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Local denomination holding annual convention virtually for second year in a row

Faith

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Local Jehovah’s Witnesses watching annual convention from their homes for the second year in a row. Learn more about the conventions in the video player above. | Photo and video courtesy Keith Hildreth

IDAHO FALLS – A worldwide virtual event for a local denomination got underway over the weekend.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses kicked off a convention taking place over the next six weekends on Friday. Keith Hildreth, a local representative for the church, tells EastIdahoNews.com church members throughout eastern Idaho and northern Utah typically attend the 3-day event every summer in Ogden, Utah. This year’s event is happening virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We held it virtually last year as well, so this is the second time in history we’ve had to do that,” Hildreth says.

The convention originates from the church’s world headquarters in New York and allows members to gather and receive instruction from their governing body and others during a morning and afternoon session.

The theme for this year’s convention is “Powerful by Faith!” The Friday morning session revolved around Luke 17:5, which says, “Give us more faith.”

Mark Sanderson, a member of the church’s governing body, began the convention with a talk titled, “How Powerful is Faith?” David Schaffer, a helper to the teaching committee of the governing body, also spoke. His topic was, “Why we have faith in God’s existence.” Another helper to the teaching committee, Mark Noumair, then talked about, “Why we have Faith in God’s word.”

After a short video, Samuel Herd from the church’s governing body spoke about believing in God’s moral standards. Gerrit Lösch, another member of the governing body, concluded the morning session with an address about believing in God’s love.

A full lineup of speakers addressed church members again during an afternoon session.

RELATED | Local denomination sees massive spike in attendance during yearlong pandemic

The second week of the convention is happening this weekend and Hildreth is looking forward to one thing, in particular.

“A full-length movie all about Daniel and his life of faith — he’s the one who got thrown into the lion’s den. The first half of it will be shown Saturday afternoon and then the second half of it on Sunday afternoon,” he says. “The focus (of the convention) is about how we can strengthen our faith, especially during the times we’re living in.”

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Gerald Sutphin of Pocatello writing letters to his neighbors to invite them to watch the convention. | Courtesy Keith Hildreth

Jehovah’s Witnesses have been holding annual conventions for more than 100 years. The first one dates back to 1898 and was called the Believer’s Convention, according to a video Hildreth provided, which you can watch in the video player above. A convention at Yankee Stadium in New York more than 50 years later had record-breaking attendance up to that time. More than 1.7 million church members across the U.S. attended conventions in 2019.

As the worldwide church begins this year’s virtual convention for the second year in a row, local church members say they are grateful for the ability to gather through the power of technology.

“There are many, many blessings of having the convention broadcast in our home,” Gerald Sutphin, a practicing Jehovah’s Witness in Pocatello, says in a news release.

Though he and his wife, Terry, miss seeing their fellow Witnesses and being with them, the couple says they feel a sense of unity watching the program with millions of others around the globe.

“It’s nice to see on a bigger scale that we’re such a worldwide brotherhood, we’re all united,” Terry says in a news release. “It’s an international event.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a total worldwide membership of 8.6 million and more than 120,000 congregations. Between Preston and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, there are at least 14 Jehovah’s Witness congregations, with a total of 800-1,000 church members throughout the area.

The convention is being translated in more than 500 languages and is available to anyone. Hildreth says church members are encouraged to watch it live but it is available on-demand on the church’s website to watch at your own convenience.

“It’s an open invitation to the public. There will be talks that are for all members of the family — children, parents, single parents, elderly. There’s something for everybody,” says Hildreth.

“Faith has helped our global brotherhood to continue to thrive even during a pandemic,” Robert Hendriks, a U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, says in a news release. “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.”

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