Prior to 2019, summers in Kingston, R.I., were marked by Jehovah’s Witnesses filling hotels and restaurants as they attended their annual conventions at the Ryan Center. In 2020, the pandemic interrupted that tradition when the Witnesses canceled their in-person events throughout the world, and held their convention programs as virtual events in more than 500 languages. In August, they bring the tradition back to Kingston with this year’s “Exercise Patience” convention.
“We appreciated the convenience and quality of our virtual conventions, but nothing can replace being together in person,” said Daniel Sideris, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“We have a long history of conventions in Rhode Island, so it’s something special for us to be back again this year.”
Around 60 or 70 members of the Martha’s Vineyard congregation will travel to the convention, which takes place August 18 to 20 in Kingston. They’ll join more than 3,000 delegates at the convention, which has been taking place for around 100 years.
Seth Williams and his wife and daughter will make the trip this weekend to hear a series of talks and video presentations that accompany them.
“A lot of it is practical ways to apply the Bible in your life, and they have these pretty awesome videos that correspond to what they’re describing, and that makes it easier to remember and makes the point really clear,” Williams said. And, he added, it’s a great way to spend time with his family.
“It’s a neat family event,” he told The Times by phone. “We see a lot of our friends, and because of the pandemic, we haven’t met in a long time. We did an online convention and streamed it, and we had that in our homes. That’s why it’s special this year, to be together with 3,000 to 4,000 people from the region … lots of friends we haven’t seen in a long time.”
Williams said his family volunteers to clean and set up at the start of each day and at the end of the day’s events, another aspect they look forward to.
“So it’s not just about what we take away, but what we can give too,” he said.