AFTER days of wind and rain, Monday, September 1, 1919, dawned warm and sunny. That afternoon, fewer than 1,000 delegates gathered in the 2,500-seat auditorium for the opening session of the Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A., convention. By evening, 2,000 more arrived by boat, car, and special trains. On Tuesday, the crowd grew so large that the remainder of the convention program had to be held outside under stately trees.
Through the leafy dome, sunlight cast lacy patterns on the men’s frock coats. A soft breeze off Lake Erie ruffled the ladies’ feathered hats. “In the delightful parklike surroundings, away from the noise of the old world, it was a paradise indeed,” recalled one brother.
The beauty of the surroundings paled in comparison with the radiant joy on the faces of those present. “All seem to be very devout,” noted a local newspaper, “and yet extremely cheerful and jovial people.” To the Bible Students, Christian fellowship tasted especially sweet after the severe trials of the past few years: wartime opposition; bitter dissent in the congregations; the closing of Brooklyn Bethel; the imprisonment of many for the sake of the Kingdom, including eight leading brothers who had been sentenced to as long as 20 years behind bars.*
Discouraged and bewildered during those difficult years, some Bible Students had left off the witness work. Most, though, had done their best to persevere in the face of official suppression. In one typical case, an investigator reported that despite stern warnings, the Bible Students he questioned insisted that they would “continue to preach the word of God to the end.”
Throughout this period of test, faithful Bible Students had been “watching the Lord’s leading, . . . praying at all times for the Father’s guidance.” Now they were reunited in joyful assembly here at Cedar Point. One sister echoed the feelings of many who had wondered how they would “start the wheels of active service humming again.” More than anything else, they wanted to get to work!
“GA”—A BRAND-NEW TOOL!
All week long, delegates puzzled over the letters “GA” printed on the convention program, welcome cards, and signs around the convention grounds. On Friday, “Co-Laborers’ Day,” Joseph F. Rutherford finally unveiled the mystery for the 6,000 conventioners. “GA” stood for The Golden Age—a new magazine for the ministry.*
Speaking of his fellow anointed Christians, Brother Rutherford said: “Beyond the time of trouble by the eye of faith they see the Golden Age of the glorious reign of the Messiah. . . . They count it as their chief duty and privilege to announce to the world the coming of the Golden Age. It is part of their God-given commission.”
The Golden Age, “a Journal of Fact, Hope, and Conviction,” would be used to open up a new method of spreading the truth—a door-to-door subscription campaign. When asked how many wished to enter that work, all in the audience leaped to their feet. Then, “with a zest and zeal known only by those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus,” they sang: “Send out thy light and truth, O Lord.” “I will never forget how the trees fairly shook,” recalled J. M. Norris.
After the session, delegates lined up for hours to be among the first subscribers to the magazine. Many felt as did Mabel Philbrick, who said: “How thrilling it was to know that we were again to have a work to do!”
“TO WHOM THE WORK IS ENTRUSTED”
About 7,000 Bible Students prepared for action. The flier Organization Method and the booklet To Whom the Work Is Entrusted laid out the details: A new Service Department at headquarters would direct the work. A Service Committee should be formed in the congregation and a director appointed to convey instructions. Territories were to be divided into sections of from 150 to 200 homes. A Service Meeting would be held on Thursday evenings for the brothers to share experiences and file service reports.
“Upon our return to our home bases, we all got busy with the subscription campaign,” said Herman Philbrick. They found hearing ears everywhere. “It seemed that after a war and so much sorrow, everyone welcomed even the thought of a golden age,” observed Beulah Covey. Arthur Claus wrote: “The entire congregation was greatly surprised at the large number of subscriptions that were obtained.” Within two months of its first issue, nearly half a million sample copies of The Golden Age had been placed, and the magazine had 50,000 subscribers.
The article “Gospel of the Kingdom,” in the July 1, 1920, issue of The Watch Tower, was what A. H. Macmillan later called “the first official expression of the worldwide preaching work as it is now actually being carried out.” That article urged all anointed Christians to “give a testimony to the world that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Today, Christ’s brothers “to whom the work is entrusted” have been joined by millions who zealously preach the word while they await the Messianic golden age.
See Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, chap. 6, “A Time of Testing (1914-1918).”
The Golden Age was renamed Consolation in 1937 and Awake! in 1946.