Sunday, June 3, 2012 8:08:56 EDT PM
CORNWALL - Thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses gathered in Cornwall this weekend, packing into the civic complex and cheering on new members who were baptized on Saturday.
More than 3,800 people were in attendance for the second day of the annual convention, which brings Witnesses from across Eastern Ontario and Quebec.
Twenty-six of them were baptized - ranging in age from 11 to 79 - signaling their official membership in the faith.
As Don Hill, a speaker from Ottawa, explained it, the act was like a wedding vow: a promise to be loyal and true - but to God rather than a marriage partner.
"You're dedicating yourself to a person," he told the candidates before they took turns in a pool next to the stage in the complex arena. "...You're about to take on Jehovah's name."
Wayne Gratton, a member of the Cornwall congregation of Witnesses, said the baptisms are always a highlight of the convention.
"It doesn't mean they become religious fanatics," he said. "But they try to live their lives as close to the Bible's standard as they can."
This is the 16th year the convention has been hosted in Cornwall, bringing thousands of people over four weekends in June.
"We try to keep it central," said Gratton, explaining why they don't opt for a larger centre like Ottawa and Toronto for the annual event. "We try to keep our conventions small."
He said since the religion is supported by donations rather than compulsory giving, they also wanted a location that made the most fiscal sense. In addition, Gratton said Cornwall has always been a kind host and very supportive.
"When you find a place that's happy to have you, you stay."
The convention will continue each weekend this month.
Sessions on Sunday mornings are especially geared to the public.