will be available in whole in over 360 languages and in part in nearly 120.
According to the letter, each member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses will present two discourses during the convention. The program will be presented in a variety of formats, including brief discourses, interviews, short videos, and a full-length video Bible drama.
The letter observed that city executives, many of whom have welcomed Jehovah’s Witnesses’ conventions for years, are aware that not having the Witnesses’ convention this year will impact the hospitality industry.
According to Mr Gbedemah, last year, 144,570 Jehovah’s Witnesses convened in Ghana for the convention, injecting millions of Ghana Cedis to the country’s economy. Smaller conventions reportedly still generated millions in revenue.
Despite facing economic losses, venue executives have expressed their respect and appreciation for Jehovah’s Witnesses cancelling their in-person events.
Each year, many who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses attend the annual conventions.
There are over 8.6 million active Witnesses worldwide, yet the 2019 conventions had a peak attendance of over 14 million. With the program available online, in hundreds of languages, this may be the most attended convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses to date.