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Jehovah’s Witnesses Convention expected to draw 12,000 this weekend in Winston-Salem

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David Rolfe/Journal

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — For more than 15 years, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses have gathered at the Joel Coliseum for annual conventions, but this year the conventions are featuring new technology, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. 

Dozens of volunteers were hard at work on Thursday setting up the stage and two large LED video walls for the second of four regional conventions at the coliseum this summer.

They will also be utilizing the coliseum’s Jumbotron screens.

Benjamin Williams, a convention spokesman, said this is the first year the conventions are featuring video.

“Which makes every seat a good seat,” Williams said.

They expect 12,000 people to attend the three-day convention this Friday through Sunday, which is free and open to the public and will feature Bible-based symposiums, videos and dramas. They expect attendees from as far as West Virginia, Williams said.

Other cities across the country will also hold conventions this summer. Each convention features the same program. This year’s theme is “Keep Seeking First God’s Kingdom.”

The screens will allow local convention attendees to connect with a convention in New Jersey, which will feature a number of missionaries returning from around the world. Some of the sessions will be broadcast live from the New Jersey site.

Steve Nester, who oversees the video department, said the video screens are about 10 feet tall. It takes five to six people and about four hours to set up each wall.

“It’s an improvement in the teaching ability, to be able to see the facial expressions,” Nester said.

Ninety-year-old James Dunnagan of Winston-Salem never imagined when he became a Jehovah’s Witness 70 years ago that he would be attending an annual conference with such technology. Back then, a recording was a big thing, he recalled with a chuckle.

“Now look at what technology’s done,” Dunnagan said.

Dunnagan said he enjoys attending the convention each year to learn Bible truths and refresh his memory.

“It’s so amazing to see the crowd like this,” Dunnagan said.

Yawnie Hill, 18, of Winston-Salem, attends the convention each year. She volunteered on Thursday to prepare for the conference.

“I just love seeing all the people and everyone working together,” she said. “It’s a feeling of unity.”

She is excited about this year’s convention, saying it will be one like no other with the video screens.

“It’s going to be easier to pay attention and easier to see,” Hill said.

Even though Jehovah’s Witnesses are offering more technology this year, they are not straying away from the personal connection they are known for.

Williams said they continue to knock on doors and offer to teach people about the Bible.

Witnesses are known for taking their message door-to-door. The Jehovah’s Witnesses denomination was founded in the 1870s and holds many beliefs that differ from mainstream teachings of other Christian groups.

For the past three weeks, Witnesses have been focusing on handing out invitations to the convention.

Hill said the response has been positive.

“They’ve been really receptive,” Hill said.

In a day when most people spend a lot of time on smart phones and tablets, it is nice to have that face-to-face connection.

“It’s more personal. … I think that’s really important,” Hill said.

The first summer convention, held at Joel Coliseum in early June, drew congregations from areas such as Charlotte, Elon and Greensboro. There will be a Spanish-speaking convention next weekend and the first weekend in August. Witnesses expect about 44,000 people to attend the conventions in total.

Witnesses said the 2013 conventions had an estimated economic impact of about $16 million.

The denomination boasts more than 7.9 million Witnesses worldwide, according to a convention news release.


  • rough lesson

    12,000 is that all I have more of their booklets than that ! They need to paper the G_Hood and Winston !!

    • Crystal Street Merritt

      Well some folks might consider the Lutheran church a cult as well. I’m part of no denomination, but I admire them and the Mormons, at least they are still willing to go door to door and attempt to spread what they believe to be the gospel. You can’t say that about many denominations anymore. I always give them a chance to speak their peace. I have been on the other end of that and had the door slammed in my face many a time. At least if you don’t agree with them you can witness to them.

      • FaithC

        …or they can stop coming to my door at 8:30 in the morning when I am trying to work.
        Not everyone wants someone coming around and “witnessing” to them. I have my own spiritual path, I just don’t try to shove it in people’s faces.

    • David

      Interesting, because they said the same thing about Jesus and his followers. I doubt anybody has been set upon by his own people and so roundly condemned by the religious establishments, of both the Jews and Gentiles of his times, than the apostle Paul. See Acts 28:22: But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

    • David

      Interesting, because they said the same thing about Jesus and his followers. I doubt anybody has been set upon by his own people and so roundly condemned by the religious establishments, of both the Jews and Gentiles of his times, than the apostle Paul. See Acts 28:22: But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

  • Crystal Street Merritt

    So FaithC, don’t open the door but they have right to come to your house unless you post a No Soliciting sign. And I’m sorry but from the majority of your posts, you seem to impose a lot of your beliefs on others. And there are those that believe the bible has called them to witness, not hide their light under a bushel. You can’t begrudge them for that. I have never felt that they were “shoving their beliefs in my face”. They have simply spoken kind words and offered me literature. I have even given them literature in return and they gladly accepted. And I might add I do not agree with their beliefs but admire them as my fellow man trying to follow his conscience.

  • Alex

    The only thing that outsiders are interested in is the money and business these conventions bring to the city.
    The spiritual food itself is dried up and rotten. For over 140 years this group has been saying the end is ‘at hand’ or ‘just around the corner’ or ‘sooner than you think’.
    Father time has proved that the leadership of this organization are not inspired by God or his representatives.

  • David

    Hi Alex. I understand your wariness but the bible already has an answer prepared, 2Peter 3:3-9. For YOU know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires 4 and saying: “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep [in death], all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning…” But by the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.
     However, let this one fact not be escaping YOUR notice, beloved ones, that one day is with Jehovah as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. 9 Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with YOU because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance, 2Peter 3:

    • Alex

      You use the New World Translation…an in house version of the bible to support Watchtower teachings.
      ‘Presence” is coming in reputable versions that don’t have to support weird teachings like Jesus came invisible in 1914. And one can go on and on but it is all available on the internet which your group restricts you from viewing.

      • David

        Other translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures similarly recognize the term pa•rou•si′a, Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:3,4, as meaning “presence.” Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible reads: “Tell us, when shall these be? and what is the sign of thy presence, and of the full end of the age?” Rotherham’s The Emphasised Bible says: “Tell us when these things shall be,—and what the sign of thy presence and the conclusion of the age.”

        On the other hand, in Matthew 24:30, which tells of the “Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” as Jehovah’s executioner at the war of Armageddon, the Greek word er•kho′me•non is used. Some translators use ‘coming’ for both Greek words, but those that are more careful convey the difference between the two.

      • Alex

        2 Peter 3:3-9
        New International Version (NIV)
        3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

        8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

  • Alex

    Nice try David
    All those but this is about the Watchtower and its false predictions and the culture generated by your leaders, the low profile ‘governing body’ (a term not found in the scriptures).
    One can easily google all the false statements the Watchtower and its publications have made and then you will come back with the standard ‘light is getting brighter’ excuse.

    • David

      Nice try? It’s just what the bible says. We can’t go beyond that, can we? If you are going to focus on failings, mistakes, then don’t just look at Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times, as if they alone have to be perfect; you have to take into consideration all contemporary religions and the history of all of God’s people from the very beginning. Escape from the darkness of centuries of false religion has been gradual, but the light indeed does get brighter, Prov 4:18.

      • Alex

        “….. then don’t just look at Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times”
        As much as you try to continue the smoke and mirrors, the Watchtower religion is only 140 years old. Started by American Charles Taze Russel.

  • Cathy

    Good people! I studied for a few years with the witness’s. The convention’s are wonderful! I don’t understand why there is so much hate for them.

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