June 06, 2013 5:10 pm
This is one weekend a year when Rimrock Arena at MetraPark turns into a house of worship.
Starting Friday, 3,600 Jehovah’s Witnesses from Eastern Montana, northern Wyoming and western North Dakota and South Dakota will gather over three days for their annual district convention.
The number of participants is smaller than in the past, but Joe Kurkowski, spokesman for the group, said there’s a good reason for that.
“We actually have two conventions in Montana this year,” he said. “It used to only be in Billings, but just two weeks ago, they had a convention in Missoula.”
The reason for that, he said, is that Jehovah’s Witnesses is seeing growth worldwide, including in Montana. From mid-May through mid-September, Jehovah’s Witnesses will hold 385 conventions in 103 cities throughout the United States, and more will be held in other countries.
The theme of this year’s convention is “God’s Word is Truth.” The public is invited to attend all meetings. That’s why area members take the time to drop off invitations at local homes, Kurkowski said.
To illustrate the group’s international flavor, spokesman Mike Glenn said its website is published “in more languages than any other website."
“You can access it in languages most people haven’t heard of,” Glenn said. “The reason we do that is we want to give access to everybody about Bible truth because we find it so beneficial.”
On Thursday, about 200 members from local congregations spent the morning scrubbing the arena to get it ready for the convention. That’s an annual part of the convention preparation, Kurkowski said.
“We spray down and wash down all the chairs, scrape gum off the chairs and sweep between all the aisles,” Kurkowski said.
The volunteers also clean the bathrooms and wash windows.
It’s not that the arena isn’t in acceptable condition, he said.
“But for three days this is a house of worship, so we want to make sure all the nooks and crannies are clean,” he said. "It's a respect thing."
Highlights of the convention include baptism on Saturday morning and a costume drama on Sunday afternoon, Kurkowski said. Volunteers spend about two months creating the costumes and rehearsing the drama that this year will focus on Esther, an Old Testament queen of Persia.