Watching a baptism

Attendees watch a baptism ceremony during a previous Jehovah’s Witnesses convention at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton.

The annual convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Belton is canceled this year and moved online because of the COVID-19 crisis.

The convention, expected to draw 6,000 people, was scheduled to be held on three weekends in July at the Bell County Expo Center.

“Our worship is centered on our mutual love for our God and for each other, irrespective of where we are physically,” Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said in a news release. “This year’s convention program underscores the unity of our international family and the joy that people can have against a backdrop of stress and despair.”

The online convention —a first for the Jehovah’s Witnesses — will have the theme, “Always Rejoice!”

Congregations, families, and guests can view the program during July and August 2020. Typically, these conventions are held in stadiums, arenas, conference halls, and smaller gathering places around the world.

This weekend, many will view the convention from their private homes along with their fellow congregants worldwide, the release said.

“As much as we long to meet together, life is far too precious to put at risk,” Hendriks said. “The virtual meetings we have held over the past four months have proved to all of us that it’s not about where we are physically. It’s about where we are spiritually. In many ways we are closer as a spiritual family than ever before.”

The program is to be released in six installments, each corresponding to a morning or afternoon session of what would have been three successive convention days.

The final weekend of the virtual event is scheduled for August 29-30.

The program explores questions like: What contributes to finding and sustaining joy? How can you cultivate joy in the family? How can you remain joyful in difficult times? A key feature will be a Bible-based drama that considers the life of Nehemiah and how he helped the ancient nation of Israel find joy in their worship of God.

To view the online convention, visit jw.org.