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Jehovah's Witness convention won't be knocking on Barrie's door this summer

Annual gathering, which Barrie has hosted in the past, will be held online this year due to COVID; 'When one door closes, another opens and we believe this may be the biggest one yet'

For the first time in the history of the Jehovah’s Witness multi-day conventions, the annual event will be held online.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have hosted their event each year at large venues across Canada — including Barrie's Sadlon Arena — and around the world, but this year the conventions will be streamed online due to COVID-19.

Local spokesperson David Spalding told BarrieToday that, despite the importance of getting together and celebrating their faith, nothing is more important than the public’s health.

“We’ve never had to cancel our in-person event and it was a sad day when we decided to do so,” Spalding said. “But, as is the case, when one door closes another opens and we believe this may be the biggest one yet.”

Cities in Ontario that were going to host 2020 live events included Barrie, Kitchener, Sault Ste. Marie and Oshawa. 

“As a young guy, I remember going to the Barrie Raceway for some conventions, which was always a treat. We were in Barrie at the (former) Barrie Molson Centre in 2016 and 2018,” said Spalding. “In the in-between years, all the folks from Barrie and other towns and cities came to Toronto for two large conventions.”

For the summer of 2020, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada had booked 27 venues across the country to hold 53 conventions in 16 languages, with an anticipated combined total attendance of almost 150,000. 

Spalding believes the online event will bring in much more than that.

“This is going to be accessible to anyone with an electronic device," he said. "All the people who would have come in person will be watching, and all of those who were too far away to get here will now be watching. We’re talking about multi-millions.” 

There are more than 8.6 million active Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, and over 100,000 in Canada, Spalding said.

The theme for this year’s convention is ‘Always Rejoice’, which Spalding believes is a perfect choice giving the current state of the world.

“It is a great time to practise the idea of always rejoicing,” he said. “It is an unprecedented time and we have to find ways to be positive and move forward. Our convention will provide direction and hope for anyone who checks it out.”

The 'Always Rejoice' convention program is to be released in six instalments on, each corresponding to a morning or afternoon session of what would have been three successive convention days. The convention will be available in whole or in part in more than 480 languages and is free of charge to view.

For more information, visit