CEREMONY: Graeme Rendell, of Daylesford, attends to Bendigo’s David Ruddick, 19, as he is baptised.
Thousands witness rite of baptism
Monday, 10 July 2006
THOUSANDS of people gathered in Bendigo at the weekend for the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ annual convention.
It is the sixth time the convention has been held in Bendigo and this year’s had one of the biggest attendances yet, with 3258 attending yesterday morning. Followers came from Mildura, Broken Hill and Ballarat and as far away as Sydney and Adelaide for the event, which provided an opportunity for them to reaffirm their faith and to welcome a new group of baptised Witnesses.
Ten members were baptised on Saturday. Immersed in a pool of water and emerging as a baptised Jehovah’s Witness. David Ruddick, a 19-year-old member from Bendigo, was very proud to have taken part in the rite.
‘‘It was a very enjoyable experience,” he said.
‘‘I was raised in the truth, but probably in the past 12 months I’ve been putting in a big effort. ‘‘That means going out on the preaching route more, and studying more. I want to do Jehovah’s will for the rest of my life.” Children as young as 12 can be baptised, providing they understand their faith. The candidates lined up in T-shirts and shorts with towel in hand, in front of a small pool.
With 3000 people watching, one by one they sat inside the pool. Then an attendant supported them as they lay back, completely submerged. Baptisms are usually only conducted at such conventions. Jehovah’s Witness spokesperson Peter Verrion said he hadn’t seen so many people attend a regional convention before. ‘‘The first one we had here in Bendigo in 2000, we had about 1900 people, but it’s been growing,” he said. ‘‘This one is the biggest we’ve had. I think, in general, congregations are getting bigger because of the preaching work.
‘‘We invite people to share in the Bible with us, and study the Bible with us. ‘‘We now have 6.5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world. In Bendigo there are 400 baptised Witnesses, but there are more people attending.” In the next two months, 23 regional conventions will be held in Australia.