A Visit to the “Divine Name” Assembly
WHAT kind of surroundings do you enjoy? If you could have what you want, would you choose a situation in which you could feel a sense of real peacefulness, love, security and cooperation, with a general atmosphere of cleanliness?
These things are very hard to find, all at one time and in one place, no matter where you live. But if you were told that you could experience a day or so in such surroundings, would you accept the invitation?
Well, were you invited during this past summer to one of the “Divine Name” District Assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses? If you live in one of thirty-four cities in the United States, or in certain large cities in Canada, England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Japan or even in some islands of the sea, you may well have received an invitation.
If, for one reason or another, you did not attend some of the assembly sessions, we would like to invite you to “go” now. That is, we would like you to enjoy some of the events from your armchair and to see for yourself whether the above-mentioned good things are a reality in our day.
The things we want to describe for you will give you at least a taste of what occurred, for the most part through the eyes of persons who like good, right things, but who are not Jehovah’s witnesses. For a while, put yourself in their place.
Perhaps you read an item in the newspapers that aroused your curiosity. Maybe you saw a “Welcome Jehovah’s Witnesses” sign on one of your city’s buildings, such as there was in Milwaukee. Or perhaps you heard about the welcome by city officials like the one in Greenville, South Carolina, where the convention delegates were given 5,000 ‘keys to the city.’ These were large ‘keys’ of pink cardboard to put behind car windshields for free parking at city lots and parking meters.
You may have heard that Jehovah’s witnesses put forth strenuous efforts to attend these assemblies. They arrange their vacations to coincide with the assembly, and they take their families. Why? There must be a strong reason. Take, for example, the mother of five children whose husband, not a Witness, is a lighthouse keeper off the coast of British Columbia. She made a petition to officials to ride the grocery helicopter that brings supplies to the lighthouse. Her request was approved, so she took her five children to Victoria, caring for some medical and dental needs, attending the assembly, then returning home by helicopter.
Let us suppose that your interest is aroused somehow, and that you visit a typical convention and view the arrangement and enjoy the program. We will assume that the site is a sports stadium.
On arriving, you notice that the crowds are well integrated, mingling without prejudice. If you ask anyone of the crowd, he will tell you that it is not that integration is an issue with the Witnesses. It is just that they are drawn from all races and walks of life by a heart’s desire to learn better to serve God. They know that they are all God’s human creation, and that He “made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth.”—Acts 17:26.
Clean, with a Decorative Stage
You may want to visit some of the departments set up to take care of the needs of such a large number of people. But at that moment a floral display in the field catches your eye. It is part of a platform or stage. Surrounded by flowers of varied colors and by pools and fountains, the broad platform has a comfortable look, with large bright-colored umbrellas to provide shade for participants in dramas and a decorative canopy over the speaker’s podium. Above the platform in Los Angeles, suspended in red letters, was the Divine Name, JEHOVAH. Four-foot-high cutout letters across the field spelled out the assembly title: “‘Divine Name’ Assembly, 1971.”
The program is ready to start. But can you sit on the seats without dusting them? Assuredly so. The care given by the Witnesses to all the facilities and equipment is one of the reasons why officials welcome them. Testimony to this is the comment to news reporters (of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin) by the superintendent of Connie Mack Stadium. He stated that his fondest memory in his thirty-seven years at the park was the convention of Jehovah’s witnesses in the 1950’s. “They cleaned off every seat in the park with soap and water before they started the meeting on Monday,” he said, “and then cleaned off every seat the same way before they left on Sunday. It had to be the neatest, cleanest and quietest convention in history.” And the custodian of the Memorial Coliseum in Shreveport, Louisiana, remarked, after the usual preassembly cleaning: “[My men] got it clean, but you’ve got it sanitary!”
The keynote talk during the first session, on the subject “Whose Name Do You Respect More—Your Own, or God’s?” reveals that the guiding principle of the Witnesses is to make known God’s name, Jehovah, not only the name itself, but the qualities for which that name stands. They recognize Jehovah God as the Universal Sovereign, the God of loving-kindness and mercy, who will make his name known to all by destroying wickedness and establishing righteousness and justice in the earth for all whose hearts desire it.
After the session you may be hungry. But that is easy to remedy, for the convention has set up its own cafeteria. They first have obtained inspection and approval of the health authorities, and they take pride in serving clean, wholesome food at a nominal cost. Or, if you wish, you can walk over to a refreshment stand where a smiling attendant will serve you a hamburger, coffee, a cold drink, pie, ice cream or other refreshments.
The convention also provides rooming accommodations, either in the homes of local Witnesses, free, or at reasonable rates in hotels or homes of local citizens who have a room or two to rent. The Witnesses have built up a reputation for respecting the property of others, and this has opened many homes to them.
Additionally, businessman and others in a great number of instances have shown willingness to help, having experienced pleasant dealings in the past. One man in Vancouver donated twelve and a half tons of potatoes for cafeteria use. A lady in Tulsa, not having as much space as she wanted to house assembly delegates, went from door to door until she found more accommodations for them.
A man in Memphis allowed his meat-packing plant to be used to process all the meat for the assembly. And the president of a bank in Portland, Oregon, broadcast an appeal for rooms, saying about the assembly there: “It’s a fine thing for Portland.”
On the third morning of the assembly you are treated to an unusual sight. After a talk explaining the purpose and meaning of Christian baptism, the speaker asks those desiring baptism to stand. In most of the assemblies you would see several hundred who have enjoyed a course of six months or more in Bible study and who now want to devote their lives wholeheartedly to the service of God. These rise to answer questions asked by the speaker, to indicate their qualifications to undergo baptism. Then (as in several of the stadiums) you can remain in your seat and observe the orderly baptism in large portable pools set up right on the grounds.
The nature of this procedure is all quiet and peaceful. A news reporter observing the baptism at one of the German assemblies wrote in the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung: “There was nothing fanatical in the eyes of those saying ‘yes’ to the questions asked, rather they seemed to be filled with a certain peaceful joy, as did all of the other people in the hall. . . . Thus it was really nothing to be laughed at that this group went to the beautiful exhibition pool with its [73° F.] warm water.” In another instance, a German man wrote to his newspaper: “Just ask the caretaker Mr. S— about his experience with 700 people, who within one hour were baptized there. It would be a contribution to the peace within our midst.”
On the assembly’s fourth day you hear a Resolution enthusiastically presented, stressing the need of proclaiming the Divine Name. Those saying “Aye” to the Resolution realize the urgency of the time, with “the ‘sword’ of divine warfare that is hanging as if by a slender thread over the head of all races, peoples and nations,” as the Resolution declared. All pledge themselves to bend every effort to sound the divine warning, that as many as possible may be preserved for life in God’s new order, promised in his Word the Bible.
You notice that, throughout the program, daily Bible reading, family Bible study and attendance at Bible study meetings are recommended. Talks and dramas urge all to help one another, and encourage fine moral conduct.
You see a new large-print revised edition of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures presented, also a book Aid to Bible Understanding, which is a product of much Bible research. There is a book for teaching children, a publication considering the prophecies in the Bible book of Ezekiel, and a book as a guide in the Theocratic Ministry School carried on in each congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses. All these Bible study helps are released at this assembly to promote the Bible educational work.
But as the closing song for the day is sung, you may discover that you have mislaid or lost your purse. You experience momentary panic. However, the person sitting near you, after helping you look around where you might have left it, assures you there is little cause for worry. If it was found by one of the conventioners you will recover it at the Lost and Found department next day. Sure enough, the next morning your purse is there, its contents intact.
Do things like this actually take place? Well, out of a number of similar accounts, take the experience of a delegate to the Jackson, Michigan, assembly. He stayed at a motel forty miles from Jackson, and drove back and forth each day. On Saturday evening he lost two ten-dollar bills in front of the motel. Sunday morning the money was at the assembly’s Lost and Found department, left there by a Witness who had found it.
In another case, parental teaching and example in application of Bible principles made a notable impression on an operator of several food stands in California. At the assembly in Pomona, the assembly’s refreshment stands were accepting a twenty-five-cent contribution for hamburgers, but this man near the assembly grounds was asking fifty cents. The children, not knowing about this difference, would get a hamburger from him, then find out they needed another twenty-five cents. They asked the server to wait, please. The man admitted that he was “flabbergasted” when, in a half hour or so, the children would come back to settle their debts. He then asked if his eight-year-old daughter could work alongside the other children who were helping in the assembly work.
The Public Talk
Finally you come to the assembly’s concluding day and you hear the public lecture “When All Nations Collide, Head On, with God.” You may at first have had misgivings about the title. But as the discussion develops, dealing with God’s creatorship, ownership and sovereignty over the earth, you see its reasonableness. The speaker points out that God will surely carry out his original purpose to provide mankind a righteous, clean paradise home. He has tolerated the wickedness of the nations, giving time for them to demonstrate that they cannot rule the earth in peace. However, they refuse to acknowledge Him, and instead go on ruining the earth. Furthermore, they now tell the people to put their trust in a peace-and-security organization, the United Nations, in place of God’s Messianic kingdom. Therefore, he must smash them in order to clear the earth for righteous rule.
This presentation, backed up by copious Scripture quotations, gives you something to think about. You find of particular interest the concluding portion, which outlines from the Bible the course that will mean preservation for the individual.
You may have noticed, in the Awake! magazine earlier this year, the listing of times and places of the various assemblies and that, wherever there are sizable groups of foreign-speaking persons, there would be multilingual assemblies, where the same program could be heard by these groups in different sections of the stadium, or in different buildings. This was the case in England, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Japan and various places in the United States. Among the languages were Greek, Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Croatian, Slovenian and Turkish. There is also a special arrangement at several assemblies for the deaf.
Because of a cholera outbreak in France, the convention scheduled in Toulouse was canceled. This was a disappointment to hundreds of Portuguese Witnesses. They are prevented by the Portuguese government from holding assemblies, so they had been all ready to go to Toulouse, France. How happy they were made when the London, England, convention arranged for Portuguese sessions! Not only that, but the London Witnesses, their homes already crowded by delegates, made arrangements almost overnight to house and care for the Portuguese delegates as well as to finance bus travel to the assembly site daily. The 886 Portuguese able to attend were very grateful, for an assembly is a very special occasion to them.
Spiritual and Physical Refreshment
Attending the assembly involved time and effort—a real sacrifice on the part of many. Was it worth it? How do you feel? Even after just reading about it, do you not feel refreshed, especially to know that there is a people who have a hope in God’s promises and who are trying to live now according to principles that will govern the earth when His promises fully come true?
Such a feeling was expressed by an elderly conventioner who has attended scores of assemblies over a period of many years. He said: “Perhaps the best way to describe the overall effect of this assembly is to say that the program spiritually satisfied and physically stimulated. The latter undoubtedly comes because, even though traveling a considerable distance to the assembly site each day, arising early and returning late, the mental exhilaration dominated fatigue.”
What is your viewpoint, after reviewing such an assembly? We hope it is not that of a TV cameraman in Buffalo who said to his superior after an assignment: “I shouldn’t cover them any more. They were too nice to me, and I’m too negative. They might change my thinking.” Rather, we trust that you have the spirit of the cab driver in Milwaukee who, although the convention was an occasion to keep his cab busy at a profit, said: “I am very much impressed by the neatness and cleanliness and the fact that there is no smoking. They are just beautiful people. They get along like real brothers and sisters. There is no tension, no prejudice, just plain peace. I know it is impossible, but everyone seems to know each other. And the food is real good. I have eaten my third hamburger. In fact, I’m going to go and put this cab up right now and I am coming to the meeting.” Yes, we hope you, too, will desire more association with Jehovah’s witnesses and can share their beliefs and their hopes.
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At each assembly the principal talk was “When All Nations Collide, Head On, with God”; 32,516 attended here at Milwaukee
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The assembly delegates were a warm, happy people and grateful for the aid given them in teaching their children
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Assemblies such as this one at Dortmund, Germany, were held in many lands and frequently in several languages at the same location
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Two tanks were built for the baptism right in Yankee Stadium; 861 were baptized here
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Bible dramas such as this one about Ruth and Boaz were used to teach lessons for modern-day life