LOS ANGELES (RNS) — Nearly a year after Jehovah’s Witnesses resumed their trademark door-to-door preaching, adherents of the faith will convene in person for one of their largest conventions after a three-year pandemic pause.
Kingdom Halls — where congregants typically meet twice a week — reopened for in-person worship in April 2022. In September, door knocking resumed.
Now, beginning Friday (June 2), the three-day gathering, centered on the theme of patience, will be held at the Long Beach Arena in Los Angeles County.
Conventions are an important part of the culture of the global denomination of 8.6 million. The Long Beach event is just the first of 12 Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions to take place at the arena this summer, and some 6,000 conventions will be held worldwide as part of this year’s “Exercise Patience”! Convention series. Leaders expect about 80,000 attendees to attend the summer conventions in Long Beach.
In the U.S., more than 700 Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions will be held in 144 host cities, the denomination said.
But the Long Beach Arena is one of the largest venues that Jehovah’s Witnesses use in the United States, said Gene Beltran, a regional spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Beltran said thousands of volunteers gathered at the arena on Thursday to help clean the venue before the start of the convention.
“There’s an exuberance among Jehovah’s Witnesses that is so palpable,” Beltran told Religion News Service.
While congregants can now engage with others with their public ministries and at regular services, Beltran said there’s a lot of “excitement about being back at a very large venue.”
The lessons discussed in convention sessions are drawn from the Bible. In Long Beach this weekend, symposiums will touch on building friendships, growing spiritually and reaching goals. A live baptism will be performed Saturday morning and a prerecorded drama will be featured in two parts during the weekend afternoon sessions.
In the wake of the pandemic, Witnesses shut their Kingdom Halls, suspended door knocking and canceled hundreds of in-person summer worship conventions in cities across the U.S. When they canceled close to 800 conventions in 2020, it was the first time since 1897 that they had not held their in-person conventions.
The year before the pandemic, in 2019, they held 5,752 worldwide conventions, including a meeting of 40,000 Witnesses in Phoenix that contributed an estimated $60 million to the local economy, according to The Arizona Republic.
In total, the 2019 conventions attracted more than 14.1 million attendees from across the globe, including millions who are not members of the Witnesses.
A 2013 Long Beach Press-Telegram news article reported that Jehovah’s Witnesses conventions generated an estimated $64.5 million in economic impact.
Religion News Service Reporter Kathryn Post contributed to this report.