Jehovah’s Witnesses are asking that question (translation: “What is the Kingdom of God?”) when inviting people to a Spanish-language convention starting Friday at SeaGate Convention Centre.
It will be the first of the denomination’s six weekend gatherings — and the only one in Spanish — scheduled in downtown Toledo this summer, with the theme of “Let God’s Kingdom Come.”
Lectures on Bible themes will be offered daily; a full-costume drama will be staged each Sunday, and water baptisms will take place on Saturdays.
Lew Ellis and his wife Lu are helping organize the Spanish-language convention, which runs Friday through June 19.
For the Ellises, learning Spanish was a strategic move they undertook for evangelistic purposes.
“The Hispanic population is experiencing tremendous growth, so my wife and I decided six years ago to study Spanish,” said Mr. Ellis, 62, a Toledo native and Libbey High School graduate who headed a local nonprofit housing organization.
Jehovah’s Witnesses from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky will converge on Toledo for the Spanish convention. The English-language meetings, to be held every Friday through Sunday in July, will draw from Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana.
Toledo’s first Spanish-language Jehovah’s Witness congregation was founded in 1968, Mr. Ellis said, and today there are two congregations with a total of about 150 members.
All told, there are 17 Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations, each with up to 100 members, that meet in seven kingdom halls.
Mark Smith, a local spokesman for the denomination, said that there is also a sign-language congregation in the area and that plans are under way to start Arabic and Chinese congregations, and possibly one in French.
Jehovah’s Witnesses were listed among the fastest-growing religious groups in the 2011 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, reporting a 2 percent increase from 2010 to 1,092,169 members.
This is the seventh consecutive year the denomination has held conventions in Toledo.
The total of about 36,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses expected to attend will contribute between $11 million and $12 million to the local economy, according to a 2005 study.
Jehovah’s Witness conventions are held simultaneously in 98 U.S. cities and around the world.
— David Yonke