New kingdom hall complete
District convention returning to Toledo; 32,000 expected
The new kingdom hall – the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ term for a house of worship – is twice the size of the facility it replaces. The structure will be shared by two congregations. The cost was about $340,000, thanks to volunteers. John L. Harrington, in the auditorium of the new facility, says the convention is returning to Toledo because the participants were treated so well last year.
( THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY )
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
EVENTFUL SUMMER FOR JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
A new kingdom hall is just about ready, and a six-week district convention will begin next month for area Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The new West Toledo kingdom hall – the term the Jehovah’s Witnesses use for a house of worship – was built on the same property as its previous facility, 3725 West Alexis Rd. The old building was bulldozed. The new one, at 5,000 square feet, is twice as big as the kingdom hall it replaces.
The district conventions are slated to be held in SeaGate Convention Centre starting the weekend of July 14. There will be six of the Friday-through-Sunday sessions downtown, continuing every weekend through Aug. 18-20. The weekend of Aug. 4-6 will be a Spanish-language convention.
Hundreds of conventions are held simultaneously throughout the country, with this year’s theme being “Deliverance at Hand.” Lecture topics include “Jehovah Tenderly Cares for Older Ones,” “Deliverance from Painful Distress,” and “The Role of Angels in Rendering Public Service.”
Each of the Toledo weekend sessions, which are free and open to the public, is expected to draw about 7,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses from throughout Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.
Last year marked the first time the Jehovah’s Witnesses held their district convention in downtown Toledo. The gatherings drew more than 47,000 people over eight weekends and pumped an estimated $15 million into the local economy, according a study by University of Toledo Professor Emeritus Thomas Klein for the Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau.
This year, there will be two fewer weekend sessions because two of them are being moved to Saginaw, Mich., according to John Harrington, an organizer of the district conventions.
“We’re expecting about 32,000 people in Toledo this year,” Mr. Harrington said.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses felt that the Toledo meetings were successful
enough last year for a return engagement this summer.
“Everybody was pleased with the city,” Mr. Harrington said. “The merchants were friendly and the police department was very cooperative and looked after our people. Toledo’s a good place for us.”
Construction on the Alexis Road kingdom hall began in April and was finished recently, but the congregation is awaiting an occupancy permit from the city, Mr. Harrington said.
The kingdom hall would have cost about $1.5 million to build, but with volunteer help and other cost-cutting efforts the actual price for the congregation was about $340,000, he said.
“We had 450 volunteers in one weekend to help put the structure up,” Mr. Harrington said.
Kingdom halls vary in design according to the location, from open-air, thatched-roof structures in tropical climates to renovated commercial buildings in some U.S. cities. They can have windows but there are no crosses or religious images, which Jehovah’s Witnesses feel can become idols.
The Alexis Road kingdom hall is shared by the North Congregation and the Jackman Congregation, each of which has about 100 members, Mr. Harrington said. Services are held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
There are eight kingdom halls and 13 congregations in the Toledo area. Jehovah’s Witnesses, founded in Allegheny, Pa., in the late 1870s, have approximately 6.5 million members in 235 nations, including 35,000 in Ohio.
The 2006 “Deliverance at Hand” district convention of the Jehovah’s Witnesses will be held Friday through Sunday starting July 14-16 and continuing for the next six weeks at the SeaGate Convention Centre, 401 Jefferson Ave. Morning sessions start at 9:30 a.m. Afternoon sessions start at 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1:40 p.m. on Sunday.