Breaking a century-old tradition in the name of health and safety, 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.
Summers in Oklahoma City have featured Jehovah’s Witnesses streaming into the city to take over hotels and fill restaurants as they held their conventions at the Jim Norick 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.
Eric Selby of Pauls Valley has a long history of attending the annual conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Throughout the past 40 years he has enjoyed the in-person events at various Texas and Oklahoma venues, most recently including the Jim Norick Arena. He recounted how the program and fellowship of past conventions has uplifted him.
“Sometimes you can be dealing with something,” Selby explained.
“It’s easy to think that you are alone in whatever you’re dealing with. It’s nice to see that you are not, that there are others who can relate and are also pushing through.”
The organization’s shift to an online program has not diminished Selby’s excitement for this year’s event.
“I like the thought that globally we are all watching at the same time. Jehovah’s Witnesses earthwide are all watching the same sessions on the same weekends. So, even though we are not able to see each other, that gives us unity.”
“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 beginning June 28.
All are invited to attend the event by going to jw.org on the web or JW Broadcasting on the free JW Library iOS or Android App, or on streaming platforms like Roku TV, Apple TV, and others. The program is free and accessible to all.