United in Love—Annual Meeting Report
EXCITEMENT was in the air at the Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A. On the morning of October 3, 2009, over 5,000 had gathered for the 125th annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Thousands of others listened to and watched the program via audio/video tie-in to the three Bethel complexes in the United States and to Canada Bethel. In all, 13,235, united in their love of Jehovah, enjoyed the three-hour meeting.
Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body served as chairman. He opened the program by introducing a chorus of Bethelites who sang songs from our new songbook. Conducting the chorus was another Governing Body member, David Splane, who briefly discussed the importance music has in pure worship. The audience was invited to sing three new songs at the meeting; the chorus sang them first, and then the chorus and the audience sang them together. The use of a chorus was just for this special gathering; it is not to be taken as a pattern for the congregations, circuits, or districts to follow.
Reports From Branches
Visiting Branch Committee members gave reports from five branches. Kenneth Little noted that Canada will soon begin printing most of the magazines for the United States and Canada, resulting in a tenfold increase in production for that branch. For this to be accomplished, a newly acquired printing press will run on double shifts, totaling 16 hours a day.
Reiner Thompson reported on the Kingdom work in the Dominican Republic, and Albert Olih described our activities in Nigeria. Emile Kritzinger from Mozambique explained that after decades of persecution there, Jehovah’s Witnesses were registered in 1992. All three countries have recently had large increases in the number of publishers. Viv Mouritz from the Australia branch told of developments in East Timor, which is cared for by the brothers in Australia.
Governing Body Committees
In 1976, all activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses were brought under the supervision of the six committees of the Governing Body. Later, members of the other sheep class were appointed as helpers. Now 23 assist with the work being done. Six of them were interviewed. They have a total of 341 years of full-time service—an average of 57 years each.
Don Adams, who came to Bethel in 1943, explained that the Coordinators’ Committee is composed of the coordinators of the five other committees, which ensures that all five work together smoothly. This committee responds to major emergencies, persecution, court cases, disasters, and other urgent matters affecting Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
Dan Molchan described the work of the Personnel Committee, which oversees the spiritual and physical well-being of the 19,851 Bethelites worldwide. David Sinclair spoke of how the Publishing Committee oversees the purchasing of supplies and equipment for branches. Next, Robert Wallen, who has served at Bethel for nearly 60 years, told how the Service Committee supervises the activity of Jehovah’s people in the field and in the congregations. William Malenfant outlined the hard work the Teaching Committee does to prepare a convention program. Finally, John Wischuk described how the Writing Committee oversees the careful preparation and processing of material for our publications.a
2010 Yeartext Focuses on Love
The next three talks were given by members of the Governing Body. Gerrit Lösch began with the question, “Do you want to be loved by others?” Love, he explained, is a basic human need, and we all thrive on it. We owe our existence to love because Jehovah created us out of unselfish love. The primary motive for our preaching and teaching is love for Jehovah.
Principled love is extended not only to our neighbors but also to our enemies. (Matt. 5:43-45) The audience was encouraged to consider what Jesus went through for us, being flogged, mocked, spit upon, and pierced. Despite this, he prayed for the soldiers who impaled him. Does this not make us love him even more? Brother Lösch then announced the yeartext for 2010: 1 Corinthians 13:7, 8, ‘Love endures all things. Love never fails.’ We have the prospect not only to live forever but also to love and be loved forever.
Are You Running on Empty?
Samuel Herd began his talk with an illustration. Suppose a friend picks you up to go on a 30-mile [50 km] trip. Riding in the passenger seat, you notice that the fuel gauge is on empty. You tell your friend he is just about out of fuel. He says not to worry; there is still a gallon [some four liters] in the tank. Soon, though, you run out of fuel. Is it worth it to ‘run on empty’ and take a chance on being stranded? How much better to keep a full tank! Figuratively, we need to keep a full tank, the fuel being our knowledge of Jehovah.
To that end, we need to fuel up and to do so regularly. There are four ways we do this. First, personal study, becoming familiar with the Bible by reading it daily. More than just reading words, we must understand what we read. Second, making good use of our Family Worship evening. Do we stop weekly and fill up or do we put only a little in our tank? Third, congregation study and meeting attendance. Fourth, quiet, undisturbed meditation, thinking about Jehovah’s ways. Psalm 143:5 says: “I have remembered days of long ago; I have meditated on all your activity.”
“The Righteous Ones Will Shine”
John Barr gave the third and final talk, which explained Jesus’ illustration of the wheat and the weeds. (Matt. 13:24-30, 38, 43) That illustration refers to a “harvest” during which “the sons of the kingdom” are gathered and the weeds are separated to be burned up.
Brother Barr made clear that the gathering would not continue indefinitely. He referred to Matthew 24:34, which says: “This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” He twice read the comment: “Jesus evidently meant that the lives of the anointed ones who were on hand when the sign began to be evident in 1914 would overlap with the lives of other anointed ones who would see the start of the great tribulation.” We do not know the exact length of “this generation,” but it includes these two groups whose lives overlap. Even though the anointed vary in age, those in the two groups constituting the generation are contemporaries during part of the last days. How comforting it is to know that the younger anointed contemporaries of those older anointed ones who discerned the sign when it became evident beginning in 1914 will not die off before the great tribulation starts!
“The sons of the kingdom” eagerly await their heavenly reward, but all of us must remain faithful, shining brightly to the end. What a privilege we have to see the collecting of the “wheat” in our time.
After a concluding song, the closing prayer was offered by Theodore Jaracz of the Governing Body. What an upbuilding program the annual meeting proved to be!
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SCHOOL FOR ELDERS
At the annual meeting, Anthony Morris, a member of the Governing Body, announced that there would be ongoing training for congregation elders. A school for elders from the United States began to function in early 2008 at the educational center at Patterson, New York. The 72nd class had just ended, 6,720 elders having been trained so far. Much remains to be done. In the United States alone, there are over 86,000 elders. Thus, the Governing Body approved an additional school to be held in Brooklyn, New York, beginning December 7, 2009.
For two months, four traveling overseers were to be trained as instructors at Patterson. These would then be moved to Brooklyn to teach, and four more would be trained. They would then teach the school in Brooklyn, and the original four would teach the school in Assembly Halls and Kingdom Halls. This would be repeated until there were 12 instructors teaching six schools each week in English in the United States. Four instructors would then be trained to teach in Spanish. This school will not replace the present Kingdom Ministry School; the purpose is to increase the spirituality of elders. Branches worldwide will begin holding schools at Assembly Halls and Kingdom Halls during the 2011 service year.
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The annual meeting opened with singing from our new songbook, “Sing to Jehovah”