A Jehovah’s Witness convention that draws several thousand visitors to Tacoma each summer is moving out of town, but apparently only for this year.
The event is moving to Seattle this year to accommodate extra participation of faith group members from three states and 40 countries.
It’s the first time the event is happening outside Tacoma since the Tacoma Dome opened in 1983.
“This isn’t ending our relationship with the Tacoma Dome,” said Jim Nelson, regional spokesman for the event. “We’re very comfortable there, and we have a good rapport.”
The 32nd annual meeting will take place July 4-6 at Husky Stadium, which is able to hold the estimated 37,000 who are expected to attend.
Both Nelson and Kim Bedier, director of public assembly facilities for the city of Tacoma, said the convention will return to Tacoma next year.
There have been talks to continue the partnership through 2020, an extension Bedier said the city is “thrilled” about.
Last year, about 23,000 Witnesses attended the convention over a span of three weekends; Seattle’s event will be a one-weekend affair drawing Witnesses from Washington, Idaho and Montana as well as participation from foreign delegates.
Before the convention, the visitors will tour popular Pacific Northwest destinations such as Mount Rainier. They also will deploy to congregations around the South Sound to share a meal with fellow Witnesses and knock on doors to spread the word about their faith and the free event.
Jehovah’s Witnesses say they’ve found the one true religion. They believe that Jehovah (God) will restore the Earth to an eternal paradise under the rule of a heavenly government for those who follow biblical principles.
Learning about the Bible is at the center of the convention, Nelson said. This year’s theme is “Keep Seeking First God’s Kingdom!” Nelson said there will be performances that incorporate scripture with real-world scenarios, as well as baptisms.
“We try to ensure that folks have an objective view of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he said.
Door-to-door outreach begins this weekend, according to a news release, and will continue for the following two weeks. Invitations will be distributed locally by 23 congregations in Pierce County, the release states.
Seattle’s event is one of 193 scheduled conventions in 71 cities around the country this year.
Nelson said the bigger convention is something the church does once a year in major cities, such as Rome. He said the Pacific Northwest was long overdue to host it.
As for impacts on the Dome, Bedier said there are no concerns about this year’s change.
Other high-profile events are scheduled for the summer. Classic rock group the Eagles are scheduled to perform in August, and a nine-day RV sale and Hot Import Nights car show will fill the Dome during the time the Jehovah’s Witness convention would have taken place.
She said the convention generates an average of $50,000 each year.