Dedication at Brooklyn Bethel
“THIS is the time to expand!” These were the thrilling words of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, on Monday evening, October 10, 1960, at the dedication of the new Bethel building in Brooklyn, New York. “This new twelve-story building,” said Brother Knorr, “is an indication of Jehovah’s blessing on his organization.”
Assembled in the beautiful Kingdom Hall of the new building were 630 persons, the Brooklyn Bethel family, together with other brothers who had worked on the new structure. “The beauty of this building is because of your hands,” said Brother Knorr; for while a construction company had been hired to do much of the work, these brothers had done the cleaning, painting, tile laying and other work to make the building truly a marvel of beauty. Yes, they had had a large share in the work, thereby saving considerable expense and ensuring a better-quality building.
“This organization is growing,” Brother Knorr emphatically stated, and the new building is really necessary. In 1950 there were just 355 members of the Bethel family; in 1955 there were 445; now in 1960 there are 607 members of the headquarters family, and the housing facilities have been overcrowded.
Relating some facts about the new building, Brother Knorr told how demolition of the buildings on the site began December 8, 1958, and was completed by April 8, 1959. On May 21, 1959, the first concrete was poured—12,658 tons of it being used, reinforced by 472 tons of steel, and some 230,000 bricks were used on the outside of the building. One of the unusual features of the building is the tunnel connecting the new building with the Bethel home at 124 Columbia Heights.
The new building is in the shape of an L, the long part of the L running from Columbia Heights along Orange Street to Willow Street. The short side of the L runs along Willow Street. The first two floors of the building are enclosed in marble and glass, and it is this area that will be used for offices and school facilities.
Discussing a delightful feature of the new building, Brother Knorr told about the yard and gardens. Facing Columbia Heights and flanking two wrought-iron gates are two entrance piers made of brick, the piers supporting on the outside a wrought-iron fence. To enter the building one walks past the entrance piers down a blue flagstone path. In the center of the yard, which is 125 feet long and 44 feet wide, is a pool made of blue ceramic tile. The yard “will become a beautiful garden, a miniature forest,” said Brother Knorr. Besides numerous flower beds there will be trees of many kinds, such as white birch, spruce, sugar maple and a Korean cherry tree.
The new building will house the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, which, Brother Knorr explained, is being transferred to Bethel. Located on the second floor of the new building, along Willow Street, are four beautiful classrooms. On the same floor, facing the yard, is a spacious lecture room, where the entire student body may assemble. Immediately above this on the third floor is the school’s library of six sections with a lounge. On the third, fourth and fifth floors are rooms for the students.
Starting October 17, the Society’s president explained, circuit and district servants from the United States and Canada are being called to the school here in Brooklyn so that all of them can be given the Kingdom Ministry School course, which is now being given congregation servants at the Kingdom Ministry School in South Lansing. Then about January 1, 1961, students will begin coming from the ends of the earth, about one hundred of them every year, for a new school course at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead. Though they will stay about a year at Bethel, the actual Gilead School course will take ten months. They will be so trained that any of them can step into one of the Society’s Branches and do whatever work is needed. Besides the regular classroom courses, there will be practical training in the Society’s offices and factory and home.
One of the things the Bethel family had wondered about is where this rapidly expanding family would eat, the present dining room being overcrowded. Brother Knorr explained that the Kingdom Hall located at 136 Columbia Heights would be transformed into another dining room.
Brother Knorr’s talk about the new building and the expanding New World society was most encouraging to all present. “We are very grateful to Jehovah God for this building,” said the Society’s president in closing; and in prayer he thanked Jehovah God for the building and blessings experienced this day. The Bethel family was especially appreciative of the arrangements made by the Society for this occasion, including a tour of the factory and the new home and a special meal for those working at Bethel.
SYMPOSIUM OF SPEAKERS
Before Brother Knorr’s dedication address, it was the pleasure of all in attendance to hear a symposium of three speakers from the Bethel family. First to mount the platform, after song and prayer, was A. H. Macmillan, who has been associated with the Society since 1900. Brother Macmillan related that fifty-one years ago the Society had moved from Allegheny, Pennsylvania, to Brooklyn when there were only thirty members in the headquarters family. What a contrast with now! Brother Macmillan stressed the training that Jehovah God is now giving his people. The new building, he said, has been put up for a training work, training that will be carried on into the new world. Referring to his many years as a special representative of the Society, Brother Macmillan said in appreciation of his privileges: “If I had my sixty years of service to do over again, I would work harder, more diligently.”
The Society’s secretary-treasurer, Grant Suiter, followed Brother Macmillan. Brother Suiter spoke on the subject of financing the Society’s buildings over the years. He stressed the fact that the Society’s buildings have always been financed within the New World society. He explained that worldly banks and institutions had offered loans to the Society, but such loans have never been necessary because the brothers have responded so well with gifts and loans. The financing of the Society’s buildings has always been done by Jehovah’s witnesses.
The Society’s vice-president, F. W. Franz, spoke next. “Isn’t this a curious contrast?” he opened. “Here we are on Willow Street and we just sang one of the songs of Zion. Thank God, however, we are not beside the rivers of Babylon and that we have not hung up our harps on the willows there! We are on Willow Street, but we have begun to sing the songs of Zion as a free people, testifying to the loving-kindness of Jehovah God.”—Ps. 137:1-4, AV.
Referring to the expansion of Jehovah’s organization, Brother Franz said: “This place is a symbol of the whole world-wide situation,” one of expansion and glory. The new building, Brother Franz said, is “gloriously beautiful,” reminding us of the psalmist’s words: that everyone in Jehovah’s temple would speak his glory. The new Kingdom Hall, with a capacity of about 750 persons, has a cheerful atmosphere, befitting the New World society. The hall’s richness is enhanced by walnut veneer on all sides and a platform at the north end in the shape of a semicircle that is decorated with two places for live plants.
Referring to the two Bethel buildings, Brother Franz said: “They are not just dormitories; they are working buildings dedicated to the purpose of education. This is the grandest educational institution in all the earth.”
The Society’s president followed with the main dedication address, the entire program taking two hours and a half. After Brother Knorr’s closing prayer, there was an intermission of ten minutes; and then at 10:25 p.m. the Bethel family inaugurated the regular use of the Kingdom Hall by means of their usual Monday evening Watchtower study. It was a most happy day for the Brooklyn Bethel family, and the dedication at Brooklyn Bethel underscores Brother Knorr’s words that “this is the time to expand!”