Jehovah’s Witnesses gather in Rochester
For many, convention is an annual pilgrimage
Every year for at least the past 15, Willie Conner has made certain to travel from his home in Middleport, Niagara County, to Rochester for the annual district convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“It is very spiritual,” Conner said Friday as he worked as a volunteer attendant greeting newcomers near the entry doors of the Blue Cross Arena. Conner said he became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses more than two decades ago, when his heart was moved by a speaker’s words at a friend’s funeral. “He really sparked my interest, and I realized there’s hope.”
The theme of this year’s convention is “God’s Word is Truth!” and the gathering is expected to draw more than 4,000 people from two dozen Jehovah’s Witness congregations across western New York. It is the first of three such conventions that will be held in Rochester this summer.
Activities and Bible study sessions throughout the weekend will all reinforce the convention’s theme, said Leonard Roselli, Jehovah’s Witnesses communications director. The three-day program includes question-and-answer sessions, dramas and a baptism. The Bible-based educational programs underscore the Witnesses’ family values, said Rosselli.
“The Bible has the solutions to all of our problems: crime, family issues, prejudice,” he said. “With God’s word, you have the basis to guide all of your life.”
The message of Friday’s keynote address touched on the responsibility of all Jehovah’s Witnesses to stand against false doctrines and share the word of God by “preaching the Kingdom message all over the world.”
The Witnesses hold nearly 400 annual conventions in about 100 United States cities each year. Rosselli said there are about 1 million Witnesses in the United States and more than 7 million worldwide.
Jakia Gray of Syracuse came to the convention Friday with family members. She’s engaging in Bible study to deepen her faith, and came here to meet new people and reaffirm her spiritual beliefs.
“This,” she said, holding out her Bible, “is truth.”
The convention is open to the public, and runs through Sunday at the Blue Cross Arena. Doors open around 8 a.m. and programming runs until around 5 p.m. For a program schedule, go to http://www.jw.org.