TACOMA You know summers arrived when thousands of Jehovahs Witnesses start coming and going from the Tacoma Dome.
About 23,000 Witnesses will converge on the Dome over the next three weekends for their annual district conventions. The first one starts Friday. This is the 31st year the religious group has gathered at the Dome, a streak that began when the arena opened in 1983.
About 7,800 people from Western Washington are expected to attend each weekend. 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.
Learning about the Bible is at the core of the three-day conventions. The theme this year is: Gods Word is Truth!
Witnesses aim to encourage people to study the Bible, learn for themselves what the truth is and apply it to their lives, said convention spokesman Henry Schwerdtfeger.
Jehovahs Witnesses say they believe they have found the true religion.
The group cites the Atlas of Global Christianity as reporting there were almost 2.3 billion Christians worldwide in 2010, representing more than 41,000 denominations.
People are confused, Schwerdtfeger said. Each (group) has their own doctrines and rules of conduct. How do we really determine whats based on the Bible?
We believe that we have the truth, Schwerdtfeger said. We can back that up with our beliefs based on the Bible. We believe that were living the truth.
The district conventions form Tacomas largest annual religious gatherings, filling local hotels and restaurants.
Jehovahs 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 through Sunday, followed by meetings July 12-14 and July 19-21. Meetings will run Fridays and Saturdays from 9:20 a.m.-4:55 p.m. and Sundays from 9:20 a.m.-3:40 p.m. They are open to the public.
As theyve 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 Jehovahs Witnesses in the state.