International “Clean Worship” Assembly in London
WEMBLEY Stadium, site of the 1948 Olympic Games, has seen many famous athletes strip for action to win a coveted prize. But August 1-5, 1951, this same stadium in London, England, saw tens of thousands of persons from forty different lands and nations strip themselves of the hindering things of this world for a greater contest. Not to compete with one another, but to work together as one international team to win the race for the prize of eternal life in the approaching new world of righteousness. This by means of promoting “clean worship”. To this end the stadium had been engaged for a five-day international assembly.
Early in July a half-million leaflets began circulating in London announcing a public lecture, “Will Religion Meet the World Crisis?” This leaflet was a “teaser”. It merely asked the questions “Where? When? By Whom?” and left the interested reader anxious for the answers. As this event drew nearer the popular curiosity was relieved by nearly a million new leaflets, by large bill posters and signs, by streamers displayed outside the second deck of the omnibuses, by cards displayed in the shops, and then by placards worn by the conventioners themselves and by coat-lapel badges. All unitedly announced the place, Wembley Stadium, the date, Sunday, August 5, and the speaker, N. H. Knorr, the president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. The speaker estimated there would be 30,000 present to hear this vital address. How near would he prove right? Even the “City of London”, that square-mile area right in the heart of the metropolis taking in the Bank of England, Stock Exchange, etc., and which is an area strongly prohibited to anything in the way of street advertising, gave special consent for the leaflets to be distributed in that zone.
Wednesday, August 1, dawned with cloudy skies over London. What if it rained during this convention? It seemed like taking a big chance to arrange for such a tremendous convention for five days out there in that open-air stadium with only two covered stands, one on the north and the other on the south side of this mammoth oval bowl, if one considered normal London weather. But with crowds headed for the same place, you come up out of the Wembley Park underground station. As you walk south on Olympic Way toward the national center of sports, you see high above, clear across the street, the banner with the words “Welcome Jehovah’s Witnesses”. Yes, this is an international convention of these devoted Christians. As you walk along, you can see from afar the further huge banner stretched across the top of the main entryway, advertising the public talk. As you enter the spacious grounds north of the stadium you see on the car park to your left large pavilion tents, these for accommodating the special cafeteria that is to serve the convention. We are quite removed from large restaurants.
Making your way through the crowds, you entered the stadium and got out on the spectator stands. A lovely sight confronted you. Out there on the oval green-grass center of the vast arena, and toward its eastern curve, stood the square speakers’ platform of lighter green, flanked on either side with a row of evergreens. In front of the platform and stretching across the lawn there were beautifully designed flower beds in a variety of colors made up of geraniums, blue lobelia and marigolds—3,000 plants grown by one of Jehovah’s witnesses being used for this effect. Fronting this were the words in large white letters, “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” standing out on the grass. So striking was this platform arrangement, with large umbrella over the speakers’ stand, that comment in the public press was frequent. Those serving on the platform walked out to it on a long red carpet.
Outside the green-lawn center a broad smooth reddish-brown speedway track encircled the arena, and next outside this a green band of dog-racing track. Back from this the concrete tiers for the spectators stretched upward all around in one huge bowl. Lengthwise the north and south sides of the brown dirt track the words of the 1951 yeartext stood out in red on a black background, “Praise Jah, you people, because Jehovah our God, the Almighty, has begun to rule as king.—Rev. 19:6, NW,” the last five words being highlighted in bright-red luminous paint. Before the convention was over the entire text was to be highlighted by powerful speeches from the platform, to heavy applauses from the hearers. And that large “tote” up there, the totalizator displaying the nature and number of the bets for the gamblers on the racing events at the stadium, was covered over effectively with khaki canvas relieved with a huge white circle bearing the red initials “J W”. This was well, for at the eastern and western ends of the stadium large banners were exhibited bearing the title “Clean Worship Assembly”, to show that now the stadium was converted into a great open-air Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s witnesses and during their presence it was not to be defiled by making it a “house of merchandise” or “den of thieves”. (John 2:16; Matt. 21:13) To be acceptable to Jehovah the worship of him must be clean.
To provide all the services and facilities at the stadium it required a vast amount of preparation and planning, months in advance, when you consider the many departments, 26 of them. But here again Jehovah God visibly demonstrated that he has a devoted people on the earth and they are efficiently organized for his service. The entire convention organization worked smoothly and it adequately served the many thousands with which the stadium teemed. To staff all the departments under a convention personnel of 52, there were 3,091 who volunteered their services free, in the joy and love of God’s work.
What a happy lot those conventioners were! White, black and of various complexions, speaking many languages, with many knowing little or no English at all, drawn together from forty different lands of earth, most of them absolute strangers to one another. Yet all of them one consecrated people, speaking the same “pure language” of Kingdom truth and finding their perfect bond of union in clean worship of the only living and true God, Jehovah! They are here not only from nearby European lands, France, Germany, Greece, etc., but also distant lands, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippine Islands, Siam, Argentina, in fact from all of earth’s continents and many islands of the sea. To come entailed for many a great deal of financial sacrifice and hardship, but these, too, and all others felt more than repaid for all the expenditure involved. They regretted that other brothers financially circumstanced had not exerted themselves more to come here for this rare and precious occasion. Amazingly, there were 2,200 pioneers in attendance, and of these full-time field publishers 800 were from overseas. Who said, “Be a pioneer and see the world”? Somehow all this pointed up the fact that more with limited means make their way to these large international assemblies than those with ample material means. Judged by the many telegrams and messages sent from many lands, only some of which could be read off to the conventioners, the vast majority of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the earth who could not come were there in spirit and in prayer.
Pick up that beautifully covered program of 16 pages inside, and scan the program of events. How well the entire program has been studied out and arranged! Note the 62 names of different men appointed to serve on the platform, with program features such as experiences, service meeting, theocratic ministry school, and interviews which allow for many others, men and women, boys and girls, to address or give a demonstration before the conventioners. Among those listed were official members of the Watch Tower Society of America and its affiliates in Britain and Canada and members of the staffs of the Society’s branches throughout the earth. Convention servant was the London branch servant and vice-president of the International Bible Students Association, A. P. Hughes. Convention chairman was the secretary of the I. B. S. A., E. C. Chitty.
The subjects of all the listed speeches emphasized the practical side of God’s clean worship and the making of the ministry of His Word our life career and professional work. Information, counsel and instruction on these things are so vital nowadays.
The delivery of the talks and the putting on of the demonstrations made the stadium an educational center and training school for five days, better fitting all who attended for wider and more effective service thereafter. The reception of the talks and demonstrations was exceptionally clear throughout the stadium and grounds. The stadium has its own public-address system, but this was amplified by our Society’s own sound system of 45 additional loudspeakers, served by eight microphones in the stadium and a two-line amplifier providing five channels. Three miles of wiring was used. For the first time at any British convention there were 12 tape recording machines in use to preserve the talks for postconvention playing to many not in attendance. A press reporter said he had never before heard such clear and adequate reception of speeches here.
OFF TO A GOOD START AUGUST 1
For Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the earth August was “Life-giving Knowledge” Testimony Period. How fitting, then, that the assembly’s opening day was called “Life-giving Knowledge” Day! The stress of all talks for this day was on such knowledge so essential for practicing clean worship. At 9:15 a.m. the assembly began with song by all the congregation, prayer, a short discourse, and service instructions and announcements. The instrumental music for the singing was provided by an orchestra. A well-balanced ensemble of 54 instruments at the beginning of the assembly, it grew to 90 pieces by the fifth and last day. The volunteer personnel of the orchestra was international, and it included B.B.C. and other professional players. You did not notice where this orchestra was? That was because it was “canned”, that is to say, confined and set apart in the spacious glass-fronted Press Gallery, at the top of the North Stand of the stadium, over the Royal Box, and so commanding a full view of the arena. It had its own conductor. Down in front of it the 200 choristers for leading the singing had their own conductor and suspended microphones. A third conductor, who came to be known as “the man in the white coat”, stood on a pedestal out near the center of the arena and controlled the entire assembly when singing. He had earphones and was wired up personally and so was in direct two-way electrical contact with the orchestra and its conductor. All three conductors could see one another, and perfect synchronization was achieved.
At 2:15 p.m. chairman Chitty officially opened the assembly with an address of welcome. “Jehovah invited us to this assembly,” he said. “It is his assembly. . . . To be welcome we should show our appreciation of the purpose of being welcomed. A festival means a joyous celebration; a festival is a feast. Let us treat Wembley Stadium as our Kingdom Hall. We are in the seasons of special blessings. . . . Let us learn to be tuned up for field service and sing continually about the public meeting for Sunday afternoon. Pure worship and holiness are linked together. It is not without good reason, then, that this assembly is called the ‘Clean Worship Assembly’.”
An afternoon symposium presented three brothers who talked on “Met together in my name (a) At the same place, (b) Conduct in God’s household, (c) Kindness to strangers”. This emphasized how the local Kingdom Hall of each company is a royal place, the most important building in the community. It should be kept as such, both as to physical outward appearance and as to our conduct in the Hall. Like Abraham and Lot of old, we should make the strangers who come among us in quest of life welcome among the new world society.
The evening was featured by a platform demonstration of a weekly service meeting at a Kingdom Hall. The three speakers whom the meeting chairman introduced made the hour a profitable one by discussing “Life-giving knowledge through (a) Servant organization, (b) Personal organization, and (c) Good-will person’s organization”. Each one personally as a Kingdom publisher has to get himself organized privately for service. Servants of the companies of Jehovah’s witnesses must also be organized; and the good-will persons who associate themselves with us must be helped in getting organized both personally and in relation with the company.
Then an announcement that the London International Assembly was to have its proceedings preserved and published in a special report brought a loud response. The day’s program wound up with two talks, “The Guiding Sign” and “Will the Stones Have to Cry Out?” The convention showed its determination to follow God’s guiding sign, His kingdom, rather than look for some worldly spectacular religious sign. The convention, in answer to the question whether God needed now to make the literal stones cry out the message of his kingdom by Christ Jesus, expressed a decided No! Likely you read the latter talk in our September 1 issue.
Convention attendance had now mounted to 19,432. This was well over the attendance of the convention at Earls Court four years previous, when 17,782 turned out to the public meeting the final day. No wonder the cafeteria was patronized by 10,000 at noon, twice the number anticipated, and more tables had to be constructed by volunteer carpenters and a faster system of serving the cafeteria patrons their tasty trays of food had to be devised! During the entire convention 90,000 meals were served; and on Sunday, the day of the biggest attendance, 5,300 meals were served in one hour twenty-five minutes, or about one meal a second, by a catering staff of 705 plus 200 attendants. Though these were days of austerity for Britain and the meat ration weekly was pitifully small, yet the contribution which the companies of our British brothers made of food stocks which they denied themselves from their own meals piled up ample supplies for varied meals at the assembly. Parcels sent in ranged from half a pound of margarine to a tin of ham valued at £7 ($19.60). A bunch of green bananas arrived from Las Palmas, Canary Islands.
ASSEMBLY TEMPO ACCELERATES
Thursday, August 2, was “Ministers of God” Day. The morning feature, a Theocratic Ministry School meeting on the platform, was conducted by M. G. Friend, the instructor from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead who teaches public speaking there. Following this came a symposium of three British speakers who discussed the theme “Glorify the Ministry”. They showed we must attach the highest importance to our ministry of God’s Word, never apologizing for it, never retiring from it. God has no retired ministers on a pension.
Under the title “Ministry of the Word” Society representatives from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Eire gave accounts of what Jehovah’s witnesses are doing in the ministry in those lands. Next came a report on the Iberian peninsula by the Society’s vice-president, F. W. Franz. Flying from New York on June 28, he had visited groups of Jehovah’s witnesses and persons of good will in the Azores Islands, then Portugal, and finally Spain. Interesting meetings were held in nine cities. Besides the 13 immersed at Lisbon, Portugal, baptisms of a total of 17 candidates were performed at three of the cities in Spain. Despite many restrictions and handicaps, the work of the ministry is expanding in these Latin lands. A faithful nucleus of active ministers exists there.
Now the president of the Society, N. H. Knorr, made his first appearance on the platform. Prior to this he had visited a neighboring isle. Wednesday, July 25, he and his secretary, M. G. Henschel, landed by plane in Eire. They first visited the missionary home of Gilead graduates in Cork. An evening meeting at the Kingdom Hall there saw 32 brothers and friendly people in attendance. Quite good for benighted Eire! The following day they visited the missionary home in the capital, Dublin. The next day, after field service, meetings were carried on in Engineers Hall. The 39 pioneers in Eire met together with Brother Knorr for some minutes to discuss their problems, and he made arrangements to carry on the work in a better way. For the public meeting Engineers Hall became crowded, and many had to stand up. The attendance was 215, this in the last public hall available for use by Jehovah’s witnesses in Dublin. A train ride from here took them to Belfast, Northern Ireland, in time to attend meetings at Farmers Union Hall. But Sunday, July 29, the public meeting was held at the Ambassador Cinema, and the attendance was a gratifying 820. The Northern Ireland brothers had had a hard fight to book a suitable place. Only because of the integrity of the cinema owner was it possible to hold the place. He resisted all pressure put on him by religious elements. There are now two Kingdom Halls in Belfast that are owned by the brothers, and the work is expanding well all through the Irish isle. Many from there attended here at London.
So now, while 19,347 listened at Wembley Stadium, Brother Knorr gave them his initial talk, “Confidently Facing the End.” Readers of the English Watchtower have already had the opportunity to get the common-sense, Scriptural advice of this talk in our September 15 issue. His opening words “Jehovah is the biggest optimist in the universe” took with his hearers; also his further statement that Jehovah’s witnesses “are the biggest optimists on earth”. Cheerily thereafter other speakers and brothers in conversation encouraged their hearers to be optimists. At the close of Brother Knorr’s talk came the first release to the assembly, when he released the four new tracts entitled “What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?” “HELLFIRE—Bible Truth or Pagan Scare?” “JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES, Communists or Christians?” and “Awake from Sleep!” They are fine for handing out to our casual contacts or on other occasions. Every conventioner was tendered a free set, and they could be had at 6/- contribution for 1,000 copies.
That evening, on account of speedway bike races at the stadium, Jehovah’s witnesses had to move out, removing their beautiful platform setting and all signs, even that on Olympic Way. “Religion Halts for Speedway,” reported a well-known columnist in the Daily Herald of London next day, but this was not really so. Evening field service by conventioners went on throughout London, and evening assemblies were held at Kingdom Halls for those speaking Finnish and German. As they listened to speeches in their native tongue enthusiasm ran high. The Kingdom Hall where the German-speaking met was simply packed out, with 317. Further foreign-language assemblies followed the next morning for the Swedish, French, Norwegians and Danish, and the following morning for the Hollandish, Finnish, German and Swedish. They were all spirited gatherings, and gave a foretaste of the national assemblies to be held in the respective lands here represented during the weeks which followed the London assembly, culminating in Vienna, Austria.
Friday, August 3, “Sons and Daughters” Day captured a special place in the press reports with the mass baptism of 1,123. Of these, 443 were men and 680 women. After a fine baptismal talk at the stadium, a special train and many special buses transported the baptismal candidates out to the beautiful Ruislip Lido. Immersion began about 10 a.m., but queues of candidates were still forming at 1 p.m. and the shuttle service of buses was still running to and from the Ruislip tube. Movie newsreel men and news reporters were present taking pictures. The mass baptism reminded one of the day of Pentecost, A.D. 33, when 3,000 were added to the Christian faith and were baptized—in the Jordan river, or just where?—Acts 2:41.
The afternoon began with reports from Cyprus, Gold Coast, Nigeria, and South Africa, by Society representatives from there. The next feature was quite heart-touching, entitled “Out of the Mouth of Babes”. It consisted of half an hour of interviews of child witnesses of varying ages, and seven of these youngsters took their turn behind the microphone to tell their story in children’s language. “Rearing Children in Divine Favour” nicely followed, from the lips of the Gilead School registrar and instructor, A. D. Schroeder. The next talk, “Baptism for Salvation and Fire Baptism,” has now been published in our November 15 issue.
Like preliminaries before the main feature, a series of four speakers discoursed on themes emphasizing Christian fruitfulness, our helping others to the theocratic organization, our joy, and overcoming our problems. In discussing “Let Us Go with You” (Zech. 8:23) branch servant Hughes said: “Get expansion-minded,” and so think, study and work for growth of the organization. “Give evidence that ‘God is with us’,” so that persons of good-will will want to go with us to worship Jehovah. Finally, as the closing event of the day and topping the climax, came Brother Knorr’s talk on “Making Your Mind Over for New World Living”. This dealt with a most important part of our make-up, our minds, and showed in a practical way how to renovate our minds to put us in tune with the oncoming new world. The talk was deeply appreciated by the 20,850 present. Some felt it the most vital and probing talk of the assembly. Watchtower readers have since had the opportunity to read this talk in our October 15 issue in English.
Saturday, August 4, was “Publishers’ Increase” Day. Ample proof of increase was produced, not only in the convention attendance which now mounted to a new peak of 22,250, but also by the afternoon barrage of reports on Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, India, Italy, Luxembourg, Southern Rhodesia, and Switzerland, by Society representatives engaged in the work in those lands. The facts they presented bespoke how God is living up to his promise and giving the increase to our work in all lands.
NEW BOOK RELEASED
But by now the drizzle of rain had stopped falling, and the great crowd began overflowing out from cover under the North and South Stands onto the alfresco concrete tiers in front. Before the next hour was over, the sun would be out.
Canadian branch servant P. Chapman introduced the main speaker and speech of the afternoon, and Brother Knorr began talking on “The Triumph of Clean, Undefiled Worship”. Such was the force of its argument and such the power with which the speaker delivered it that it evoked 18 heavy applauses during its course. And then a big surprise! As Brother Knorr began reading what turned out to be chapter headings of a new publication there was more applause. When he revealed these to be some chapter headings of the 27 in the Society’s new book, there was an uproar, and when he disclosed the title, “What Has Religion Done for Mankind?” prolonged applause followed. As a new book had been released at Yankee Stadium in New York just last year, no further new book was expected at the London assembly. There were 125,000 copies of the Publishers’ Edition on hand now in London, and of these 29,000 copies were placed. So keen were publishers to have the new releases that some took a full carton, and others lots of 25 copies.
Clear out of the stadium once again, this time for the dog racing tonight! But the final advertising of the big public event tomorrow had to be done outside the stadium anyhow, and there it went forward, by all means of publicity. However, at the Kingdom Hall next to London Bethel on Craven Terrace a supper was served to all the Gilead graduates there at the assembly who were still serving in their missionary or other assigned capacity. Of the 170 who supped there were members of all 17 classes graduated thus far, except the third, fourth and sixth classes. Why, there were two from the very first class, and 34 (the highest number) from the sixteenth class. The respective class groups sat together. Among those who served them the food were Brothers Knorr, Henschel and Chapman. There were some short speeches by the Gilead farm servant and instructors and others, and the evening closed with prayer about 10:30. It was a joyous, blessed get-together.
Thank the Creator for the shining sun and white clouds which cheered the final convention morning, August 5, or “Praise Jehovah as King” Day. A worthy program provided a feast for the 23,300 who swarmed in and about the stadium. The opening talk, “A vessel for an honorable purpose,” reminded us that as living vessels we must not be merely containers but be also dispensers of their contents. In view of there being 1,415 British pioneers and yet 150 companies calling for pioneers, it was suggested that, as a souvenir of being at this assembly, you become a pioneer. Reports by the branch servants in Canada and Western Germany and by a Brooklyn Bethel member (United States) told how “Praise to Jehovah” was advancing in those lands. The Society’s Brooklyn legal counsel, H. C. Covington, kept the thrills and applauses going with his belligerent talk on “Put Up a Hard Fight for the Faith”. The concluding morning talk, marked by a brief sprinkle of rain, was on “Princes Shall Rule in Justice”. (Isa. 32:1, AS) We are pleased to publish it in this issue of The Watchtower.
En route here Canadian branch servant Chapman met K. Jensen of Brooklyn Bethel at Gander, Newfoundland. Together they flew to Iceland for an assembly July 27-29. At Hafnarfjord Brother Jensen gave a public talk to 25, his Norwegian being translated into Icelandic. At Reykjavik Saturday afternoon Brother Chapman talked through an interpreter to 55 on “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land”. The other assembly sessions were held at the Reykjavik Kingdom Hall.
Tomorrow, like all Mondays in August, was to be a bank holiday and many Londoners were early moving out of town on excursions. But the intensive advertising campaign carried on during July and during the convention halted many, and so the genial afternoon sun peering down from between the clouds beheld streams of humanity flowing toward the stadium by all means of transportation, intent on hearing the answer to the publicly emblazoned question, “Will Religion Meet the World Crisis?” After a ten-minute rendition of Kingdom Song melodies by the orchestra, convention chairman Chitty at 3 p.m. introduced the man with the answer, Watch Tower president Knorr. He faced a wonderful crowd for an assembly in Britain, 36,315, the biggest number yet, a number well over what he had counted on. Some Sirs and Ladies were among them. Like it or not, this huge audience got the revealed Bible answer in no mincing phrases and arguments. It seemed almost everybody enjoyed it as handclapping, mingled with some laughs, broke out again and again, to the tune of 30 times. At the close they were still in the applauding mood more than ever. When Brother Knorr advised them the speech was in print, in booklet form, and that everyone could have a copy or as many copies as anyone cared to pass on to others free, they clapped out their appreciation for a full half-minute. There were 500,000 copies available, and how that pile did diminish now! Many, too, filled out the blank spaces on the welcome slip handed them as they came in, and so they turned in their names and addresses to the ushers, asking for a visit by one of Jehovah’s ministers.
The great throng was not disposed to disperse. Crowds lingered, still spilling out from the stands over onto the lower concrete steps where many thousands had sat and heard the public talk. They wanted to hear the final talks of the assembly from 4:45 on. At that time assistant convention servant S. Woodburn gave a fifteen-minute convention report. This was succeeded by a half-hour of comments by both convention servant Hughes and chairman Chitty. It was brought out that a thousand witnesses had engaged in seeking rooms for the conventioners and that 13,300 visitors had thus been accommodated. Brother Chitty again accented the bright thought of optimism, and remarked how clean worship had been upheld all through the assembly and we were to put on the new Christian personality and continue carrying on clean worship. He realized how practical the assembly had been.
The president’s closing remarks for 45 minutes, though given extemporaneously, proved to be one of the superior speeches of the assembly. We cannot forget his reference to the fact that “the clergy have failed” in the matter of delivering God’s message to mankind in this world crisis. “Let’s take on the whole load. They are not going to have any of it. They are not worthy of it.” In affirmation the audience applauded, many doubtless having in mind what that morning’s issue of Reynolds News and Sunday Citizen said. In bold letters, alongside two baptismal pictures, on its front page it said: “CHURCH ATTACKS ‘WITNESSES’—While 40,000 Jehovah’s witnesses throng London’s vast Wembley Stadium to-day for the final session of their six-day international meeting, ministers of all religious denominations in the area will be warning their congregations against accepting the movement’s ‘strange beliefs’.” No wonder Brother Knorr made a neat thrust when he mentioned heathendom and added, “and the rest of the pagans—Christendom.” Urging the practice of clean Christian worship he stressed one prime requisite for it in these words: “Put the right kind of matter in these brain cells,” to make the mind over for new world living. In closing he called notice to the proposed assembly at Washington, D.C., for October 12-14 and said: “We will tell the Americans what they missed by not coming here.” That suggestion took with everyone, for they had been privileged to get all these assembly blessings and the several fine releases firsthand, and not second-handed.
After a song, Brother Knorr ended the glorious assembly with prayer, toward half-past six. Some drops of rain from a now overcast sky meant little or nothing to those tens of thousands of conventioners as they now scattered, some for home and others for further national assemblies. They were all laden with good things which Jehovah God had so richly showered on them through Christ Jesus, the great High Priest of clean worship. These blessings have by now been spread by their bearers to the ends of the earth, to countless others not privileged to attend. The London assembly will not soon be forgotten. It was the beginning of a mighty exposé of false religion throughout Christendom as well as heathendom. It was also a dynamic stimulus to the practice of clean, undefiled worship before God the Father by all today who seek the endless blessings of the righteous new world just ahead of us.