It started yesterday, just after the congregation meeting via zoom, just like Rocky said it would. It is divided up into 6 sessions, to be streamed from the website. The invitation is to view them directly after the abbreviated Watchtower Study, but they can be watched anytime.
I appreciated that the program went on with barely a hiccup, transferred to virtual. You just know that Zoom is giving people ideas. It works so well that even when the ‘coast is clear’ signal is given—assuming that it is someday—it will still play some role yet to be determined. At the very least, it will be the new option for people who can’t physically get to meetings, replacing the telephone tie-in. I could be wrong, but...let us be perfect candid...how likely is that?
Remember how Wayne Whitepebble used to carry on about the huge expense per family to attend? Even with economizing and choosing hotels on the recommended lodging list, it still was an annual expense of several hundred dollars. I wouldn’t be surprised if virtual supplements actual to some extent in the future.
On the first day, I liked the many stadium shots of Regional Conventions during the music introduction, and I even prefer the song in languages I do not understand—it gives it more of an international flavor.
Not only did they all start yesterday—actually just one now—but the entire world membership and their guests saw it. Even foreign languages—Rocky says last year there were about 100–saw the same speakers, with translation dubbed in. Of course, speakers at the Regionals of previous years have never been clunkers, but this year it is Governing Body members and their direct helpers—even better.
Some wiseacre has put out a meme, and it has been going around for awhile, of how to “prepare” for the virtual convention. It involves replicating all the inconveniences, and even aggravations, of the actual physical conventions. It’s very funny, and the friends love it.
Suggestions include making sure that you choose an uncomfortable chair to sit in, and then ramming another chair directly in front of it so you have no foot room. Make sure that you have an unstable platform for taking notes so that your notes (or even device) is sure to fall on the floor a time or two—and so forth—there are about a dozen of them. I even added one directed to a group of youthful sisters online—prepare ahead of time photos of all the eligible brothers so that you may engage in “fellowshopping” between sessions.
Some of the dozen of so items of the list are not aggravating at all—they are merely inconveniences that are part of the package—they even contribute to the annual excitement. Still, streaming offers a way around much of what frustrates, while saving each family a huge amount of dough. We will see how much of it survives. Already in Rochester, at the last moment last year, Regional Conventions were cancelled at the location we had been using for 30 years. A change in management dramatically hiked the rates, and also (I am told) insisted that all pass through metal detectors manned by the facilities‘ own staff in order to enter. Disney on Ice, along with some Monster Truck Rally, also cancelled.
Through the years, Witnesses have developed a huge attendant department that will be far more vigilant than anything building management can come up with and that can spot a suspicious character blocks away, but new management would yield on nothing. We are to believe that some sleepy door employee, paid as little as possible, who will shake down a old man for a nail clipper and let an occasional knife slip by—we all know how these things work—is going to be more effective than our own people—alert due to love of those they protect? I don’t think so.
Witnesses canceled, with about three weeks to go before start of convention. Things hung in the air, though all were assured, and nobody doubted, that alternative arrangements would be made. They were—all was transferred to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, about four hours away for my wife and I. This year (prior to Covid-19) the entire 2020 Convention was going to be held at the Assembly Hall—an unheard of development (at least for me) that would entail splitting it up into a dozen different sections.
It also doesn’t hurt that a small but very vociferous bevy of protesters is also thwarted by the switch—one reason the attendant department was so well organized was to prevent these ones getting in the face of visitors who aimed only to attend the convention in peace. The world has gone nuts in protesting things, and it can lead to the impression that many people don’t really have much to do with their lives.
So changes were already underway In some places, and now with Covid-19, maybe some new ones may endure even once the all-clear signal is given. Unprecedented recent chaos made more timely the point raised by the keynote speaker, Kenneth Cook: “Is it possible to rejoice as the world crumbles around us?” It certainly is crumbling, and there isn’t a lot of hope among the general populace these days.
I had been told that Mark Sanderson’s talk Friday morning would be super-encouraging, on how one may “rejoice under persecution,” and it was. It even, as though for a personal zing to me, concluded with the same experience that I have used to conclude ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’—of a Russian brother sentenced to prison, who in slightly tongue-in-cheek fashion (which may or may not have been wise), invited the court to consider several years into the future, where there will be so many Witnesses in prison, and they will have so many Bible studies there—he had worked out the ratios—that when their sentences were up, they will not want to leave, and the Russian court would regret having ever sent them there in the first place. “He has a way with words, doesn’t he?” I concluded the book. “And math.”
(Like Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia, I have used Covid-19 time to clear up blips, typos, and punctuation faux pas in ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ that should have been cleared up before release, but I am only one person who had no idea how stubborn those things would be to get out, There were not nearly so many as the other book—the original was composed differently—but there were some, particularly at the end where I had very sloppily appended some updates post-publication. They’re all cleaned up, now.)
Then, too, there was that series of videos—the kind they always have—on ordinary scenarious and snares with which to cope. My wife has worked in machine shops. When that brother in the video dumped his cup of coffee and fried out the machine, she knew what that machine was. She knew how much it cost. She knew how much trouble he was in.
Did anyone else think that the janitor peering through the glass panel of the door—who saw it all—could have been like old Roger Chillingsworth had that brother tried to hide his ”sin?” Maybe he would have tormented the brother’s conscience until years later he would collapse on the floor, and co-workers would rip open his shirt to see “I did it” branded on his chest.
I sort of liked the line, “It even smells of coffee,” as they were thinking how feasible it might be to try to cover it up, before the brother decided (rather promptly) to fess up.