Climax of Clean Worship Assemblies at Washington
JEHOVAH God long ago purposed and declared that only creatures who worship him shall live. All other gods and all their worshipers shall be destroyed forever! That this righteous and happy state of affairs is fast approaching a complete realization is very manifest in the light of recent historical events. For example, the series of international conventions held by Jehovah’s witnesses in 1951 shows clearly that the clean, undefiled worship of the Most High God, Jehovah, is making tremendous advances in the earth.
The first of these assemblies of true worshipers was in London, August 1-5, followed by similar gatherings in France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Austria. All of these record-breaking conventions had the same theme: clean, pure worship to the glory and praise of Jehovah! Most fitting then that such a series should be concluded two weeks after the Vienna assembly with a similar convention in Washington, D.C., Griffith Stadium, the largest place available, was engaged for the week end of October 12 to 14.
PREPARATION FOR THE FEAST
Eight or nine thousand accommodations were obtained in the hotels and motels within a radius of 50 miles of the stadium, and some hotels even converted their banquet rooms into dormitories for the witnesses. But this in no way took care of the needs. Thousands of rooms had to be obtained in private homes. Some of the radio stations co-operated in the emergency and advised their audiences to call the Rooming Committee. One man who responded said that he was going away for the week end, but would leave the key to his house with the neighbors, and for the witnesses to make themselves at home. Nine conventioners were thus well provided for by this generous hospitality. After spending 19,000 hours going over the territory three and more times, the District of Columbia stretched its seams to the limit and 22,000 accommodations were obtained in private homes.
Feeding a convention of this size in the narrow and cramped passageway beneath the grandstands was a problem of great magnitude, but by God’s undeserved kindness it too was overcome to the utter astonishment of worldly observers. A corps of plumbers, mechanics, electricians and carpenters—all consecrated servants of the Lord—went to work and shortly had a kitchen and dining room installed. An old second-hand steam boiler out of a junk yard was rigged up with an 800,000 BTU gas burner to generate 15 pounds pressure for seven huge steam kettles. Meat grinders, mixing, shredding and slicing machines, a battery of deep-fat vats for frying, and three large bake ovens were also installed, as well as a giant dishwasher capable of cleaning 14,000 trays per hour.
When the health inspector saw the large galvanized drums equipped with steam coils in which instant coffee contributed by the Nescafé Corporation was made, he exclaimed in amazement, “Ingenious!” Another instance that shows how “ingenious” Jehovah’s people are in overcoming obstacles in the way of an assembly of this kind was in obtaining necessary lumber. There was a shortage, so one of the witnesses contributed a grove of his trees. Other witnesses cut it down, and six weeks later their brothers and sisters at the convention were eating at the tables made from the lumber.
Delicious meals were served at a rate between four and five thousand per hour, and in the three days, 12,000 pounds of potatoes, 13,200 pounds of meat and fish, 36,000 1/2-pint containers of milk, and 51,000 cups of coffee were consumed. In addition to the cafeteria, the refreshment stands distributed 36,000 doughnuts that were made right on the premises, 48,000 sandwiches, 49,000 pieces of pie, 72,000 ice-cream bars, and 80,000 hot dogs.
By Friday evening the attendance reached 31,688. This was one of the big surprises, the vast number present. By rail special cars came from Cincinnati, Chicago and Detroit, in addition to the special train and special cars from New York city. More than 70 chartered buses rolled in from the north, south and west. Many came by air, but the majority came by auto. From every state in the Union, from Canada and Mexico, from El Salvador and Panama, from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile, and from the islands round about—Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Newfoundland, and Hawaii—representatives came to make this an international convention of the Western Hemisphere.
The reason this great throng had come together was not just to feast at the Lord’s table, but also to show the inhabitants of Washington, the high and the low alike, what constitutes pure, clean, undefiled worship of Jehovah God. This meant they would go from house to house, circulate among the people on the streets, and talk to them in their places of business, inviting all to come and see and hear for themselves, and learn firsthand that there is a group of true Christians today who compose the nucleus of a new world society. This being the program for Friday morning, the publishers were dismissed to the field after first hearing G. Hannan discuss the “Ingathering of the Other Sheep”.
Washingtonians were given 1,000,000 handbills inviting them to hear the president of the Watch Tower Society speak on the subject that had all Europe talking, namely, “Will Religion Meet the World Crisis?” Also during the three days publishers obtained from the bookroom 2,234 Bibles, 22,310 magazines, 38,890 bound books, 105,000 booklets (including those distributed after the public lecture), and 320,000 tracts. Here too the “international” theme was underlined, for this literature was in 27 languages.
IMPORTANT COUNSEL IN PURE WORSHIP
Friday afternoon, after 15 minutes of songs, the chairman of the convention, C. A. Steele, spoke on the subject, “Transformation by Renewing the Mind.” This present system of things with its false forms of worship is going the way leading to destruction, and nothing can be done to reform it. Hence, true worshipers of Jehovah must follow the apostle Paul’s advice: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over.”—Rom. 12:2, NW.
“Continue in the Service” was the next talk on the program, and H. C. Covington was the speaker. You must be active in bearing witness and keep going in order not to fall out this side of victory. Your service cannot be like a Mexican jumping bean, active only when stimulated with a little emotional heat. Nor can it be like a meteor that momentarily flashes brightly across the sky and then dies completely out of sight. It must be constant, continual.
The next hour was designed to strengthen a weak part of the theocratic organization, that is, the established company book study. This discussion, handled by a symposium of four speakers (J. T. Gorra, D. Adams, M. Quackenbush, and E. R. Wilson) contained strong, logical arguments, as well as practical demonstrations that brought home to the conventioners many important points, including the following: The company book study is a center for development of the mind, an educational center for both old and new publishers, a place for informal public meetings and Christian fellowship, a service center out from which all publishers work together in groups.
Time now for the evening session, and the giant floodlights—all 800 of them—were turned on to illuminate the field with the brightness of midday. Thirty minutes of “Songs and Experiences”, and then an hour talk by A. D. Schroeder, the registrar of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, at South Lansing, New York. This was a very scholarly talk, built around the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, first released a year ago at the great international convention of Jehovah’s witnesses in Yankee Stadium, New York. Brother Schroeder called attention to the superiority and value of this translation which has won high esteem among reputable Bible scholars who are not Jehovah’s witnesses.
The vice-president of the Watch Tower Society, F. W. Franz, then gave a most interesting report on his recent travels in Europe and the several clean worship assemblies that he attended. This was not a cold report of statistical figures, but one that throbbed with heart-touching incidents and personal impressions, showing the oneness, unity, peace and prosperity of the theocratic organization. It made no difference in what land he was visiting or what language he was speaking, Brother Franz found the same spirit, and the same love and devotion to Jehovah among true worshipers in every nation.
Brother Franz also related an incident that occurred about 12:30 p.m. that very day. A Brother E. A. Kennedy from the West, who was the ammunition officer in the same artillery company of which Harry Truman was captain during World War I, called at the White House where he was greeted by Gen. Harry H. Vaughan, Truman’s personal military adviser. After talking over old times (Vaughan was also in the same artillery company) Brother Kennedy asked if it was possible to see his boss, President Truman. No trouble at all. The general ushered him into the president’s office without delay, and Brother Kennedy renewed his acquaintance with his former captain. He then explained why he was in Washington, to attend the clean worship assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses, and since Truman had recently referred to religion’s disunity in his speech to a convention of religious pilgrims to Washington Brother Kennedy was here to present him with a copy of What Has Religion Done for Mankind? for the explanation of this. The president accepted the book. Brother Franz failed to mention, however, who would make the follow-up back-call on this placement, but recommended that the president do as the lord mayor of Frankfurt, Germany, had done, attend the public lecture Sunday.
THE SECOND GREAT DAY
Saturday morning M. G. Henschel had a heart-to-heart talk with the conventioners, especially those new ones who only recently began associating with Jehovah’s witnesses. To these he explained the purpose, significance and importance of one’s dedication to God and baptism, steps everyone must take who abandons false religion and returns to the pure worship of God. In response, 558 men, women and children of all ages and of many nationalities were immersed, giving positive evidence that clean worship in the earth is expanding. Following this talk, consideration was given to ways and means of presenting the current subscription offer for the magazine Awake! and then the publishers were dismissed to the field until the program resumed again at 2 p.m. with songs and experiences.
No one present will forget the sustained applauding that shook Yankee Stadium the year previous when the Scriptural explanation of Psalm 45:16 was given concerning the new world princes. It was therefore with great expectation and keen interest that the conventioners in Washington listened to F. W. Franz discourse on Isaiah 32:1 (AS), “Princes Shall Rule in Justice.” He made it clear that this is not a post-Armageddon prophecy, but rather, one that is now in course of fulfillment. Hence, right now sarím in the Bible sense are ruling in God’s visible organization to the glory of Jehovah and to the blessing of His people.
The symposium that followed was on the general subject of pioneering. Nearly five out of six pioneers on the list, or, to be exact, 5,032, registered as present at Washington! And yet, as T. J. Sullivan, W. H. Wheeler, L. A. Swingle, and H. E. Miller pointed out, there is a crying need for many more pioneers. Pioneering is the most important occupation one can have. Consecrated servants of God who do not have Scriptural obligations must therefore cultivate the right mental attitude toward pioneering, must avoid the distractions and snares of this old world by entering the pioneer ranks and remaining in them. How seriously the conventioners took this forceful, outspoken counsel is indicated by the fact that 1,157 asked for and received applications for the pioneer service!
That afternoon the attendance of 40,639 smashed the previous record for Griffith Stadium set during the world series back in 1924. Saturday night the figure climbed still higher, to 42,936, and this was good, for besides the experiences related by several of those who were privileged to attend the European conventions, two important speeches were made. The first of these, “Sanely Approaching the World’s End,” was given by Grant Suiter, secretary and treasurer of the Watch Tower Society. He contrasted the sanity of those who worship the new world’s God, Jehovah, with the insanity of those who worship this old world’s god, the Devil.
When N. H. Knorr, president of the Watch Tower Society, walked out to the platform to give the major talk of the evening, “The Triumph of Clean, Undefiled Worship,” he received a great ovation, for he had just returned from the series of European conventions. From beginning to end his talk had a clear, triumphal ring of confidence. “Jehovah challenges all the gods of this world,” he said. Not only the 330,000,000 gods of India but also the god of the Kremlin, the pope of Vatican City, the Grand Lama of Tibet, and all the rest. The battle of the gods is near and there is no question as to who will triumph. “The battle will go only one way, and Jehovah will triumph as God, the only living and true God of the universe!”
CLIMAX REACHED THE FINAL DAY
The program for this concluding day was certainly packed full of valuable and exciting information. In the morning opportunity was afforded to hear further expressions of appreciations of the European conventions, and then K. M. Jensen gave a very interesting report on his visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian countries. U. V. Glass then spoke about the “Volunteers in the Day of His Power”, making the point that Jehovah’s servants do not have to be drafted as those of the old world are. No, for they volunteer willingly, joyfully, and out of love for God and his kingdom. The branch servant of Canada, Percy Chapman, then gave a dynamic talk about certain prophecies of Daniel that have been in the course of fulfillment from and since 1918. Concluding the morning session, the conventioners heard a zesty talk on the subject and theme “The Word of God a Sure Guide”, delivered by C. Quackenbush. Not the scientists, not the politicians, not the economic wizards, not the psychologists, not the social reformers—no, not these blinded, stumbling, blundering leaders—but the Bible, God’s Word of truth, is the only sure guide.
Due to the presence of many Spanish-speaking conventioners, a meeting not scheduled on the program was quickly arranged for on Sunday at 12:45 p.m. The short notice and congestion in the stadium at the time, however, prevented many from attending. But the 162 who did certainly appreciated it very much. With animation and enthusiasm they listened to John Bourgeois, a Spanish district servant in the United States, give a resumé of the convention up to that moment. George Papadem, representative from Cuba, then told how marvelously the Kingdom work is progressing in that island. And in conclusion, Fred Franz gave a report on the clean worship conventions in Europe.
WILL RELIGION MEET THE WORLD CRISIS?
How many would come to hear the answer? This was the big question asked by the conventioners as the hour for the public lecture approached. The talk had been well-advertised, not only by the publishers themselves, but also Washington’s leading newspapers, radio and television stations had given the convention a good deal of favorable publicity. Obviously Griffith Stadium would not be able to hold the crowd even with 4,000 extra chairs set up on the playing field. The open-air Sylvan Theater at the base of the 555-foot towering Washington Monument was therefore engaged and connected by direct wire to the stadium. As both these places began to fill up an orchestra of more than 70 pieces, together with the WBBR Male Chorus consisting of 18 voices of the Brooklyn Bethel family, provided delightful medleys of Kingdom songs.
With the stadium “jammed to the rafters” and overflowing on all sides, and with an additional 10,000 assembled in the Sylvan Theater, N. H. Knorr delivered his now world-famous speech to a record-breaking audience of 57,500! What a fearless denouncement of Christendom’s failure! What a bold pronouncement of Jehovah’s wrath against her religious leaders! Brother Knorr was at his finest. And the sound system with its complex hookup of microphones, amplifiers and loud-speakers never quivered or faded in delivering all the thunder and fire of this speech. There was even a hard-of-hearing section with 40 sets of earphones, and in another section the hands of an interpreter worked fast and furious to relay every syllable to the deaf-mutes before him. More than 200 wire and tape recorders faithfully captured every pulsation of this powerful talk for the benefit of thousands unable to be present. Truly a climactic conclusion to the series of national and international assemblies for clean worship during 1951!
This grand convention in Washington was about to become history, but first the convention servant, J. O. Groh, must give his report and high lights of the assembly, and then Brother Knorr a closing talk. In this grand finale of a most blessed three-day assembly, Brother Knorr spoke of “The Unity of God’s Visible Organization”, and he also outlined the special work for all who will participate in clean, undefiled worship during the coming year, and which is summed up in the yeartext for 1952, “Say to the prisoners, Go forth.”—Isa. 49:9.