Macie and Josiah Light, of Talladega, have enjoyed attending the weekly installments of the first-ever virtual convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses with their parents this summer, but the youngsters say they’re especially looking forward to what they’ll see this weekend.
The 2020 “Always Rejoice”! convention program resumes streaming at jw.org this week for its concluding session, which will be highlighted by the feature film, “Nehemiah: The Joy of Jehovah is Your Stronghold - Part 2.”
The drama was produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses for release during this year’s convention program. Set in ancient Persia and Israel and based on the first six chapters of the Bible book of Nehemiah, it depicts how the eponymous character faced opposition as he tries to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the spirituality of his countrymen. The first segment of the film was released the weekend of Aug. 8-9.
Full-costume dramatizations of Biblical stories have long been part of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ conventions, and in recent years, the annual programs have included releases of feature films about such Bible characters as Josiah, Jonah and Hezekiah.
“They are exciting,” 9-year-old Josiah Light said. “They help me imagine what it might be like to live during those events.”
Macie, 12, said she has been impressed by the production quality of the drama films and what she has learned from them.
“I am amazed at how much work goes into making these films, and it really helps me see how I can relate to their struggles and successes,” she said.
Their parents, Matt and Megan Light, believe the dramas have a positive effect on their children.
“As a parent, I am so thankful for the positive lessons that my children are taught through these films,” Megan said. “It teaches them that the characters in the Bible were real people with feelings like theirs, and they want to be just like them.”
While the films could be seen simply as entertainment, Matt said, they serve a greater purpose.
“These films bring the pages of the Bible to life,” he said. “But more than just being entertaining, they teach valuable lessons and confirm the Bible’s relevance to our day. They are true highlights of our conventions.”
Like thousands of other Jehovah’s Witnesses in east and central Alabama, the Light family looked forward to attending the three-day “Always Rejoice”! convention in Birmingham this summer, but the gatherings were canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Three convention programs -- two in English and one in Spanish -- had been scheduled at the Birmingham Crossplex, with an expected attendance of 7,500.
This weekend’s virtual program is the final of six installments, each corresponding to a portion of what would ordinarily have been three successive convention days. The first session was viewed during the weekend of July 11-12.
Individuals interested in viewing this weekend’s program, as well as the five previous installments (including Part 1 of the Nehemiah film), can access it anonymously at jw.org, via the “Library” tab. There is no paywall, fee or obligation.
Those interested can also use the “About Us” tab to locate a local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses to obtain more information about the convention or the organization itself. Bible drama films presented at previous years’ conventions may be viewed via the “Library” tab.
Each year many who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses attend the organization’s conventions, according to Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. The number of Witnesses worldwide is more than 8.6 million, but the 2019 conventions had a peak attendance of more than 14 million.
With the program available online in more than 400 languages, this year’s program may be the most-attended convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses to date, Hendricks said.