1983 “Kingdom Unity” District Convention
Portions of the Program to Be Heard From Key Cities
How appropriate that the theme of the district convention this year is “Kingdom Unity.” In Micah 2:12, God declared: “In unity I shall set them, like a flock in the pen.” Unquestionably, Jehovah is directing and unifying his people through the Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Time and again observers have noted the Christian unity of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It stands out in sharp contrast to Satan’s disunited, dying system. For example, the Brazilian newspaper O Tempo reported: “Although there are many imposing religions . . . there does not exist a single one on the face of the earth today that shows the same love and unity as the theocratic organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” And our yeartext reminds us that love is ‘our perfect bond of union,’ a union that embraces the entire association of our brothers throughout the world. (Col. 3:14; 1 Pet. 2:17) At this year’s conventions love will add strength to our unity, making it stand out.
AN ADDED FEATURE: An added feature to enhance the convention theme is the arrangement for all conventions to be tied in by telephone wire to a key city at certain times. Each week at conventions in the United States and Canada all assembled will be united as one throng in listening to portions of the program originating in a key city. In each of the six successive weeks that conventions are scheduled, there will be days when Jehovah’s people will have opportunity to hear certain talks by members of the Governing Body who will speak from a key city.
No matter which convention your circuit has been assigned to attend, you will be able to benefit from some program parts presented by these brothers from the Brooklyn headquarters. When you attend your convention, you will learn which is the key city for that week when the program comes through. There is no need to write the Society about this matter.
As you know, provision is being made for missionaries to visit their home country and to attend a district convention with their families and friends. A special part on the program will deal with their activities. Even though there may not be any missionaries personally present at the convention you attend, there will still be opportunity to hear something on the program regarding the fine work missionaries are doing. In many places, however, missionaries will be invited to share their experiences. This will add further interest to the program.
Our Kingdom Ministry for January 1983 provided a complete list of convention dates and locations. The procedure for obtaining rooming accommodations was also outlined. Will you be there? Again, this year we eagerly anticipate gathering together to worship Jehovah at our “Kingdom Unity” District Convention. As King David stated in Psalm 133:1, it is “good” and “pleasant” that we do so.
ATTEND ALL FOUR DAYS: Psalm 119:33 expresses the fervent prayer: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, in the way of your regulations, that I may observe it down to the last.” Surely, these words reflect the sentiments of all of Jehovah’s dedicated servants. “The faithful and discreet slave” has scheduled four days in which Jehovah’s “regulations” will be discussed and demonstrated. Will you be seated and attentive during all the sessions from the opening song and prayer on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. to the concluding prayer on Sunday afternoon? No one would want to miss any of the convention program. It would be incorrect to conclude that any day or even a part of a day would be less important than the rest. The entire four days should be regarded as a complete theocratic meal, all of which is needed for our spiritual health and growth.
Many will have to make adjustments in their weekly schedule in order to be present for the entire convention. This may mean requesting time off from your secular employment or taking vacation time.
For many, some effort and sacrifices will be required to attend a district convention. One brother who traveled to the convention last summer with his family wrote: “We drove 400 miles to our convention, spent a considerable amount of money and made many sacrifices, yet we felt the blessings we received were 100 times greater than anything it took to be there.” Every effort should be made so that none in the family will miss any of the program. Understandably, there may be extenuating circumstances preventing a few from attending all four days, but in such cases, it would be a loving gesture if some would share the high points with them.
We again urge you, please attend the convention to which you are assigned when this is possible. Some convention sites may appear more desirable because of being located in a scenic area or because the facilities themselves may appear to be better. But considerable work and planning are put forth by the Society and the brothers locally to see that there are adequate seating, literature and food for everyone. In some instances in the past, hardships were created when more people than expected attended a convention outside their assigned area.
INTENT LISTENING BRINGS BLESSINGS: In Isaiah 55:2 Jehovah commanded Israel: “Listen intently to me.” The word “intent” is defined as “directed with strained or eager attention.” Israel had good reason to listen intently because Jehovah was directing a message of liberation that was like nourishing food and refreshing drink. The message Jehovah has for his people today is of no less value. In reality it is even more precious because it is a message dealing with life everlasting. Who does not want to have understanding of Jehovah’s purposes for mankind? If we are attentive during the convention we will eagerly “listen and take in more instruction.” (Prov. 1:5) To listen and to learn at a district convention usually takes more effort and concentration than it does at the Kingdom Hall. You are sitting for longer periods of time and there are more distractions. What can be done?
We need to remember our purpose in attending the convention. Because it involves a sacrifice of time and finances to be present, would it not be sensible to benefit fully from this expenditure? No question about it! To this end, would it not be advisable to arrive early, take care of any matters that need attention, such as obtaining convention tickets and literature, and then be seated when the program begins? This will leave you relaxed, with your mind uncluttered with concern over matters not related to the program. There is also no substitute for an adequate night’s rest. Convention time affords a good opportunity to renew friendships, but if we choose to do this by visiting late into the night, would we be alert enough the next day to “listen intently”? We may struggle just to keep awake. A good night’s sleep will make concentration easier. As you listen, weigh the information being presented. In your mind, compare it with what you already know. Taking brief notes will also help because if you try to write down too much, you may miss important points.
Parents with small children face an additional challenge to good concentration. It is usually more difficult for the little ones to sit for several hours. They are naturally more restless. The result is that their parents and, at times, others around them are distracted. And yet, it has been observed that some children, even of preschool age, will sit quietly through most of the program. What is the secret? Unquestionably, it is proper training at home and in the Kingdom Hall. Parents who have deep respect for the spiritual food coming from the platform will make every effort to instill this same respect and appreciation in their youngsters. Children can be trained to sit still at home and also through congregation meetings without needlessly going to the restroom. This good training will produce dividends at the convention in that both parents and children will benefit from the program. The naturally shorter attention span of children can be improved if parents suggest that their children take notes of Scripture citations on a writing pad rather than allowing them to draw pictures. Of course, there will be times when parents have to leave their seats to take a child to the restroom or even to administer discipline. Please do this as quietly as possible.
CHRISTIAN MANNERS, A MARK OF LOVE: The good conduct and manners of Jehovah’s Witnesses have often been commented on by others and this has been especially true with regard to our large conventions. One manager of a civic center stated: “This letter is to tell you how pleasant it was having the Jehovah’s Witness convention here . . . I had been told in advance how organized and how clean the group would be and they certainly lived up to all their advance publicity. I do not believe I have worked with a group of people more willing to cooperate on all matters, whether small or large.” Our good reputation for fine Christian manners even compelled one principal of a school, where quite a few young Witnesses are students, to send a bulletin to his staff of teachers suggesting that, if necessary, they reschedule their final exams for the Witness children who were planning to attend one of the earlier conventions.
However, it is evident from reports received from different parts of the country that there is still room for improvement. The problem of seat saving persists. The brother quoted earlier who drove 400 miles to the convention and made many sacrifices also stated: “Yet, I was deeply troubled by the problem of seat saving.” Another brother writing about the same matter mentioned that this has always been a problem, but “this year, I believe, was probably the worst!” Some brothers reported that they arrived early for the convention with their families, only to find that most of the seats were already saved. In many cases one person would arrive when the building opened and save entire rows of seats for his family and friends who would sleep late. Another brother who observed someone saving seats mentioned that the only reason more seats were not saved was because the person ran out of items to place on the chairs. Remember the newspaper writer from Brazil who praised the “love and unity” of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Love has been defined as a perfect expression of unselfishness. Christ Jesus also revealed that unselfish love would be a primary means of identifying his disciples. (John 13:35) Is the saving of large numbers of seats a good example of this godlike love in action? And when you think about it, when a person attends a sports event his admission fee entitles him to occupy just one seat. Since the Society organizes and pays for the convention facilities, do we even have the right to save seats that we will not occupy ourselves? Some of the saved seats were never occupied, and when the attendants attempted to fill them they met with some resistance. We are asking that you please cooperate with the attendants who have been assigned by the convention organization to try to find seats for everyone as well as to maintain an atmosphere conducive to learning. Would we not thus be following the golden rule?—Matt. 7:12.
FINE CONDUCT: First Peter 2:12 counsels: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations.” In the past it has been necessary to bring to our attention that there was room for improvement in our conduct at hotels, motels and restaurants. We are happy to say that favorable reports have been received in this connection. In fact, a newspaper in one convention city reported: “Women wearing dresses and looking like women. Men with neat looking haircuts, wearing suits and ties and looking respectable. Husbands arm and arm with their own wives. Parents and children together as families. Children obeying their parents, and not being disrespectful or destructive. People carrying Bibles, instead of knives or switchblades. No stealing or shop-lifting.” Indeed, this was a fine report, and we found it encouraging.
Nevertheless, some information has come to our attention from brothers involved in convention organization that there is still need for us to work on our conduct at conventions. Children have not always been kept under control while staying in motels, and some have shown a lack of respect for private property. This has also been true regarding the convention facilities themselves. One report from the convention organization stated: “It makes it very difficult for us to build a good name as Jehovah’s Witnesses when our children are making it difficult for the motels in the convention city.” One motel had to close its pool because it was no longer suitable for use after some Witness children had been in it most of the day.
Likewise, we continually need to be conscious of our attire during the convention. It has been observed that some have been dressed quite casually, as though on a picnic or outing. The same casual clothing is worn by some even while visiting the Society’s branch offices. Surely we should dress appropriately for the occasion!
The wise man said: “For everything there is an appointed time, . . . a time to keep quiet and a time to speak.” (Eccl. 3:1, 7) During the program is the time to be quiet. Some conventions reported excessive noise and talking during the sessions. This has occurred in the corridors as well as in the auditorium. Some were talking loudly to those near them, disturbing others in the area who were trying to listen to the program. Both youngsters and adults have been involved. Along with the conversation, there was, at times, the passing of food and drink to friends and family sitting nearby. Sometimes the conversation and the movements in the corridors became so loud that those seated near the back or the exits had difficulty hearing the program. One brother wrote: “We were not able to hear much because people were talking and walking around. There was a brother in the back row talking all through the assembly.” Another: “It seems that many did not take to heart the counsel given in the chairman’s talk about needless walking and talking in the hallway.” Attendants had limited success in their efforts to curtail unnecessary activity in the hallways.
Wrote the apostle Paul: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Cor. 10:24) There will be times when children become restless, and babies will cry when they are uncomfortable. In harmony with the Biblical principle, would you not be seeking the other person’s advantage by not permitting the child to disturb those around you? This may require leaving your seat temporarily, but, unquestionably, others who are trying to hear will be grateful for your thoughtfulness.
FIELD SERVICE ARRANGEMENTS: We are pleased to inform you that there will be special field service arrangements on Thursday afternoon, immediately following the session. Even before leaving for the convention, why not make definite plans to participate in the ministry? Besides the fine witness that will be given in the convention city, devoting some time to the field service will heighten your enthusiasm for the entire program. It would be to your advantage if you would pick up territory as soon as you arrive rather than waiting until the Thursday afternoon session has concluded. Car groups should also be organized so that no time will be lost. Publisher should bring their own magazines for use in the field as there will be only a limited supply at the convention.
VOLUNTEER SERVICE: At times, managers of buildings we use for our conventions and other observers have commented on how hard everyone works to make the convention run smoothly. The manager of the civic center referred to earlier was pleased to “work with a group of people . . . willing to cooperate on all matters.” We are again inviting those who would be able to spend at least some time during the convention in volunteer service to do so. There is a greater feeling of satisfaction that comes to anyone who has contributed some of his time and talents to making the convention a success. Whatever work you are privileged to do, such as in keeping the convention facilities clean, you would want to do so eagerly, reflecting the good example that Jesus set at John 13:14-17.
Have you considered volunteering as a family? This has proved to be an excellent idea. The entire family is able to work together and even those under 16 years of age can have a share, which would not be possible if they were by themselves.
As in the past, convention departments will be requesting brothers locally to volunteer ahead of time. Usually this does not fill all the convention needs for volunteers. The larger departments, such as food service and cleaning, are often in need of additional help. This is where others with a willing spirit can have a small share in making the convention a success. Your congregation’s convention coordinator will be notified in time as to which departments need additional help, and he will share this with the congregation.
FOOD NEEDS: One feature of a district convention that we always appreciate is the availability of food and drink, usually served in the same building where the program originates. This not only makes it convenient but also saves us the time it would take to travel to a restaurant. We are also afforded the opportunity of enjoying fellowship with our brothers between the session. Do we not appreciate the hard work of the brothers in the Food Service Department, providing us with adequate meals at a reasonable cost?
Convention tickets to purchase food and drink come in sheets worth $1 each. Tickets will be available in advance at your congregation. We suggest that you estimate your needs ahead of time and purchase the tickets you will need for the first two or three days. Surplus food sales will also be held at the conclusion of the convention. You may use your tickets to purchase any of the surplus items.
Truly we are the most blessed people on the earth today. Soon we will have the joy of gathering again with thousands of our brothers and sisters at the “Kingdom Unity” District Convention. The words of David at Psalm 122:1 express our feelings when he said: “I rejoiced when they were saying to me: ‘To the house of Jehovah let us go.’” May we recognize these conventions for what they are—a loving arrangement of our heavenly Father to strengthen and fortify us through the final days of this present system. Who would consider missing any of the spiritual gifts that Jehovah has in store for us? During our presence in the convention city and while traveling, we never want to forget that our good conduct will reflect directly on the God we worship. The motivation with which we are clothed is our deep love for Jehovah and for our brothers. May it continually prove to be “a perfect bond of union.”—Col. 3:14.
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District Convention Reminders
ROOMING: Your cooperation in using the listing of accommodations provided by the convention in selecting your rooms is very much appreciated. If you have not already made a reservation and forwarded a deposit, it is necessary to do so immediately if you are planning to stay overnight in the convention city. Congregation convention coordinators should be sure that Special Needs Room Request Forms have been promptly forwarded to the appropriate convention address. If you find it necessary to cancel your accommodations selected from the listing, you should write or phone the hotel/motel directly, doing so as far in advance as possible. If you must cancel an accommodation made through the special needs arrangement, you should notify both the landlord or hotel/motel and the convention Rooming Department so the room may be reassigned.
The convention Rooming Department will provide, upon your request, available information on any commercial trailer and camping facilities in the convention area. Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your request.
BAPTISM: At most locations, the talk for baptismal candidates will be on Saturday morning. Those who wish to symbolize their dedication by water baptism should have reviewed the questions with elders in their congregation prior to the convention. A bathing suit and towel should be brought by each one who plans to be baptized.
PROGRAM TIMES: It is the course of wisdom and shows appreciation to be in our seats when the program begins. In all convention cities the program will begin with song and prayer on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Late Thursday afternoon will be set aside for a special effort in field service and so the sessions will conclude by 4:30 p.m. In the Central and Mountain time zones the program on Friday will begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 4:50 p.m. On Saturday it will begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 4:30 p.m. In the Eastern time zone the program on Friday and Saturday will begin at 10:20 a.m. and conclude at 5:50 p.m. on Friday and 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. In the Pacific time zone the program on Friday and Saturday will begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude at 4:20 p.m. on Friday and 4:10 p.m. on Saturday. In all time zones on Sunday the program will begin at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 4:10 p.m.
BETHEL AND GILEAD MEETINGS: A meeting will be held on Friday for pioneers between the ages of 20 and 40 who are interested in attending Gilead School to receive training for missionary service. There will be a meeting on Saturday for any dedicated publishers between 19 and 35 years of age who are U.S. residents and who would like to enter Bethel service. Check the program at the convention city for the exact times and locations of these meetings.
PIONEER IDENTIFICATION: All regular and special pioneers as well as traveling overseers will need to bring their Watchtower Identification and Assignment card (S-202) to the convention. Those on the list for six months at the time of the district convention they attend may receive $15 worth of convention tickets upon presentation of their Watchtower Identification and Assignment card at that one convention only. Treat the card as carefully as cash. It cannot be replaced at the convention. Any free releases or other literature at pioneer rates will be available to pioneers at the bookroom only upon showing their Watchtower Identification and Assignment card. Those in Bethel service may obtain any free releases or other literature at pioneer rates at the bookroom by showing their Bethel Identification card.
LAPEL CARDS: These cards are provided as a means of advertising the convention as well as to facilitate identifying our brothers and sisters in attendance. To this end, please wear the lapel card at the convention and also while traveling to and from the convention site. Not only is the card a fine means of identification but it so often results in giving a fine witness while traveling. You should obtain these through your congregation as they will not be available at the conventions. The lapel cards are 1c each and the celluloid holders are 10c each.
A WORD OF CAUTION: Regardless of where you park, you should lock your vehicle at all times and never leave anything visible inside. Keep your belongings locked inside the trunk, if possible. Also, guard against thieves and pickpockets who are attracted by large gatherings. This includes not leaving anything of value unattended on seats at the conventions.