DULUTH -- One by one, they came as individuals to the baptismal pools. After submitting themselves to be immersed in the water, they emerged part of a worldwide family of believers.
Sixty-two individuals of all ages, races and ethnicities were baptized as Jehovah's Witnesses on Saturday during a district convention held at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. More than 9,000 were in attendance, with about a hundred of those gathered beside the two baptismal pools set up on the floor level to celebrate with those baptized.
Sugar Hill resident Dwayne Jones was the first candidate to step forward for baptism.
He was helped into one of the waiting pools by Johnny Abercrombie and immersed in the water by Phillip Madir, both volunteers who had been asked to assist with the baptisms.
Abercrombie was baptized into the faith in 1963 at the age of 20. Since that time, he has assisted in baptizing hundreds of people. Baptism for Jehovah's Witnesses is a personal commitment to serve God and a public demonstration of that commitment.
"It makes you feel good to know you have a part in helping them with that dedication, with baptism," Abercrombie said.
Michaela Nguyen was one of the youngest baptismal candidates at 13.
"I want to dedicate my life to Jehovah," the Alpharetta teen said following her baptism.
The baptisms that took place Saturday were one part of the convention, which includes programs, presentations by guest speakers and a drama.
"The conventions are to encourage and to give needed instruction and counsel in dealing with life," said Jonathan Myatt, an assistant in the news service department. "We need encouragement to make sure we keep our diligence so that we're living up to God's standards and we're not compromising or that we're not somehow violating those standards and living in the way or a pattern of life that really is not reflecting of our God and what the Bible says is proper."
This weekend's convention was the first of three that will be held at the Arena through July 25. The annual district conventions, typically held during the summer, draw members of congregations from throughout Georgia and surrounding states.