Divine Will Assembly Attracts World Attention
“BIGGEST Religious Gathering in History Jams Yankee Stadium,” declared the Times in Los Angeles, California, in a report on the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But it was no emotional revival, no scene of religious debate, no occasion for the taking up of collections. Rather, as Newsweek magazine correctly observed: “Education in the Bible, the single source of all Witness doctrine, is the principal function of the convention.”
At the assembly, arrangements were made to put at the disposal of newsmen such information as they might need, and it was quickly picked up and used by practically every news outlet in the area, in many languages. When more than 180,000 from 123 lands filled both Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds on the opening day of the assembly, news services flashed the report round the world.
AMAZING ORGANIZATION AND CO-OPERATION
Co-operation and whole-hearted service, which are so rare in the world in general, were evident in refreshing abundance at the Divine Will assembly. Said Life magazine: “Everything ran so smoothly that even blasé New Yorkers were impressed. Two ball parks, Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds, were jammed every day in impressive demonstrations of devotion.”
It is true that New York has seen many religious assemblies, but New York did not feel it had ever seen one like this. The August 11 issue of Time observed: “Even Billy Graham’s Yankee Stadium throng last year—100,000, and 10,000 turned away—was small by comparison. . . . If New Yorkers expected religious hysteria, they had to wait for baseball to come back. Without a hitch, in orderly procession, the Witnesses arrived aboard two chartered ships and 65 chartered planes, scores of special trains and buses, more than 20,000 cars.”
On Wednesday, July 30, 7,136 were immersed to symbolize their dedication to Jehovah God. The obvious sincerity and seriousness of the candidates, as well as the efficient handling of the program, amazed onlookers. The next morning the New York Times remarked: “With a precision that would do justice to the military, 7,136 Jehovah’s Witnesses were baptized by total immersion yesterday in a two-and-a-half-hour ceremony. . . . There were no emotional outbursts, no horseplay in the water. Each Witness gave the impression of a person bent on a serious mission.” And indeed they are, for each one of them has determined to make the worship of Jehovah God the dominant factor in his life.
“OUT OF ALL NATIONS”
In a prophetic foreview of the forward surge of true worship in our day, Revelation 7:9, 15 says: “I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne [of God] and before the Lamb, . . . and they are rendering him sacred service day and night in his temple.” At the Divine Will assembly the world could see gathered many of those of the remnant of Christ’s body members along with a good-sized representation of that diversified “great crowd.” In commenting on the type of people that have become Jehovah’s witnesses, the New York Times Magazine said: “It was the largest gathering of any kind ever held in the city, and it drew attention as never before to this group, which in recent years has been growing more rapidly than any other religious organization. The Witnesses impressed New Yorkers not only with their numbers, but with their diversity (they include people from all walks of life), their racial unself-consciousness (many Witnesses are Negroes) and their quiet, orderly behavior.”
Although many nations of the world are torn with constant outbursts of racial strife, it does not mar the association of true Christians. The Binghamton, New York, Sun told its readers about it: “Orderliness of the vast throng and the fact that it was made up of people of practically every nationality, with Negroes and Asians mingling with whites on equal terms and apparent enjoyment, was another unusual and truly remarkable feature.”
Skin color, language differences and the attitude of the political governments of the world toward one another do not divide Jehovah’s people or color their attitude toward their brothers in other lands. They are neutral as to the political affairs of the old world but are united world-wide in true worship. The New York Amsterdam News wrote about it, saying: “Never before have New Yorkers been host to people more wholly devoted to their faith than Jehovah’s Witnesses. . . . The worshiping Witnesses from 120 lands have lived and worshiped together peacefully showing Americans how easily it can be done. . . . The Assembly is a shining example of how people can work and live together.”
Such a significant demonstration of international unity attracted the attention of this strife-weary world, and it was picked up by the newspapers, radio, television and newsreels and transmitted around the world, to Europe and Asia, Africa, Latin America and the islands of the sea.
And now the Divine Will assembly is taking on further international force as the main portions of the program are being presented in conventions in many other lands. Already in the latter part of August and early September such assemblies have been held at Okinawa, with 112 in attendance; in Japan, with 881; in Fiji, with 253 present; in Frankfurt, Germany, 23,473; at Hamburg, 30,061; at Belize, British Honduras, there were 420; Denmark, 13,299; Switzerland, 5,330; Netherlands, 15,785; Finland, 698; and in the British Isles at Manchester, England, there were 9,287; 4,374 at Falkirk, Scotland, and more assemblies are to come. Another 3,253 were immersed at these assemblies, and all the assembled crowds wholeheartedly endorsed the Resolution in support of Jehovah God and his kingdom as the only hope for mankind and decrying the failure of the religious clergy to direct the attention of the people to this God-given hope. That Resolution is contained in full in the forepart of this issue of The Watchtower.
COMMENTS OF THE CLERGY
Following the adoption of the Resolution at the international assembly in New York city, newspaper headlines proclaimed: “Witnesses Find Clergy Guilty,” and “Christian Leaders Termed Delinquent.” Within the next few days, however, the headlines might well have read: ‘Clergy Find Themselves Guilty.’ In a letter to the editor of the Rochester, New York, Democrat Chronicle, a Methodist minister commented: “It points out once again that we, of the so-called ‘sophisticated, refined, theologically correct churches,’ could do well to simply assimilate some of the simple, sincere approaches that are these groups. . . . While ‘we’ busy ourselves with church bazaars, barbecues . . . [they] are busy carrying discipleship and personal witness into the homes and the hearts of any who would listen . . . they have launched out on a bold world-wide campaign that would remind one of the early first century disciples.”
And an editorial in The Catholic Light said: “I would venture to guess that ten years from now, the meeting of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in New York City will prove to have had more permanent significance than the UN meeting. . . . I say they present a challenge to us Catholics. Why? Because they are taking certain features of true religion and practicing them to the hilt while we Catholics are neglecting these features of our religion. Take for instance their missionary zeal.” True religion, practiced in the way that Christ Jesus did, stands out in contrast to the easy-going way of worldly religion, and such true religion attracts honest persons.
“CITY’S BEST GUESTS”
Application of the principles of the Bible to one’s life makes a big difference; the world saw that difference in the deportment of assembly delegates. On August 1 the New York Times wrote: “Witnesses Styled City’s Best Guests. 180,000 at World Assembly win praise for courtesy, quietude and neatness. . . . Royal Ryan, executive vice president of the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau, called the Witnesses ‘an asset to the community.’ He described their behavior as ‘out of this world.’”
Many of the public shared those sentiments. One of them wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Herald Tribune to this effect: “Seeing the Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of their families taking in the sights of the city gives one a good feeling. They are clean looking, have good manners and show respect for people of all ages. They are sociable in such a nice way that it makes you feel ashamed of the ill-mannered natives of this dirty and cold city of ours.” And not only did New Yorkers enjoy having Jehovah’s witnesses, but Jehovah’s witnesses deeply appreciated the hospitality showed by New Yorkers.
When the assembly closed on August 3 the thousands of delegates began their journey home to the 123 lands from which they had come, now better equipped for their Christian ministry. Many were sorry to see them go. The New York Daily News said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses—day before yesterday wound up the biggest convention ever yet held in New York City; and we’d like to congratulate them on the orderly way in which they handled the whole affair. . . . we hope the Witnesses will convene here again, soon.”
In Allentown, Pennsylvania, the Morning Call warmly commented: “They may not have made many conversions but they made a lot of friends and even more admirers and their organization must have received strengthening in all its members. For all there can be the satisfaction that their hosts will welcome their return at any time and in even larger numbers than those which swarmed upon New York, left their blessings and departed with the certain knowledge that many of the millions of the city’s population had been benefited spiritually by their stay.”
Jehovah’s witnesses appreciate the generally friendly and fair comments of the press on their assembly. They do not seek to attract attention to themselves, but they are eager to fulfill their God-given commission to preach the good news of the established Kingdom “in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness.” (Matt. 24:14) They know that many of those who hear of the Divine Will assembly will want to learn more about it, and may start on the way to life in God’s new world.