“Imitating Jesus” in everyday life is an important concept to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs. And it’s such a priority the religious group convenes nationwide at separate times during the summer to talk about it.
The free three-day convention focuses on the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and discussing how Jesus’ qualities can be reflected in each person on a daily basis.
The 2015 Conventions in Georgia are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday July 3-5, July 17-19 and Sept. 4-6 at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth. The group will not take up an offering during the program.
“We want everyone to be able to come and feel at home,” said Alfred Wright, one of the event’s organizers in Georgia. “If anyone attending has questions, the people surrounding them will be more than happy to answer them.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ core principles include belief in Jesus and God, in the teachings of the Bible and in the compatibility of creation and science.
“We believe that the Bible teaches that Jesus is the Son of God, not part of a Trinity,” the organization’s website states. “We do not believe that the soul is immortal, that there is any basis in Scripture for saying that God tortures people in an everlasting hell, or that those who take the lead in religious activities should have titles that elevate them above others.”
Witnesses are part of the Christian faith but do not celebrate Christmas, Easter, birthdays or other holidays because they feel they are in line with pagan teachings.
“Jesus commanded that we commemorate his death, not his resurrection,” the website states. “We observe this memorial each year on the anniversary of his death according to the Bible’s lunar calendar. We believe that Christmas (and birthdays) is not approved by God because it is rooted in pagan customs and rites.”
The three-day convention opens with songs and lessons from the Bible, along with speakers on various topics throughout the weekend. Each convention may have different speakers nationwide, but the themes remain the same.
“There is a part for young people, wives, husbands, parents, single people and all of those figures who are under pressure and want to know how they can ‘imitate Jesus,’” Wright said.
Each speaker is a recognized member of the congregation. The messages are directed at a number of different topics and complemented with worship songs, a theatrical production and a Bible discourse.
“The speakers (who) are appearing at the conventions are members of the organization and part of our local congregations here in Georgia,” Wright said.
Wright emphasized the 2015 theme, “Imitate Jesus,” came from the hardships of everyday life that people experience. The goal for the convention is to show people how they can deal with struggles and problems without compromising their morals or ethics.
“In today’s world, individuals are often tested as to what their standard of ethics is and if they actually live by those things,” Wright said. “We have patterned ours after Jesus’ example, and we look to see how we can have those qualities in a practical way.
“Jesus lived in a very challenging time, there were changes taking place in Israel at that time and in the 21st century,” he continued. “We live in a challenging time, and we can use his example to deal with the challenges that we have to face.”
The first weekend of the convention, June 19-21, drew more than 8,000 attendees. Wright believes attendance will increase throughout the summer.
“We expect about 40,000 people total,” he said. “The attendance usually goes up after the first conference because people missed it or forgot and want to go and see what it’s about.”
The full weekend’s program can be found at www.jw.org.