Jehovah’s Witnesses gather for convention at Roanoke Civic Center
A crowd of 4,168 was on hand for the first day of the event’s symposiums, talks and dramatic productions.
Henry Casper has seen the number of people and families attending Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions climb during his 50 years of coming to the events like the one that opened Friday in Roanoke.
“It’s exciting for us,” Casper said. “It really is. When we started years ago here in the United States, [we had] far less, but we’ve had a good response.”
On Friday, 4,168 people came to the Roanoke Civic Center for the opening of a three-day gathering that features roughly 50 talks and symposiums. The audience represented 44 congregations, including several from West Virginia.
“For us it gives us a chance to associate together, renew friendships with people we’ve known and seen through the years, so it’s an excellent time for getting together,” Casper said. “We benefit from the instruction.”
The convention, which has been held in Roanoke on and off since the 1930s, features programs and symposiums that reflect a daily theme. The program also features drama productions that help teach biblical lessons, which tend to be a favorite among children and adults alike.
Randolph Hare is the program overseer of this year’s convention and the coordinator of the body of the elder at the North Congregation of Lexington. He said the quality of the program has improved since he first
started attending conventions in 1968.
Hare, who spoke on Friday as part of the symposium on “How Did You Learn the Truth,” discussed how being raised in a Christian household can be helpful to children.
“Being raised in the truth is a blessing from Jehovah,” Hare said.
After his talk, Hare said he continues to speak at the conventions because of the way it can improve the lives of children and their families who attend. Hare finds the convention to be rewarding, especially when he can share how parents should train their children in God’s laws and
“It gives us that opportunity on a really informal basis to encourage each other,” Hare said. “And certainly formally from the platform to give Bible-based instructions that all of us really need to hear and that we can benefit from.”
In the same seats where people have listened to rock concerts and watched comedians, the brothers and sisters of Jehovah’s Witnesses from all across the Roanoke Valley area sat and followed along with their Bibles to each of the speakers.
Among those watching the programs Friday were Ryan and Jen Stege, who brought their three children, Kara, Karina and Cohen. Ryan Stege said it was important for them to bring the children with them because it helps the entire family become better citizens in the community. The two parents also agreed that the conventions have helped in each of their stages in life.
“I think it depends a lot on where you are in life,” Jen Stege said. “When we were single, you know, it was really interesting to hear parts about how as a single person you could do more to please God and then as married people, before we had children, to think about how it drew us closer as husband and wife, our roles that God arranged for us, and then now that we have children we listen more, especially to the parts on families.”
Casper, who’s been attending conventions with his wife Karen since they were first married 41 years ago, said the conventions help accentuate God’s word for the followers of Jehovah.
The two have been attending district conventions like the one this weekend in Roanoke, as well as national and international conventions all across the world, each year they’ve been married.
“I think generally people want to know the purpose of life and these conventions help fill that,” Casper said.