Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Part 30—International Assembly 1953
THE “New World Society Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses” at New York’s Yankee Stadium, announced well in advance, became a historic reality July 19-26, 1953.
America’s greatest religious assembly of all time it turned out to be. Peak attendance for the culminating Sunday, 165,829, filled the stadium and nearby overflow places to utmost capacity. From ninety-six different countries of earth the witnesses had come. Sessions were held in twenty languages.
Accommodating such vast numbers for eight days was a gigantic undertaking. Every available sleeping place in New York city was engaged by the rooming committee. But accommodated they were. Trailer City was located at the same place in New Jersey, near Plainfield, as for the 1950 world assembly, but covered far more ground. Its population rose to the unbelievable total of 45,453. In a feat that was the world’s largest mass immersion, 4,640 were baptized. This massive assembly made world news for eight days and for weeks thereafter by every news medium of the time—press, radio, newsreel film, television.a
The old world became sadly aware that now there was on the global scene a challenging New World society, clean, upright, growing, full of divine blessing and favor. False religion began to be eclipsed by the shoutings of praises to Jehovah by His true worshipers in all the earth. Earthwide, multitudes of people and their rulers have come to hold an awesome respect for Jehovah’s witnesses and their activities.
“The witnesses of Jehovah are not a laughing matter,” echoed a Vatican-guided American periodical late in 1955 with a picture of the 1953 Yankee Stadium assembly; and then added: “Catholics, of course, should have nothing to do with them nor their literature, particularly when an intensified campaign in a given district attracts swarms of Witnesses. . . . Two lessons can be learned from these misguided people; the lesson of intense devotion to the Faith, and the lesson of enthusiastic, eager Catholic Action that counts no cost.”b
During the eight days of that grand assembly a veritable shower of new publications was released to the conventioners for themselves and for distribution to the public in New York city and throughout the earth. A total of 3,073,675 pieces of literature passed across the bookroom counters during those eight days. Among the new releases the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Volume I, headed the list. Others included the new books “Make Sure of All Things” and “New Heavens and a New Earth”, as well as the booklets Basis for Belief in a New World, “Preach the Word” and After Armageddon—God’s New World, in addition to many publications in languages other than English.
The administration and organization of this record-setting convention were superb, involving over twenty thousand volunteer workers. The feeding of the thousands was prompt, fast moving, with better service and better food than even the 1950 assembly cafeteria—a wonder in its time. Full of spiritual instruction, counsel, new light of truth and demonstrations as to the ministry and practical New World living was the 1953 eight-day program. Almost all sessions were broadcast by the Society’s radio station WBBR.
Opening with “Earth’s Four Quarters Day,” Sunday, July 19, the graduation of Gilead’s twenty-first class was featured. Here were 127 trained students from twenty-eight countries who received assignments for missionary work in forty-four lands. “North America Day” brought into view branch-servant and missionary reports of that continent in addition to Brother Knorr’s talk “Living Now as a New World Society.” Tuesday, “Islands of the Atlantic Day,” brought reports from that part of the world. “South America Day” on Wednesday brought thrilling reports of expansion there. A high point of the convention was reached in the afternoon when during the lecture “Walk in the Name of Jehovah Our God for Ever” the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Volume I, was released to an eager audience. On Thursday, “Asia Day,” aside from the colorful reports from that continent, the lecture “New World Society Attacked from the Far North” was received with rapt attention. “Africa Day” was Friday, and “Europe Day” Saturday. The high light on Saturday was Brother Knorr’s lecture “Flight to Safety with the New World Society.” Sunday, July 26, “Islands of the Pacific Day,” brought the convention to its climax with the public lecture “After Armageddon—God’s New World.” Speakers from all over the world shared on this great eight-day platform of highest education.
The theme of Jehovah’s new world, emphasized so aptly at that historic gathering in New York, continues to ring in the memories of the witnesses. The bountiful information they had received they took back home with them and were eager to carry out the Resolution adopted on the Monday at Yankee Stadium, which defined the New World society and declared their determination to be held together by the indissoluble ties that bind all together without distinction according to race, color, language, tribe or nation, and to continue to measure up to their commission of being Jehovah’s witnesses.c Though being Scripturally informed as to Satan’s forthcoming world-wide attack on the New World society, none of the witnesses went home fearful. Rather they returned joyful and happy, knowing that their great God and Protector, Jehovah, would see them through the future attack, provided they now would do their duty as to the ministry. The apostolic way of the house-to-house ministry had been stressed to them, and all were ready to increase their preaching efforts.
In months that followed July, 1953, extension conventions were held on all five continents. All were organized along similar lines and had locally adapted forms of the one program. It was heart-stirring to see the organizational initiative displayed by skilled witnesses in all parts of the earth, marshaling together available equipment to make their local national assembly a success. The attractive platform setting at Yankee Stadium has been imitated again and again on a smaller scale but, nevertheless, colorfully, prettily. Even Africa’s natives worked days ahead of time in erecting skillfully designed and engineered gigantic booths or outdoor-stadium assembly places, and other structures for sleeping dormitories. Electric light they generated out in the bush to keep volunteer workers supplied in sunless hours as this construction work proceeded to completion according to schedule. Supplied, too, were plumbing and water needed for field kitchens to enable the cafeteria system to operate in theocratic style.
Whether in Australia, Africa, Europe or the Americas, Jehovah’s witnesses are accustomed to new ways of communal feeding, fellowship, overcoming construction problems and other obstacles. Their newfound unity and vision and understanding of the one new world under Christ Jesus, Jehovah’s King, make them truly a new people. No mountain of opposition discourages them or dampens their zeal for their living God. Children come along with their parents to these vast theocratic festivals and learn to embrace New World ways very quickly. These 1953 conventions and other organizational activities of the Society have been dramatically captured in the film entitled “The New World Society in Action.”
Assembling of Jehovah’s people in large gatherings is part of the practical transformation of their thinking and acting. All are given similar convention experiences, the same spiritual information, and they register the same reaction of thanks to Jehovah. In loving unity convention prayers of praise to Jehovah are offered. Even the mass singing of Kingdom songs manifests a united heart attitude. On these memorable occasions Jehovah’s angels busily stand guard, furnishing His promised invisible protection. (Heb. 1:14, NW) Now is Jehovah’s due time for this visible assembling arrangement for his people, and he decrees this angelic protection. Just as in the days of creation when Jehovah’s active force was moving to and fro over the surface of earth’s waters, so at these great conventions Jehovah’s holy spirit continually operates back and forth over the assembled multitude to energize right operation and to bring success to the spiritual feeding program. (Gen. 1:2, NW) Therefore, just as in Moses’ day, these gatherings of today are “holy conventions.” When one assembles with Jehovah’s witnesses he literally feels an atmosphere of security, peace, joy and happiness, which are assured by reason of services rendered by Jehovah’s angels and his spirit.
(To be concluded)
And let us consider one another to incite to love and right works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.—Heb. 10:24, 25, NW.
a Report of New World Society Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Yankee Stadium, New York city, July 19-26, 1953, pp. 1-96.
b The Catholic Home Messenger, August 1955, pp. 14, 15, 28.
c For the full text of this historic resolution adopted by 125,040, describing the origin, structure and purposes of the New World society, see the 1953 Convention Report, pp. 3, 4, and The Watchtower of August 15, 1953, pp. 507-509.