Kelowna will play host to a major regional convention gathering for Jehovah’s Witnesses next week.
More than 6,000 people will descend next week on the city for the convention, to be held at Prospera Place, June 16-18.
People will be attending from as far north as 100 Mile House, and as far south as Creston, blocking up about 2,000 hotel rooms over the three-day event.
Chris Docksteader, convention committee coordinator, acknowledged organizing a convention this size in the shadow of prime tourist season in Kelowna offered its challenges.
“Because of COVID-19, we have not had a convention in this region since 2019 in Penticton, so being the first one in four years we have made it a bit larger in (participation) size than has been the case in past years,” Docksteader said.
While that has made the logistics a bit more difficult to negotiate through, Docksteader said the city and local hotels have stepped up to help resolve issues and help make the event run more smoothly.
He said setting aside 2,000 rooms for three nights is what he called ‘no small feat’ in June, while the city has eased transportation issues by providing free service on BC Transit for convention participants.
“The city has welcomed us with open arms and very much appreciated having the opportunity to host this event,” Docksteader said.
“They backed that up not just with words but acting on it as well with the BC Transit free transportation which helps with accessibility to and from (Prospera Place) to help minimize the traffic disruption that otherwise might occur.”
He said the city has also assembled travel information kits for convention attendees on activities they and their families can partake in during their stay.
“It is fair to say we will be coming back to Kelowna in the future based on the positive impression we have received,” he said.
Doug Gorcak, Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesperson, said the Prospera Place convention itself is free admission to all participants and guests, the costs paid for by donations.
A crew of volunteers will also be on hand next Wednesday on the eve of the convention opening to clean and prepare the facility for the arrival of 6,000-plus participants.
Gorcak said the theme of the convention is patience, and how that factors into the everyday lives of Jehovah’s Witness followers.
He said patience is often hard to practice with the pace of modern living today with so much focus on instant gratification, and the difficulties that can present in reaching personal goals or improving relationships with family and friends.
Jehovah’s Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity.
The worldwide membership of more than eight million followers is directed by a group of elders based out of Warwick, New York, known as the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which establishes doctrines based on its interpretation of the Bible.
Jehovah’s Witnesses members are generally known by most non-followers for canvassing street corners and door-to-door evangelism, refusing to do military service or accept blood transfusions, and believing the Armageddon destruction of the present world order is imminent.
The Kelowna congregation has three Kingdom Hall churches across the city.