(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
More than 2,600 Jehovah's Witnesses gathered at the convention, held July 15 to 17, at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo.
This year's convention focused on God's Kingdom, which is mentioned in the model prayer in Matthew 6:9, 10, and drew Witnesses from Illinois and Missouri.
Tom Kelsey, a new service director for the convention, said the topic of God's Kingdom not only appeals to Jehovah's Witnesses, but to anyone who studies the Bible.
"We discussed the topic of God's Kingdom. That's a pretty interesting topic for anyone, especially those who read the Bible on a regular basis," Kelsey said. "Jehovah's Witnesses study the Bible and we believe that God's Kingdom is an actual government that our King will set up with his son Jesus. I know some religions teach that God's Kingdom is within a person's heart, but we believe it's an actual kingdom ruled by God."
In addition to discussions about this year's topic, the three-day long convention featured multiple speakers, interviews, question and answer sessions and costume dramas.
Kelsey said the staged dramas dealt with issues that many people face in today's society.
"One of the dramas dealt with the breakdown of the modern-day family unit," Kelsey said. "It showed how we can all get distracted with work and school and not take the time to come together as a family. In the end, the drama emphasized how important it is for families to be close because of all the negative factors that can effect all of us in our everyday lives."
The convention also included discussions about many of the prophecies that appear in the Bible and offered advice for both senior and younger members of the congregation.
"We discussed topics on prophesy," Kelsey said. "We also had topics that were very relevant for today's young members, teaching them how to deal with bullying and peer pressure. We also had specific topics for older members enduring health issues."
Thomas Quinn, who has attended 52 district conferences during his years worshipping as a Jehovah's Witness, said this year's convention stood out from previous meetings.
"I've been a Witness for 52 years and this year's convention was outstanding because of how it was structured," Quinn said. "There were segments, some of which were 10 minutes long, and speakers had a short amount of time to get their point across. That made it more meaningful because we were able to stay more involved without feeling as though we were listening to a college lecture."
Kelsey said many Witnesses who attended the conference found comfort in what this year's convention had to offer.
"The Bible talks about us living in times like we are now with wars, earthquakes and other natural disasters," Kelsey said. "It's comforting to know that the Bible has prophesied all of it and that helps strengthen our faith. In fact, the comment I heard most from those attending was that this conference was just exactly what they needed right now because we're living in critical times that are hard to deal with. The Bible helps us get through that."
2002 Arena Parkway, St. Charles, MO