Miami-Dade County

Marlins Park will be packed — with Jehovah’s Witnesses, not baseball fans

Mass Baptism at Marlins Park

26,768 delegates attended the 2nd day of the International Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses “Love Never Fails” at Marlins Park.
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26,768 delegates attended the 2nd day of the International Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses “Love Never Fails” at Marlins Park.

Tens of thousands of people will fill the stands at Marlins Park this weekend but not to watch baseball.

Some are going to get baptized.

Jehovah’s Witnesses will transform the baseball stadium into a house of worship for the second “Love Never Fails” international convention in Miami from Friday through Sunday. About 27,200 people from more than 30 countries are expected to attend the largest convention, according to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Volunteers from local congregations will build a stage and clean Marlins Park before and after the convention, which will include talks from speakers, videos and a feature film. Robert Hendriks, the U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said the convention will be much more peaceful than the average baseball game.

“It’s kind of like a love fest,” he said.

The first convention at Marlins Park in May attracted about 28,000 people and more than 200 were baptized, Hendriks said. On Saturday at noon, hundreds are expected to step into a pool on the field to be baptized during a public ceremony. Unlike some other Christian denominations, Jehovah’s Witnesses are baptized at an “age of reason,” instead of as infants, Hendriks said.

“That’s the most important day of the lives as worshipers of God,” he said.

Hendriks said Jehovah’s Witnesses have worked with city officials and the Convention and Visitors Bureau for the past three years, especially to make sure that the convention doesn’t add to traffic congestion on the Fourth of July weekend.

Jehovah’s Witnesses hold international conventions every five years. This year, Jehovah’s Witnesses are hosting a global series of 24 conventions with the theme “Love Never Fails” in 22 cities around the world, Hendriks said. The first 2019 convention was held in Atlanta in May and the last will be in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December.

The three-day convention is free to the public and open to anyone regardless of faith. Hendriks said the theme reminds Jehovah’s Witnesses to be unified no matter where they come from.

“We think it’s a very appropriate theme in an age when the word love is rarely used when it comes to people of different nationalities and ethnicities,” he said.