The Woodburn Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been a part of the area community since 1976, but for nearly three years, since the onset of the pandemic, it has been quiet.
That will end soon.
U.S. Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders said the assembly hall located at 1510 N. Pacific Highway will host its first assembly in nearly three years over the weekend of Feb. 11-12.
More than 700 people are expected to attend the religious conference. Jehovah's Witness sources said the Tigard, Wilsonville and Woodburn areas can expect to see an influx of visitors as attendees stay at local hotels, shop in stores and dine at restaurants when they convene for their programs.
Visiting nearby eateries is a part of the experience for Shane Parker, 52, of Woodburn who has attended events for years with his wife and extended family.
“After a day of listening to encouraging discourses, we like to go out with friends to enjoy a meal,” Parker said.
He’s not alone.
A wide demographic from across the Pacific Northwest will be traveling to the Marion County facility for Bible-based educational programs this year.
“We plan to hold events almost every weekend of 2023 at our Oregon assembly hall site,” said Erik Larson, local spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “In total, we anticipate upwards of 25,000 visitors who will attend more than 35 events ranging in length between one and three days.”
The reopening of the assembly hall marks the return to the conferences Witnesses held semiannually prior to the pandemic.
"Making a proactive nationwide decision to close our houses of worship to in-person events protected both our congregants and our communities,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “However, our in-person assemblies and conventions are a highlight of our annual calendar and an important part of our worship. We are excited to be back.”
The Woodburn assembly hall has an overall capacity of 2,160. It features an energy efficient dual-purpose pond to heat and cool the building, a baptism area, a hand-painted mural, a lunch area and wheelchair accessibility.
Constructing the 33,800-square-foot complex was a labor of love for the hundreds of unpaid volunteers who traveled across the state to complete the facility in 1976. Portland resident Glenn Hamberg, 96, explained his role in the project more than 40 years ago.
“I helped choose the land and I assisted with coordinating the permits and construction,” Hamberg said. “It’s a real treasure to walk in the assembly hall and think about all the good times we had building it. The facility is really beautiful and I am happy it will be back in use.”
Local Jehovah’s Witnesses are also eager to return to the assembly hall.
“It’s more than a building,” Parker said. “The assemblies are part of our worship, and being at them with family and dear friends brings us so much happiness."
The Christian denomination now operates 45 assembly halls across the United States, including one in Oregon. While many of these complexes are also used for annual three-day conventions during the summer months, the Witnesses generally contract with arenas and convention centers like the Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center to accommodate more attendees from a larger geographic region.
Entry at all events is always free. You may find more details on the organization’s official website, jw.org.