High Lights of 1957 District Assemblies
DURING the summer of 1957 the Christian witnesses of Jehovah assembled together in many conventions. Known as the “Life-giving Wisdom” District Assemblies, these were held mostly in the United States, Canada and Europe. They served to make known Jehovah’s name and kingdom, and for dedicated Christians they proved to be seasons of rich spiritual feasting, occasions for delightful fellowship, and were filled with opportunities to serve one’s brothers and to preach the Word.
At the English-language assemblies the outstanding event was the release of Volume 3 of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, consisting of the five poetical Bible books, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and The Song of Solomon. It received a tremendous welcome. Eagerly the ministers scanned its pages for new expressions and improved renderings of texts in line with the latest Bible research.
As a whole the main event of these assemblies was the Sunday afternoon lecture entitled “Healing of the Nations Has Drawn Near,” to which the public had been invited. At the conclusion of the talk a thirty-two-page booklet, containing a copy of the lecture in the native tongue, was offered free to all in attendance.
Among other discourses that were truly high lights there must be mentioned those that explained and summarized the contents of the five poetical Bible books contained in the new translation. These are currently being presented in their entirety in the columns of The Watchtower, the first, “Endurance like Job’s in the Time of the End,” having appeared in the October 1 issue, and “International Praise to the One God” appearing in this issue. The next one, “Wise Sayings for the Modern Day,” discusses the book of Proverbs. Setting the theme for the assemblies, it contrasted divine wisdom with human wisdom and showed the distinction between knowledge, wisdom and understanding.
The next talk of this series, “The Congregator on Works Vain and Worthwhile,” based on Ecclesiastes, showed why selfish pursuits are vain and emphasized that Christians do not need to experiment to find this out; Solomon did that for them! And most loved was the last of these talks, “The Loved Woman of the Superlative Song,” dealing with The Song of Solomon. Actually “The Song of Solomon’s Frustrated Love,” it tells of his falling in love with a Shulammite maiden who preferred her shepherd lover to him, picturing how the “bride” of Christ remains true to him.
Of particular interest also were two talks on the first three chapters of Revelation, which brought home to overseers of congregations their obligations as “stars.” And “Serving Where the Need Is Great” invited all who could to go to foreign lands as part-time missionaries. The informal heart-warming closing remarks by the leading representative of the Society present must also be listed as a high point of each assembly. At all the United States assemblies the president of the Society, N. H. Knorr, and the vice-president, F. W. Franz, repeatedly spoke.
OTHER INTERESTING FEATURES
Many interesting field experiences were also related. One told of a Polish engineer having several doctor’s and master’s degrees, who had fought in the Polish underground during World War II. At his place of employment a fellow worker, one of Jehovah’s witnesses, noting his sincerity and good will, began to tell him of the Kingdom hope. In only a few months he took his stand. He was baptized at one of the assemblies.
That perseverance in calling back brings results was noted time and again. In one instance, after many calls a certain Sunday-school teacher was finally contacted. After studying with the witnesses and after having had a meeting in his home with his preacher and the witnesses he took his stand. Today all the members of his former Sunday-school class are either attending witness meetings or are having witness Bible studies in their homes.
It is known that Jehovah’s witnesses do not believe in infant baptism, it being without Scriptural support. But does an eight-year-old girl understand enough to be baptized? A newspaper reporter doubted it until he questioned the lass, who ably answered all his questions, and that directly from her Bible.
The sisters of a certain congregation resolved to do added preaching to keep up the congregation quotas while the brothers were building a new Kingdom Hall. As a result of this and the interest aroused by the building of the hall, there was such increase that by the time the hall was completed the congregation was almost ready to divide into two congregations.
While these various assemblies were very similar, having the same program, some had one or more distinctive features. Thus the assembly at Miami, Florida, held July 3 to 7, utilized a modern race track, the center of which was a beautiful lagoon surrounded by royal palms. The holding of the baptism in this lagoon enabled all attending the assembly to witness it without leaving their seats! The assembly at Houston, Texas, held at the same time, had sessions in both Spanish and English, in an air-conditioned auditorium, which was very much appreciated, as also was the lack of any racial discrimination.
The assemblies at Denver, Colorado, and Seattle, Washington, were held July 10 to 14. Outstanding at Denver were the beautiful platform setting, a Rocky Mountain scene, with real evergreens and waterfalls, and the fine behavior of the children. At Seattle what stood out was the very favorable publicity by the press, radio and TV; all of which was in such striking contrast to 1938, when the assembly not only received no publicity at all but was in danger of being mobbed out. The following week the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, assembly was held. Especially eliciting comment here were the hospitality of the Milwaukeeans and the keen interest displayed by those in attendance at the assembly programs.
The major high light of the assembly held at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles, California (July 24-28), was the TV program of the convention Sunday morning from 11 o’clock till noon. This was at the request of the sponsors of the program known as “Great Churches of the Golden West.” Featured was the giving of a talk by the president of the Society, N. H. Knorr, the answering of Bible questions by F. W. Franz, vice-president, the interviewing of foreign missionaries and the singing by the convention. On Sunday afternoon the attendance at Wrigley Field reached 48,746, packing out the stands and filling all available space on the playing field. Also to be mentioned was the superb musical program.
Memorial Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland, August 21 to 25, saw the last of the United States assemblies. Its high light was the Resolution passed Saturday afternoon, which protested to the Dominican chief of state the expulsion of missionaries from his country and the brutal treatment recently given to Jehovah’s witnesses residing in it. Outstanding also were the experiences the expelled missionaries related; the number baptized, 1,034; and the many free rooming accommodations accorded the witnesses.
Three assemblies were held in Canada during July. One Toronto newspaper published a panoramic view of the assembly that spread across the tops of two pages. Among those that came to the Edmonton assembly was a group of Alaskans who traveled two thousand miles by truck to get there.
Four assemblies were held in England and one in Scotland. Both the press and the TV stations took note of the assemblies, and some very friendly letters appeared in the papers. Outstanding was the total attendance, which was 20 percent above that of last year, and that in spite of a bus strike that affected four assemblies.
Three assemblies were held in Western Germany. At Dortmund a motorcycle police escort led the twenty-five buses taking the candidates to the immersion twelve miles away. Their clearing the highway, stopping cross traffic to give the witnesses right of way, created quite an impression on outsiders. What a contrast with just thirteen years ago, when all the witnesses were in Nazi concentration camps! At Munich the assembly was held in a mammoth tent almost a thousand feet long, with a capacity of 22,000. Being four times as large as any tent Munich had ever seen, it created considerable comment. The thrill of the German assemblies was the release of the witness textbook Qualified to Be Ministers, in German.
The following lists the reports received up to the time of publication:
1957 DISTRICT ASSEMBLY REPORT
Location Attendance Baptized
Austria (three assemblies) 4,080 161
Belgium (two assemblies) 4,989 187
Bolton 8,107 124
Derby 7,761 98
Southampton 8,731 128
Southend 8,200 160
Edinburgh 4,016 67
Edmonton 9,824 222
Moncton 2,169 47
Toronto 23,063 322
Esbjerg 4,283 101
Naestued 5,074 124
Randers 2,971 42
Finland (three assemblies) 7,641 162
Lille 4,802 148
Toulouse 1,050 54
Dortmund 26,270 723
Kiel 10,844 343
Munich 27,868 748
Hong Kong 228 20
Naples 1,270 104
Norway (Trondheim) 3,069 87
Sweden (four assemblies) 9,581 215
Switzerland (Zurich) 4,747 131
Baltimore 41,816 1,034
Denver 14,501 245
Houston (Spanish and
English) 13,786 288
Los Angeles 48,746 827
Miami (Hallandale) 17,632 342
Milwaukee 30,671 527
Seattle 16,417 289
Totals 375,437 8,070