Part 1—The “Triumphant Kingdom” Assemblies of 1955
THE kingdom of Jehovah God gained a grand triumph in 1955 by crowning with splendid success the series of thirteen international assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses during the summer. The theme common to each such assembly proved to be true, namely, “Triumphant Kingdom.” The holding of the entire series of assemblies just as scheduled added to the proof that Jehovah’s kingdom by Christ had been established in the heavens in 1914 and is now ruling triumphantly among all its enemies in this world, backing up the Kingdom preachers on earth that they might meet together to give a powerful, united witness to all nations concerning that established kingdom. This demonstration of invisible Kingdom power was quite in keeping with the title of the public talk that climaxed each assembly, “World Conquest Soon—by God’s Kingdom.” From sixty-two or more different lands and nations a grand total of more than four hundred thousand witnesses and other interested persons flocked together to hear this challenging public message. To millions more this same message will go out in booklet form in many languages, together with other Bible publications that were released for the first time at these assemblies. Yes, to millions of persons of good will throughout the earth the hundreds of thousands of blessed attenders will tell of their soul-stirring experiences at these assemblies, thus spreading still farther the good effects of this assembly series.
This chain of thirteen assemblies for ten weeks in a row was a matter of world-wide interest and prayer. It began with the assembly in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., June 22-26, 1955, and closed with the assembly in Helsinki, Finland, August 25-28. All the world had been informed of this international event as far back as July 26, 1953, at the close of the second international assembly at New York’s Yankee Stadium. Then the president announced to an audience of more than a hundred thousand from ninety-seven different lands the plans of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society for holding such a series of assemblies in 1955, extending from the Pacific coast of North America and through Britain and on to the European continent. Ever since then personal as well as organizational preparations were under way, thousands of witnesses of Jehovah saving money and arranging their affairs to travel abroad and attend one or more assemblies in foreign lands, especially those in Europe. In its magazines—The Watchtower and Awake!—and other communications the Society kept the matter of the assemblies alive, particularly those to be held in Europe. In response to this and in obedience to God’s command to Christians not to forsake the gathering of themselves together, half the number of those who reported activity as Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the earth attended the assemblies. Ordinarily for so many to hold convention together in one place, like Yankee Stadium, would have been impossible. The making of it a series of assemblies in thirteen cities of Christendom, in the Northern Hemisphere, made it convenient for hundreds of thousands to come together and share in the same spiritual feasts, and for a more impressive, farther-reaching witness to be given concerning God’s kingdom and his New World society.
The program of features and activities was identical for all the five-day assemblies in English-speaking lands. Those on the European continent required some change in the line-up of speeches according to the location or movement of the president and other officers of the Society charged with giving the main speeches of the assembly, also the assemblies at Rome, Berlin and Helsinki being less than five-days long. The need of some of the speeches to be translated on the platform directly from spoken English into a foreign language cut down on the amount of the material that could be presented in the time allotted to the speech. To ensure that all assemblies got the same spiritual food all talks, except farewell talks by the president and the vice-president, were read from specially prepared manuscripts, the same manuscripts being supplied to all the assemblies alike. Specially selected representatives of the Society, capable persons, were assigned to read the speeches, under instructions to familiarize themselves thoroughly therewith so as to be able to present the speeches feelingly, sincerely and with the most telling effect. To show the richness of the spiritual information, counsel and instruction that were spread on the program aside from the songs and experiences related, we give below the subjects of the talks of each day:
Pursuing My Purpose in Life
Address of Welcome by the Chairman: Responsibility and Stewardship
Following the Course of Hospitality
The Triumphant Message of “The Kingdom,” by the president
Be Satisfied by Work
“Be Rich in Right Works”
Your Personal Study
Your Bible Questions Answered
Pursuing My Purpose in Life
Show Respect for Jehovah’s Organization
Appreciating the Society’s Publications
Qualified to Be Ministers, by the president
Activity and Life versus Inactivity and Death
What Dedication Means to Me
Why One Must Be Baptized
Pursuing My Purpose My Life
Gossip Can Destroy You!
You Can Crush Gossip!
Keep Apace with the New World Society (by three speakers)
Be Filled with Accurate Knowledge
The Congregation Publisher’s Proper View of His Ministry
Full-Time Service—a Glorious Treasure
Triumphing over Wicked Spirit Forces, by the president
Pursuing My Purpose in Life
Love Builds Up (by three speakers)
Waging the Right Warfare
“Jehovah Is in His Holy Temple,” by the president
Youth’s Place in the New World Society
Christian Worship and Preservation of Virtue
Avoiding the Wine Press of God’s Wrath
Stay Awake, Stand Firm, Grow Mighty
Guard Your Christian Trust
Cautious as Serpents Among Wolves
World Conquest Soon—by God’s Kingdom, by the president
Keeping Up with the Truth
Closing Remarks by the President
As our spiritual food consists not only of hearing and taking the Bible message in with our minds but also our sharing it with others, thus doing our God’s will, to finish his work for us, the mornings except Sunday were assigned to preaching publicly and from house to house by the conventioners in general. The big public-lecture ads paid for and published in the local newspapers each Tuesday and Friday were not enough. A personal witness by live, flesh-and-blood Kingdom publishers must be given. Millions of handbills announcing the public meeting of Sunday were to be distributed, there was placard work to do, marching with public-lecture placards displayed on one’s person or placing them in store windows or other noticeable locations, there were the valuable Bible study helps in the form of bound books and booklets to be offered to the people at their homes, there were also the latest magazines of the Society to be offered at posts along the sidewalks or from door to door and from store to store. Conventioners must come to these grand gatherings not only to receive spiritual good things but also to give; they must ‘buy back the opportune time’ for preaching the good news by taking advantage of their opportunities for field service at the assemblies, unitedly giving an overwhelming witness in and around each assembly point. So allowance for this vital feature of an assembly was made on the program of events, and a brief service meeting was held mornings at the assembly location for those who found it convenient to assemble there at 9:30 to join in song and prayer, hear the day’s Bible text and discussion and receive field-service instructions.
One morning, generally Friday, was assigned for a mass baptism to be performed for all those who wanted to imitate Jesus Christ and obey his command to be totally immersed before witnesses as an open symbol of their having dedicated themselves completely and forever to Jehovah God through Christ. For three mornings the Society’s president would hold hour-and-a-half conferences with all the circuit servants and district servants present, many of these being accompanied by their wives who travel with them from congregation to congregation and have special responsibilities to fill. The last of the three mornings of conference the congregation servants who acted as overseers of local congregations were invited to join in the conference. In lands where the Society has branch offices a home called Bethel is maintained for the family of workers, and from time to time new workers are needed. So the program scheduled a meeting of the president one morning with those who wanted to apply for full-time service at one of the Bethel homes or for free schooling and training at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead to become missionaries in foreign fields. Thus the thought of future service, the tremendous work yet to be done, was not left out of mind in planning and carrying out these assemblies. A consistent arrangement and effort was made to provide for more workers, yes, to provide better-trained, better-equipped, more effective workers, ministers, as a result of these assemblies.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, U.S.A., JUNE 22-26, 1955
The first international assembly of the modern witnesses of Jehovah was held in a pavilion near the lake front of Chicago in 1893, with about 360 representatives from Canada and the United States, the first president of the Watch Tower Society, Charles T. Russell, himself being present and serving the convention. Seventy of these symbolized their dedication to God by total immersion in water. During the sixty-two years since then no national or international convention was held in Chicago until this past summer, June 22-26, 1955. For this the one-time “Baseball Palace of the World,” Comiskey Park, with a seating capacity of 46,500, was engaged, as more than a hundred times as many were expected to attend this initial assembly of the series as attended the one sixty-two years ago. For the reception and lodging of so many conventioners for this five-day gathering a tremendous preconvention organization was arranged and built up. For weeks in advance Chicago’s twenty-three congregations with their total of 2,500 active publishers of God’s triumphant kingdom swung into action to procure rooming accommodations not only in the city’s many hotels but particularly in the private homes of hospitable people of the city. Over 15,500 room requests were received.
For the convenient feeding of many thousands right there at the convention grounds three times a day a kitchen was set up under the ball park’s stands. Cafeteria tables were installed in seven great tents adjacent to the baseball park, and many refreshment stands were put into operation. A large propane tank with fuel was donated for the convention’s use, to warm the tons of food that were to be eaten at the mass meals. Many departments for the administration of the assembly and its many services and activities were set up in the rooms and corridors of Comiskey Park’s diamond-shape structure, with its grandstand of lower and upper decks of seats.
The baseball diamond itself underwent a transformation: over second base an attractive speakers’ platform was erected, fringed with thousands of potted flowers of gorgeous hue and evergreen shrubs, with a circular bed of live, growing flowers over the ball pitcher’s “box.” In a wide sweep around this stood the large white letters spelling out TRIUMPHANT KINGDOM ASSEMBLY OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES. Hence one big Chicago daily said that “Comiskey Park was converted into an outdoor temple.” Said another daily: “Comiskey Park is transformed today into a gigantic Kingdom Hall for the Jehovah’s Witnesses assembly.” Here, as one newsman said, Bibles were to be sold instead of baseball scorecards. Here, too, tens of thousands who love God more than they love pleasures were to pack the stands and applaud the striking points of Bible speeches and to sing the praises of the two greatest champions of truth and righteousness, Jehovah God and Christ Jesus.
When the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, and his personal secretary, M. G. Henschel, and the vice-president, F. W. Franz, arrived by plane from New York the evening before the assembly’s opening, the convention grounds were a beehive of activity by preconvention workers, and the cafeteria was already in operation and had served some 850 meals.
Chicago’s proved to be what one newspaper called it, a “giant” assembly. All the publicity agencies, newspapers, radio and television, interested themselves in this outstanding religious event. In the local newspapers 4,445 column inches of space were taken up with reports on the convention. There was even a nationwide television program from east coast to west coast, presenting an interview with the president, Brother Knorr. But the conventioners themselves were a most forceful publicity agency, not only by word of mouth but by circulating all the advertising material and by wearing on coat or waist the celluloid-encased colorful miniature placard naming the assembly, the place and the subject of the coming public address. The hundreds of cars by which many came to the convention also bore brilliant-color signs.
The day’s Bible texta was very fitting for the opening day of the Chicago assembly. Conventioners assembled not only from forty-two of the states of the American union but from seven foreign nations. A number of these foreign delegates related experiences from the platform, besides which telegraph messages poured in from still other foreign lands and were read from the platform—from such distant places as Australia, Philippine Islands, South Korea, Ceylon, Indochina—many thus being there in spirit and in prayer. By the closing session of the day there were 17,735 personally gathered together, quite filling the huge V of the grandstand.
A joy-bringing gift marked the afternoon of this first day of this first of the series of thirteen assemblies. After a vigorous presentation of the hour speech, “The Triumphant Message of ‘The Kingdom,’” Brother Knorr as the Society’s president took his audience of 16,565 completely by surprise by announcing and releasing Volume II of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, setting out the nine Bible books from First Samuel to Esther. The stock of 28,000 copies on hand of this new volume was almost exhausted by the close of the assembly. All the other speakers on the day’s program handled their prepared talks well, and the fifteen-minute feature, “Pursuing My Purpose in Life,” the first of a series of four true-life stories of successful, still-going missionaries, won a warm place in the hearts of the conventioners.
Thursday morning, for more than an hour and a half, the president held the first of a series of three meetings with the Society’s representatives who serve circuits and districts. There were present thirty-six of such servants, quite a number with their wives. The discussion, led by the president, laid stress on how such servants must be proper representatives of the Society that sends them out, in morals, conduct, exclusive application to their duties, speech and leadership. They are to act as field members of the Society’s headquarters’ office force and so to handle congregational troubles and make recommendations and also submit descriptions of matters of concern to the Society: in brief, be “trouble shooters.”
They were reminded that the carrying out of written directions from headquarters results in success in the service. Schedule your activities, then stick conscientiously to such schedule, they were told. Do not burden yourself with social engagements, exhausting the strength you should conserve for Jehovah’s service. Show each congregation you visit the good quality of its territory; show that the territory can be worked with good results, even if you have to go out and work it alone while there. Do not countenance retaining incompetent servants in office in a congregation, to the hurt of a congregation or a circuit. Servants should be removed, if advisable; worthy servants are those who set the pace for the congregation publishers as respects the field activity in publishing the Kingdom news. When a congregation meets its quota of increasing its publishers ten per cent in number, there is no need to raise the quota, with a possibility of not attaining to that number of publishers and thus depriving the successful congregation of its elation of reaching a quota and even exceeding it. The real need is to train the ten per cent increase in the number of publishers to become capable dispensers of God’s Word. The calling in of district and circuit servants to attend the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead has even shown them to be in need of some training or instruction or able to profit from further instruction.
The president’s meeting with the circuit and district servants was very stimulating and won high appreciation. “Heart-warming!” commented one circuit servant at the close.
Television had its “inning” today, with the nationwide telecast over the National Broadcasting Company’s network, showing conventioners busy on a street, a view of the convention service and the president as he gave a report. Later the same evening a seven-minute interview of the president by a popular TV newscaster was telecast on the “Chicago Story” by WBBM-TV of the Columbia Broadcasting System.
The way the assembly dominated the news affected the sale of the newly released Vantage Press’ book entitled “Jehovah’s Witnesses—the New World Society,” by Marley Cole. Chicago bookstores handling it were selling out their stock of it, to put the book in line for a place on the best-seller list.
But the publication that dominated the day at the assembly was the book of ninety chapters entitled “Qualified to Be Ministers.” Little did the afternoon audience of 19,987 anticipate that the president would release this new publication at the close of his speech on that same subject. So they hailed it with delight, and rejoiced that this new textbook had been provided for use in the weekly theocratic ministry school of the congregations of God’s witnesses. It is the “best yet” book for this purpose. By the assembly’s close almost the entire stock of 38,000 copies of Qualified to Be Ministers was gone.
Thursday’s sessions closed with a half-hour talk by the convention servant, J. O. Groh, on the subject “What Dedication Means to Me.” This talk was specially to prepare many who had just dedicated themselves to God or who were contemplating this advisable, urgent step for the baptism in water that the program announced for the following morning.
Activity in the field also took its part on the day’s program of events. The city had been divided up into 3,000 territories for door-to-door witnesses, five publishers to each territory. The newspapers announced that 15,000 had gone into action afield that morning. Supplying the volunteers with territories for various types of field activity kept the Service Department of the assembly very busy.
Chicago had never witnessed a “mass baptismal ceremony” such as it did Friday morning. At the 8:30 a.m. consideration of the subject “Why One Must Be Baptized” 620 answered Yes to two determining questions to show their worthiness of being wholly submerged in water as their Leader Jesus Christ had been nineteen centuries ago. These 393 women and 227 men were conveyed from the park in a motorcade of 214 cars to the Washington Park swimming pool, where three lines of baptizers were ready to immerse them as John the Baptist had immersed Jesus. Besides the many spectators present at the pool as witnesses, three television company photographers were on hand taking pictures. ABC later telecast over its 36 stations a minute of scenes at the baptismal site. Large-size pictures of the baptism also were spread out over the pages of later issues of newspapers.
Today, after overcoming some difficulty with electrical union officials, the ground-level system of loud-speakers was installed by the assembly’s own experts, and the transmission of the speeches to the conventioners was made more satisfactory. Speaking of sound, many whose ears were dead to sound got the benefit of the speeches by a Canadian witness who translated them into sign language to the occupants of the section reserved for deaf-mutes. Thus, quite literally, ‘in that day the deaf heard the words of the book’.—Isa. 29:18.
Friday ended with 24,793 listening most attentively to a speech by the president against spiritism. The unfolding of the subject “Triumphing over Wicked Spirit Forces” gripped them, but they were not too absorbed to break out in applauses, and the release of the ninety-six-page booklet What Do the Scriptures Say About “Survival After Death”? brought forth a climax of applauses. The keen appreciation of the attractive new booklet was disclosed by the conventioners’ taking up the complete stock of 43,000 copies within the next twenty-four hours.
The next day the Chicago assembly was no exception to the world-wide rule. For it also Saturday was Magazine Day. While others were out in the magazine work afield that morning, the president conducted a meeting with applicants for full-time service at the Brooklyn Bethel and for missionary training at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. This was followed by the meeting of congregation servants along with the circuit servants and district servants. The spiritual shepherds of God’s flock are men of great responsibility involving the eternal life of God’s sheep, and so they were properly given special attention and instruction regarding the duties and obligations of their office. This morning these special servants gathered in the sections of the grandstand immediately in front of the flower-bedecked speakers’ stand; and any others of the conventioners who wanted to were permitted to listen in and hear the admonition that was given to their servants by the president.
A special revelation of Bible truth awaited the assembly this afternoon. The president’s announced theme was, “Jehovah Is in His Holy Temple” and 28,617 were attentive to hear it discussed. For the first time it was made clear to their understanding that it was Jehovah God himself who came to his spiritual temple in 1918, accompanied by his Messenger of the covenant, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi 3:1. The solemn significance of Jehovah’s presence at his temple since then opened up to their understanding, for Jehovah was fulfilling his warning to be a “swift witness” against all wrongdoers among those claiming to be his people. Divine prophecy had declared that the worship of the living and true God must be exalted above everything else on earth, and this requirement hundreds of thousands of His witnesses out of all nations were now fulfilling. As the listeners were lifted to this elevated plane of thought, the president crowned his speech by holding aloft and announcing the new, bright-yellow book entitled “You May Survive Armageddon into God’s New World.” With applause and gladness they received it to themselves, and the entire supply of 43,000 copies was quickly taken up by the conventioners.
Conventioners kept pouring into the assembly place, and by the close of the day’s program the audience had risen to 30,394 to hear the final talk “Avoiding the Wine Press of God’s Wrath,” by Vice-President F. W. Franz.
The ideal convention weather continued throughout the fifth and concluding day. The spiritual menu of the feast on Sunday morning offered experience accounts and three meaty talks until noon, and 27,118 enjoyed it. The impressively advertised public lecture “World Conquest Soon—by God’s Kingdom” was next on the program, at 3 p.m. The newspapers had announced that 40,000 were expected for this the first delivery of this subject. But expectations were exceeded. Under a cloudless sky, bathed with sunshine, 42,116 assembled, an increase of 11,722 more than last night. This meant a gratifying turnout of spiritually hungry and thirsty people. The portion that the president speaker delivered to them regarding God’s world-conquering kingdom was satiating and they repeatedly applauded in appreciation. After showing them what grand things world conquest soon by God’s kingdom could mean for them according to their God-directed decision, the speaker introduced amid further applause the thirty-two-page booklet with the entire speech in print, to be distributed free to all his audience. He exhorted them to make a serious study of it with their own Bible, of whatever translation, and then to share the good news with others. A stock of 55,000 copies was on hand, but it quickly melted away into eager hands.
After a brief intermission the registrar of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead gave the timely talk on “Keeping Up with the Truth.” Then the “closing remarks” by the Society’s president, Brother Knorr, followed. Evidently many of the public remained to hear this farewell address, for 30,893 heard these extemporaneous remarks and afterward felt that they would not have missed it for anything. Thoughtfully Brother Knorr took occasion to warn of two lines of attack by Satan the adversary today, (1) persecution by oppressive government and (2) materialism, which prevails in prosperous parts of the world. The latter attack is more subtle than the former; many are yielding to the latter, while others are defeating the heavy persecution by keeping their integrity toward God as his dedicated witnesses.
Neither must we yield to worldliness; the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses must not let itself be overwhelmed by any worldliness that the inflowing “other sheep” might tend to bring in with them in their immaturity. Rather than let them change us into worldlings, we must help in their being changed to meet God’s standards. There is no place for a socializing “entertainment servant” in the New World society and its congregations. Spiritual interests come first and exclusively in Kingdom Halls.
Materialism may have cut down the number in the ranks of our full-time pioneers, but faith in God’s promises and an unwavering persistence such as were exhibited in the true-life stories, “Pursuing My Purpose in Life,” will help to build up our pioneer ranks. By our spreading the sweet odor of the knowledge of God to others we can be an acceptable fragrance to him and a life-giving odor to true seekers of God. By all five releases made at the assembly God has further equipped us to spread this vital odor to them.
The increase in the number of those reporting activity in spreading the knowledge of God in the month of April this past service year has been outstanding, a world-wide increase of 19 per cent, to raise the figure to 625,256 publishers in lands on both sides of the iron curtain; and there ought to be a corresponding increase in the number of full-time pioneers. As foretold in Isaiah’s prophecy, vast multitudes from all nations are now going up to the house of Jehovah on the mountaintop, to worship him. To take care of the spiritual needs of these and of untold numbers expected yet to come, the Watch Tower Society is expanding its building program in El Salvador, in Costa Rica, in Canada and in the United States, at an expense of millions of dollars. There is no excuse for idleness on the part of anyone in Jehovah’s service, and our remaining opportunities before Armageddon are great.
The coming assemblies in the series were mentioned, and by its applause the Chicago assembly voted to send its love and greetings to all other assemblies and to all the brothers back home by those in attendance at this assembly. There were also words of appreciation, heartily endorsed by applause, for the management of the baseball park, for the hospitable people of Chicago who had given lodging to conventioners and, not to be overlooked, for our dear brothers who at the convention had volunteered for the many departments of service that were necessary to the successful operation of the assembly. Some time after six p.m. grateful song by thousands of blended voices ascended heavenward and the president offered a fervent prayer and the Chicago assembly ended under the cloudless dome of heaven.
The Chicago assembly manifested Jehovah’s blessing upon all the planning and arrangement for the entire series of thirteen assemblies now begun. It set the pattern for the whole series, not only as to the common program of rich spiritual provisions but also as to the grand success with which each assembly was to be crowned.
(To be continued)
[Picture on page 732]
Speakers’ platform at Chicago assembly