For the first time in nearly 60 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses are back in the Baltimore area hosting their annual convention at UMBC’s Catonsville campus each weekend through Aug. 18.
This year’s convention, one of the largest global conventions that spans six continent and more than 200 countries in excess of 400 languages, is themed, “Love Never Fails.”
The first of the seven-week stay at UMBC began Friday, July 12, and the organization expects an average of 5,000 people for each day of the convention, which will run every Friday through Sunday.
Each day, the program begins at 9:20 a.m. with a music video that officials said helps prepare convention-goers for a series of bible-based discourses, video presentations, a baptism, and a special feature-length film about the life of the biblical character, King Josiah.
On Friday, delegates will learn how love never fails and they’ll also learn how to strengthen their love despite problems like a troubled upbringing, chronic illness, or poverty. Through a series of short documentary videos about the natural world, convention-goers will “see evidence of God’s love,” organizers said.
On Saturday, several discourses will consider bible principles that help husbands, wives and children show unfailing love for one another while on Sunday, a talk titled, “True Love in a Hate-Filled World- Where?” will be giving in which officials said will make clear how showing love is helping millions of people worldwide to overcome prejudice and hatred.
The feature film, “The Story of Josiah: Love Jehovah; Hate What is Bad,” about Josiah will be shown over two days and it depicts how Josiah grew up surrounded by bad influences but became known for his deeds of loyal love.
The gathering marks the first convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Baltimore area since the 1960s when the group, known for its door-to-door preaching activity, assembled at the old Memorial Stadium which stood for more than a half-century along 33rd Street around Ellerslie Avenue until its demolition in 2012.
The convention also is expected to be an economic boon locally with hotels and nearby restaurants and shops benefiting.
Having the Jehovah’s Witnesses convention results in an economic impact of more than $3 million just from several days, said Donna Keyes of the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania Visitor’s Center, where the organization is also hosting a series of conventions at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre.
“Economic impact of having all these visitors coming in and staying in our local hotels and going to our local restaurants and everything from gas stations is a great financial win for everybody in the area when we have these conventions and the large groups that come into town,” Keyes said.
In Miami, where a series of larger conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are taking place, even the mayor has taken notice of the impact.
“I love the fact that the message is ‘Love Never Fails.’ It’s a very positive message,” said Mayor Francis X. Suarez. “I think [the convention] is nothing but good for any major city in the United States or around the world.”
Witness officials said they are confident the UMBC Catonsville and the greater Baltimore community will ultimately share similar experiences.
Admission is free and no collections are taken. For additional information, go to www.jw.org.