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.
As early as the 1930s, the summers in Roanoke featured Jehovah’s Witnesses streaming into the city to take over hotels and fill restaurants as they held their conventions. Jehovah’s Witnesses have enjoyed a long history using the Berglund Center Coliseum for multi-day programs on such topics as love, joy, courage and endurance. This year, the world’s largest convention organization will emphasize faith, including how modern-day Christians can learn the quality from notable women of the Bible.
“Throughout the ages, women have often been put down and their examples overlooked,” said Shirley Yowell, a resident of the town of Culpeper. “But the Bible leaves no doubt that God values women as much as men. One example that has always stood out to me is when God told Abraham to listen to Sarah. Her input was valuable to God and her advice worthy of following. We’re continuing the tradition of giving faithful women the respect they deserve.”
Some names will be familiar to those who watch the program, which is being streamed free-of-charge in more than 500 languages across 240 lands. Women such as Sarah, Rahab and Mary are well known to Bible readers. But other less prominent — though no less important — women will feature on the program as well, according to organization representatives.
“There are many negative views on women today,” said Sally Rector, who also resides in Culpeper. “But the Bible proves that God respects and dignifies women. This builds my confidence that God values me as a woman and I can rely on Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization to do the same!”
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly interrupted Jehovah’s Witnesses’ convention tradition, moving the international religious organization to cancel in-person events throughout the world and launch a global virtual program. It was a first for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have held public conventions in stadiums, arenas, convention centers and theaters around the world since 1897.
“Powerful by Faith!” is the theme of the 2021 global event, which is being delivered over six weekends during July and August to some 15-20 million expected viewers. The weekend program dedicated to women of strong faith became available for streaming or download beginning August 9 and will remain indefinitely on the organization’s website.
“Faith has helped our global brotherhood to continue 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 www.jw.org on the web or JW Broadcasting on the free JW Library app available for iOS or Android, or on streaming platforms such as ROKU TV, Apple TV and others. The program is free and accessible to all.