Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Part 29—International Assemblies (1951)
AT THE 1950 Yankee Stadium convention in New York city the president of the Watch Tower Society announced that during the summer of 1951 the international family of witnesses would meet in Europe in a series of assemblies there, and that all should then begin to plan to attend. The year 1951 came, with no third world war to prevent this series of European theocratic festivals, which were called “Clean Worship” assemblies. The first of this grand series met in London, England, August 1-5, at the vast Wembley Stadium, to which thousands from forty different nations flocked by train, car, boat and plane. There 36,315 attended to hear the public talk “Will Religion Meet the World Crisis?” delivered by N. H. Knorr. This convention was well organized with various departments, on lines similar to the 1950 New York convention. The thousands were fed by cafeteria, and accommodations were available in hotels and private homes throughout London.
The program was particularly spiritually instructive and very refreshing to all. An unusually splendid orchestra was organized to direct the singing. At this happy assembly 1,123 were immersed. The major pleasant surprise was the release of the new study book entitled “What Has Religion Done for Mankind?” There was also released a series of four new tracts for effective public field service. The lectures at this convention were given in English principally. However, there were sessions in Danish, Finnish, French, German, Hollandish, Norwegian and Swedish. The international fellowship was sweet. None hesitated to talk to fellow witnesses seen all over London and recognizable by the neat lapel badges all conventioners wore. From London many of the witnesses traveled to the Continent to share in further assemblies, to meet thousands of their foreign associates who were unable to come to London.*
A joyous international assembly next followed in Paris, France, meeting at the Palais des Sports August 9-12, with 10,456 attending the public lecture. Witnesses from twenty-eight countries were represented at this first assembly of witnesses for all France in fourteen years. There 351 were baptized. Much enthusiasm prevailed during this instructive, theocratic four-day festival. All convention departments worked well to serve meals and supply accommodations, and an orchestra of fifty musicians led the singing; and did the French brothers sing heartily!
Rotterdam in the Netherlands was the next center for “Clean Worship” assembly August 17-19, meeting in the Ahoy building, the sports arena. There 285 were immersed. For the many who could not afford to be accommodated in private homes six large-tents supplied with straw came to be the sleeping chambers for 3,600 conventioners. The native witnesses were especially busy in advertising the Sunday public meeting, which was attended by 10,775, the largest of the Society’s gatherings in that country.* All who had fellowship at this assembly left with their hearts warmed through and through for those sturdy New World brothers of the Netherlands.
It was like living in the woods in the new world for three days during the international assembly at Frankfurt am Main, Germany, August 24-26, 1951. The large Sports Stadium and the neighboring Cycle Racing Bowl as an overflow auditorium were rented for this largest of German assemblies. Much advance preparation had been made in getting ready for this gigantic convention, and 4,901 convention volunteer workers helped to make this assembly a huge success. Adjoining the main stadium in the large wooded park there was erected a large tent city with streets bearing Biblical names. Several of these tents were used for the various departments, and there was a cafeteria, which had a railroad locomotive supplying steam for the unique kitchen arrangement that made it possible to feed 30,000 persons an hour. But the majority of this tent city was for the accommodation of 27,000 conventioners who could not afford to pay lodgings in hotels or private homes in Frankfurt itself. A well-conducted orchestra of 150 musicians entertained the convention and led in assembly singing.
The program was similar to that at the London assembly. There was a release of the German edition of “Equipped for Every Good Work”. Also, 2,373 were baptized. Excellent newspaper and radio publicity was obtained. Sunday the convention reached its climax with an attendance of 47,432 hearing the public lecture by N. H. Knorr. Then at the close of the sessions followed a never-to-be-forgotten spontaneous German farewell song sung by the throng, commending to God Brother Knorr and his fellow witnesses who had come from twenty-four nations. The German brothers, who have been denied the opportunity of traveling in numbers to other countries, especially appreciated the rich fellowship with all their hundreds of foreign guests during these blessed assembly days.*
Inasmuch as the activities of the witnesses in East Germany have been under ban by the Communists since August, 1950, it was not possible for many of them to get to the Frankfurt assembly. For this reason a special one-day convention was arranged for the following Tuesday in the West zone of Berlin, where a resumé of all the principal lectures and items of interest was presented by several of the original speakers themselves. The assembly took place in the pleasant outdoor amphitheater called the Woodland Stage (Waldbuehne), and 13,563 attended this stirring four-hour program. It is estimated some 8,000 were from the Communist East zone. As Brothers Knorr and Frost and others addressed them, they drank in every word and were spontaneous in their applause for freedom and against dictatorial methods’ being applied to Jehovah’s witnesses.
The dispersal of this multitude was likewise one never to be forgotten as they, too, sang affectionate parting songs. With smiles of spiritual satisfaction and after brief exchanges of greetings with their Western witness friends, the Eastern zone brothers, young and old, walked determinedly back to the subway trains, to be carried to the center of Berlin where all had to negotiate carefully their safe infiltration into the Soviet sector of the city. Many had risked their lives and spent most of their earnings to make it to this one-day convention, but to them it was worth it all. They went back to their home territories to minister amid trying times, not knowing what day they, too, might next be shut up in prisons and concentration camps along with many of their associates already incarcerated. It would have been so much easier to stay in the freedom of the Western sector. But by going back, there indeed was a display of genuine courage and devotion to theocratic duty.*
The 1951 assembly campaign continued to roll on into northern and central Europe. At the Copenhagen, Denmark, assembly there were 6,912 at the public meeting. For the dual assemblies at Vaasa and Helsinki, Finland, the combined peak attendance was 5,750.* Stockholm, Sweden, was the next convention city, with 6,211 attending. Lillehammer, Norway, had 2,391 hear the public lecture.* The largest assembly ever held by the witnesses in Austria occurred in Vienna, with 4,467 attenders.*
This 1951 series was concluded by the American convention’s being held in Washington, D.C., October 12-14, at Griffith Stadium, with a peak attendance of 57,500.
What an energetic assembly program this 1951 series proved to be in stimulating theocratic fellowship, knowledge and expansion!* These public-meeting convention figures further demonstrate what an important part these assemblies are playing in the global ingathering of Jehovah’s other sheep. Here is evidence of an irresistible theocratic expansion among spiritually awakened mankind.
Throughout 1952 Jehovah’s witnesses continued to have their normal local circuit and district assemblies, which likewise share in the process of drawing together more and more of Jehovah’s people away from Satan’s Babylonish world. No world assembly was scheduled for 1952, because everyone was planning for the long-announced international convention of 1953 to be held in New York city. This was to be a repeat of the famous 1950 Yankee Stadium gathering, but on a far larger scale.
(To be continued)
Report of the Clean Worship Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, London, 1951, pp. 3-32; Watchtower, 1951, pp. 707-715.
W 1951, pp. 756-763.
W 1952, pp. 25-29, 56, 57; 1952 Yearbook, p. 140.
W 1952, pp. 58, 59.
W 1952, pp. 89-94.
W 1952, pp. 121-125.
W 1952, pp. 153-157.
W 1952, pp. 185-190.