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Emily Ouzts

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NEWS


Jehovah's Witnesses come to CSU

BY EMILY OUZTS

They pour out of university parking lots and stretch over campus sidewalks, dressed nicely but in mind of the summer heat. They carry books and briefcases, but they’re not here for class – not a CSU class, at least.

They are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they’re gathering by the thousands for a series of three-day district conventions held at the Wolstein Center. Their final convention, the third this month, takes place this weekend starting Friday at 9 a.m.

A Christian denomination best known for door-to-door evangelism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have held district conventions at the Wolstein Center since 1992. More than 10,000 church members gather in the building’s arena each day, according to Ron Wilner, general manager of the Wolstein Center. Maximum capacity hovers around 14,000.

“It’s a perfect fit for what they need,” said Wilner.

Inside the convention

Next to international conventions, district conventions are the largest gatherings held in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion. During district conventions, members from more than 200 congregations come together to listen to religious speakers, discuss new church literature, and, this year, “Keep the Watch.”

“The theme for this year’s convention is to keep the watch,” said a member of the Westlake congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses who, for religious reasons, asked to remain anonymous for this story.

“The Bible points out that there’s certain events that are going to take place before the end comes,” the member said, “and they’re starting to take place. We have to keep spiritually strong this year.”

There are more than 100 Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations in Northeast Ohio, and each is designated to attend one of the three conventions held this month at the Wolstein Center. Westlake’s congregation attended the July 10-12 convention, along with congregations from Euclid to Brunswick.

“Different congregations are expected at this upcoming convention [July 24-26],” she said.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are also expected to baptize new members inside the Wolstein Center this weekend. There were 48 new members baptized during the last convention.

Limited student parking

The convention guests may fit perfectly inside the Wolstein Center, but with summer classes in full session, they don’t fit so well outside of it. The university has reserved nine parking lots and two levels of the PF Garage to accommodate the thousands of convention attendees, barring access to students and faculty who had pre-paid for parking space during the summer semester.

“It was a little frustrating,” said Ashlee Dietrich, a CSU student who was turned away from her usual parking lot during the second Jehovah’s Witnesses convention on July 10. Dietrich, who paid $48 for a six-week parking pass, said she hadn’t been aware some lots were reserved, and that her search for an open parking lot caused her to be late for class.

“They could have let us know [about the reservations],” added Dietrich. “They could have posted something on the Web site.”

But Charles Wiersma, director of parking services, said students and staff were briefed multiple times about the parking restrictions.

“We’ve put information in the Campus Mailbag for at least the last month,” Wiersma said, “and we’ve posted flyers to let people know.”

Although Wiersman noted that a warning was posted on the Parking Services section of CSU’s Web site, no such information appeared on CSU’s home page.

“We know that it does impact the parkers,” Wiersma said.

“But we try to plan ahead and not put the [convention guests] in the prime spaces. We try to push them out to the surface lots as to decrease that impact as much as possible.”

Most of the lots reserved for convention attendees are north of Chester Avenue, beyond the central parking areas for students and staff, said Wiersma.


 

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