Over 3,400 people have gathered at the South Okanagan Events Centre for the Regional Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The convention began Friday morning and will continue through Sunday afternoon. The theme of this year’s event is “Be Courageous!” This is the sixth consecutive year holding the convention at the SOEC, an extra year on a five-year contract between the events centre and Jehovah’s Witnesses Canada. Mark Brett/Western News

Convention attracts around 3,500 Jehovah’s Witnesses to Penticton

Organizers of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Regional Convention for the B.C. Southern Interior hope to return to Penticton next year after more than a half-decade holding the annual event in the city.

The 2018 convention this weekend marks the sixth straight year the convention has been held at the South Okanagan Events Centre, attracting more than 3,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses to the city.

In fact, this year’s convention is estimated to have hit near the 3,500 mark in attendance, a slight rise over the year previous, which marked the end of a five-year contract to hold the event at the SOEC. The event began on Friday and continued through to Sunday at the SOEC.

Related: Jehovah’s Witnesses filling events centre

“Every year it’s a highlight for us that we look forward to. We come here to be encouraged and listen to the talks that give us Bible counsel, Bible help.” attendee Tim Feeny said.

The Feeny family said while they go to church every week, the convention offers something more concentrated for followers of the faith.

“Our weekly meetings at our local kingdom halls, wherever we’re from, they’re a shorter period of time — it’s a couple of hours out of our week,” Melanie Feeny said.

“But our conventions, it’s three days usually that we’ve taken time away from our — we’re all busy — taken time out of our busy lives, and devoted that time to come here and just focus on something that’s upbuilding, positive and helpful to our daily lives.”

Related: SOEC inks five-year deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses

“Be Courageous!” during critical times, is the theme of this years’ convention.

“In critical times we need courage more than ever. At school, at work, and when tragedy strikes,” convention spokesperson Peter Matkovich said.

This year, the convention stuck around for a sixth year, with organizers hoping to come back again next year, speaking positively of the hospitality in the city.

“What’s to happen next year, we don’t know. But that’ll be up to the organizers and the city organizers,” Matkovich said. “(I’m) hoping that it’s here. It’s very convenient. I’m a resident of Kelowna, so coming here to this event is very convenient for my family.”

The event attracts followers of the faith from around the Southern Interior, between the Kootenays and the Okanagan, Matkovich said. And the Feenys said that has meant they get to see friends from across the province and make new ones at the event.

“We enjoy seeing all of our friends here. … So we enjoy catching up,” Melanie said, adding the couple’s daughter, Piper, gets to see some of her friends at the event as well.

“She loves the videos. So that’s something that’s new in the last four years or so that there’s a lot of videos to enjoy,” Tim said. “Videos are such a good teaching tool.”

That includes videos for children, with animals to help the children understand some of the lessons.

Prior to Penticton, the event was held in Kamloops, which was a longer drive for the Feenys and Matkovich, all from Kelowna. While they said the event was good for them wherever, they added they liked the views in Penticton better.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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