More than 23,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses will converge on the Tacoma Dome over the next three weekends, marking the 30th consecutive year the group has held its annual conventions at the arena.
Sandy Dunmire has attended every year since the Tacoma Dome opened in 1983. Even with a broken left leg, Dunmire said she’ll be at this year’s district convention.
“I would never miss one,” said Dunmire, 69. “It’s a wonderful weekend of spiritual instruction.”
Using a wheelchair and having to keep her cast-covered leg propped up, Dunmire won’t go to just one weekend as most Witnesses do. She plans to attend parts of all three with her husband, Roger.
“I’ll have to stretch it out,” said Sandy Dunmire, who broke her leg in a fall at home in Tacoma. Their four children and their families also will attend a convention.
The events are a chance to see old friends, make new ones and “be refreshed with spiritual food,” said Roger Dunmire, 72, who also has attended every year at the Dome since 1983.
“There’s always constant reminders of what we should do as far as what the Bible’s standards are,” he said.
About 7,800 people from Western Washington are expected to attend each weekend gathering.
Witnesses will come from as far north as Bellingham and as far south as Vancouver to hear speakers, watch Bible dramas and baptisms, and receive new publications and a DVD on applying the Bible to their lives.
The district conventions form Tacoma’s largest annual religious gatherings, filling local hotels and restaurants.
The theme for this year’s meetings – which are free and open to the public – is “Safeguard Your Heart!”
“If you have a heart that’s serving God you want to safeguard it – that it doesn’t get led astray,” said convention spokesman Henry Schwerdtfeger.
A Bible drama on the final day of each of the three-day sessions will address love and marriage. It will ask, “What is true love?”
Especially for young people, that means asking, “Are you ready to get married?” Schwerdtfeger said.
“We don’t date for fun,” Schwerdtfeger said. “We date when we’re ready to get married.”
Witnesses believe that Jehovah (God) will soon restore the earth to an eternal paradise under the rule of a heavenly government for those who follow Bible principles.
The first convention is Friday-Sunday, followed by meetings July 6-8 and July 13-15. The gatherings will be on Fridays and Saturdays from 9:20 a.m.-4:55 p.m. and Sundays from 9:20 a.m.-3:40 p.m.
As they’ve done in recent years, Witnesses are going to door-to-door in Western Washington during the three weeks before the Tacoma meetings to invite people to attend. There are about 32,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the state.
The Witnesses add their own public address system and clean up the Dome – including restrooms – before and after each meeting.
“We try to leave it better than we found it,” Schwerdtfeger said.