In the World but No Part of It
“PROBLEMS Which Jehovah’s Witnesses Present in Our Time.” Under that heading the German newspaper Vorwärts, July 19, 1957, interestingly editorialized on the phenomena of the “Church Assembly of 20,000 Bible Students in the giant tent on the Theresa Meadow.” Without intending to do so, the writer demonstrates that the witnesses of Jehovah are indeed the true followers of Christ, for “they are in the world” and yet “they are no part of the world just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:11, 14) Said the Vorwärts:
“Munich, the city of tolerance on the banks of the river Isar, will not have her next church assembly first in 1960, for which year the Eucharistic Congress has been announced; nor in 1959, in which the Evangelical Church Assembly will take place. Without making much advance propaganda, Jehovah’s witnesses erected on the Theresa Meadow of Munich a large tent which seats 20,000 and which is the biggest ever erected there, and opened their district assembly for South Germany and the Saar, which is to last until Sunday.
“A peculiar atmosphere greets the visitor as he walks along the tent streets called ‘Kingdom Street’ and ‘Watchtower Street.’ It is not the worldly cleverness of the Jesuits, not the radiant gaiety of the Dominicans, not the queer cheerfulness of the Benedictines that one can read on all faces. Neither is it the required seriousness called for by a creed, as with an evangelical church gathering, or a touristlike participation as with a Catholic Church feast, but a well-controlled, deep, inwardly rooted activity.
“One could almost think they were shadows, so frictionless does everything take place. When on Tuesday evening 15,000 of the expected 20,000 members of this teaching arrived, they were housed according to plans. Endless rows of rubber mattresses were laid out in the exhibition halls of the Theresa Meadow, which accommodated 5,000; 1,000 families had their own tents or trailers with which they settled down on the October-Feast Meadow, whose lawns are otherwise so carefully guarded by the city council of Munich. The rest found rooms in private homes which had been obtained by their friends in Munich.
“You do not hear a harsh word or any murmuring as one by one without hesitation takes his place before the cafeteria tent at noon, on ‘Kingdom Street.’ The ushers do not wear any armbands, but only small badges in their buttonholes for identification.
“The purpose of this gathering is to hold a convention. But its main feature is not, as might be supposed, the Theocratic Ministry School on Wednesday, . . . nor the baptism by complete immersion on Friday morning, nor the lectures on materialism on Saturday nor the main talk on Sunday. It is the field service every forenoon, the going from door to door by the convention delegates, for which purpose they are assigned territory. Also thirty-four buses are engaged to bring these preachers to the territory surrounding Munich. . . .
“If you ask yourself which other religious society is able to hold a convention of 20,000 people with unpaid co-workers from the organization chief down to the scrubwoman, it would be hard to find one.
“Those 20,000 people, many of whom came to Munich at the cost of great personal sacrifice, imply at the same time 20,000 questions to the great Christian churches. . . . They were seeking answers to their questions and thus they became witnesses of Jehovah in a world that has learned to get along pretty well without faith. But before they could believe that they had found the answer to their question, they had learned that they could get along without the world. But the world has never doubted that it can get along without the witnesses of Jehovah. . . . The witnesses are willing today, as before, to go to concentration camps because of their faith, but they refuse still to take any part in the political activities of this world’s systems.”