1995 “Joyful Praisers” District Convention
1 How many reasons do we have to be joyful? Probably few of us have tried to list all of them. Despite living in a world of turmoil and uncertainty, we have so many reasons to be joyful. As announced in the January 1995 Our Kingdom Ministry, “Joyful Praisers” is the encouraging theme for the 1995 district conventions.
2 We praise Jehovah because he taught us the truth. (Isa. 54:13; John 8:32) In turn, we joyfully share the truth with all who are searching for security and happiness. (Ezek. 9:4; Acts 20:35) Our Christian brotherhood also brings us joy. A loving spiritual family brings contentment and happiness. These are just a few of the reasons for our joy that impels us to praise Jehovah. The convention talks and demonstrations will draw our attention to additional Scriptural reasons for joy in these troubled last days.
3 A Three-Day Convention: Have you made arrangements with your employer to get time off in order to be in attendance for all three days of the convention? Parents of school-age children who will be attending one of the conventions while school is still in session should respectfully inform teachers that the children will be absent from school on Friday for this important part of their religious worship. Where is the convention nearest you? The February 15, 1995, Watchtower listed the dates and locations for all 181 conventions in the United States branch territory. By now your congregation secretary has informed you of the details for your congregation. In addition to English, there will be conventions in Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and American Sign Language.
4 The program will begin on Friday at 9:40 a.m. and conclude on Sunday at approximately 3:50 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, the program will start at 9:30 a.m. Doors will open at 8:00 a.m. Only those with specific work assignments will be permitted to enter earlier.
5 Will You Be in Attendance?: We are urged to attend all three days of the convention. Why is that? Jehovah wants us to be there. Today our faith and spiritual health are under intense bombardment. Paul counseled concerning “not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together” at a time when Christians in Judea were experiencing great pressure. (Heb. 3:12, 13; 10:25) The Philippians were living “among a crooked and twisted generation.” Yet, they were “shining as illuminators in the world.” (Phil. 2:15) Why were these first-century Christians different? Because they obediently followed the leadings of holy spirit that directed them to meet together “to incite to love and fine works.”—Heb. 10:24.
6 The world would influence us otherwise, weakening our desire to meet with our brothers and praise Jehovah. This summer we are invited to yield to Jehovah’s spirit and enjoy all three days of the convention. Are we determined to be in attendance with our entire family? We need to fortify our love and faith on a regular basis. Jehovah has provided annual conventions to help us in this regard.
7 Take Home a Treasure: How can you gain the most good from the convention? In one word the answer is “concentration.” This is no easy task in today’s high-strung, fast-moving society. Energetic young people may find concentration difficult, but it is a challenge all of us face when attending a district convention. We will find concentration to be easier if we plan ahead. Ask yourself, ‘What is the convention theme?’ Meditate on it! ‘Why am I going, and what will I be doing during the three days? Will my evenings be filled with recreation, or have I scheduled sufficient time for rest and review of convention highlights?’
8 The February 1, 1984, Watchtower article “Do You Meditate or Just Daydream?” offered several suggestions on how to get the most from a meeting and then drew this conclusion: “Mental discipline is perhaps the most important factor.” When a speaker begins, we are usually attentive, but perhaps partway through the talk, we let our mind “slip out of gear.” How can we prevent this from happening?
9 Suggestions offered in the past bear repeating because they work. If at all possible, try to get sufficient rest each night. This is not always easy because travel may be involved, and if you are staying in a hotel, you may not retire as soon or rest as well as at home. Good planning will usually allow you to get the needed rest.
10 Simple note-taking has proved to be an aid in concentration. If you try to take down too much information, some vital points may be missed entirely. As a suggestion, take notes with the object of presenting a summary of the program to a Bible student or a shut-in. Even though you may not have a specific individual in mind, you will have a purpose in taking notes, and after the convention you may find occasions to present highlights of the program while witnessing informally to unbelieving family members. By taking notes and sharing what you heard, you will not quickly lose the information. Expression increases retention.
11 Although food will no longer be provided, there is still considerable expense involved in the rental of the convention facility, which often includes additional cost for public-address equipment, literature, and so forth. How are these expenses covered? Through our voluntary donations, either in cash or by check made payable to “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” This is in harmony with Psalm 96:8 and 2 Chronicles 31:12.
12 Joyful Praisers Honor Jehovah by Godly Conduct: Last year encouraging positive comments about our conduct were received from motel personnel and the employees of convention facilities. One hotel manager stated: “It is always a pleasure to accommodate the Witnesses because they are patient and cooperative and keep a close eye on their children.” Another hotel director said the Witnesses seem to be happier and much more organized than other groups. Even though our convention was the largest held in the area, he said: “We have fewer complaints and difficulties than with groups a fraction of their size.”
13 Another hotel employee disclosed that a recent convention held before ours resulted in much damage, as well as thievery, even though the facilities were fully staffed. But regarding our convention, he went on to say: “We don’t have to worry about that with the Witnesses. . . . When they’re here, we only have to keep one or two maintenance people on hand and that is only to repair incidental problems with machinery.”
14 We wish all the reports received were similar, but sadly, that is not the case. One convention chairman observed: “After sessions, many of the teenagers congregate in large numbers in the [hotel] lobby late at night, laughing loudly and yelling. This disturbs other guests . . . , who appear irritated. Some young ones run in the corridors, slamming doors as they visit one another’s rooms and talk very loudly in the rooms.”
15 Another problem that has persisted over the years is the large number of brothers visiting in corridors and outside the auditorium during sessions. At one convention last year, a note from a Bible student was found in the contribution box. It read: “I have never been so shocked and appalled as I am at the noise, activity, talking, and carrying-on in the hallways during the talks . . . I’m not yet a Witness, only one who is studying and learning godly fear and respect.” Surely, none of us would want to leave the impression that we lack appreciation for Jehovah’s provisions.
16 At all times we should ask ourselves: ‘Whom do I represent, and why am I attending this convention?’ Our spirituality and godly devotion are reflected in our speech, conduct, and appreciation for spiritual provisions. (Jas. 3:13; 1 Pet. 2:2, 3, 12) Brothers who have endured years of restrictions and bans are often observed to be far more attentive and respectful at conventions, remaining in their seats, absorbed in the talks and demonstrations.
17 Your Dress and Grooming Send a Message: At 1 Samuel 16:7, we are reminded that “man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.” Thus, people often judge us on the basis of our appearance. Our dress and grooming come under close scrutiny, especially when we are attending a convention for worship and instruction in Christian living. If you are a young person going to school or if your secular employment puts you in close contact with people who follow worldly styles, it may be a challenge to adhere to Christian standards for modest attire.
18 Standards of dress and grooming vary throughout the world. Christians are expected to wear modest, well-arranged clothing. Who should determine this? Parents should be sure their teenage children do not dress like worldly youths in school. Constructive guidelines have been provided to help us make sound decisions in this sensitive area. We encourage review of the February 8, 1987, Awake! article “What Do Clothes Mean to You?” What was observed at some of our conventions last year?
19 After one of the “Godly Fear” District Conventions, we received this observation: “The brothers and sisters have improved considerably in their dress, grooming, and conduct at the convention this year. . . . There are still certain conditions and habits that need further improvement, however.” After another convention it was reported that immodest dress was very noticeable. The report mentioned that the dress of some was offensive to others. Some outsiders present also noted the immodest dress. The clothing of some was both too revealing and too tight.
20 The majority of the brothers and sisters wear modest, respectable clothing while at the convention site. Later, however, at hotels or in restaurants, some brothers and sisters, still wearing their badges, were dressed in “tank tops, old denims, short-shorts, and . . . faddish clothes not becoming to God’s people.” If the elders observe that some have a tendency to dress this way during leisure activity, it would be appropriate to offer kind but firm counsel before the convention that such attire is not appropriate, especially as delegates attending a Christian convention. Please review with your Bible students who will be attending the convention the guidelines on conduct and dress outlined above.
21 Hotels: Each year considerable effort is made to provide accommodations at reduced rates in order not to impose a financial burden on anyone. Please remember to be patient and kind when dealing with hotel employees. We may be tired from travel and the line of those waiting for accommodations may be long, but your patience will not go unnoticed. It would be very beneficial for publishers to review with their Bible students the January 1995 Our Kingdom Ministry insert regarding hotel accommodations. We must also remember the need to tip in an appropriate fashion.—June 22, 1986, Awake!
22 Cameras and Recording Devices: It is fitting to offer kindly reminders about cameras and recording equipment. Please remember, if you plan to use cameras, camcorders, or any type of recording equipment, show consideration for those around you. Moving around during the sessions or even recording from your seat could be distracting to others. No recording devices of any sort are to be connected to the electrical or sound systems, nor should equipment block aisles or walkways. Whether you decide to take pictures or record parts of the program with a camcorder or an audiocassette recorder is a personal matter. Pictures and recordings can bring back fond memories when viewed at a later date. All such equipment should be used conservatively, in a way that does not distract others or hinder you from gaining the most benefit from the program. After you return home, will there be time to review the recordings? You may find that taking notes will suffice.
23 Seating: At the 1994 “Godly Fear” District Convention, did you note improvement in the matter of saving seats? Some progress has been made, but we still need to be conscious of this reminder: SEATS MAY BE SAVED ONLY FOR YOUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS AND ANY WHO MAY BE TRAVELING WITH YOU IN YOUR CAR. We are there as guests of the Society. The rental of the auditorium has been paid for by voluntary donations. Would it be loving and considerate to save a seat that we are not sure will be occupied? We are sorry that it will not be possible for us to accommodate requests for separate areas or rooms for those with environmental problems, such as allergies.
24 Each convention makes provision for those with special needs, such as the elderly and the physically disabled. Please be sure not to occupy seats in one of these sections if you do not qualify. Also, be alert to assist those with special needs to find a seat if they are not accompanied by someone responsible for their care.
25 Caring for Your Convention Food Needs: As you know, the December 1994 Our Kingdom Ministry announced: “Beginning with the 1995 district conventions and the September 1995 circuit assemblies and special assembly days, there will be no food served. Each one is to bring his own food and drink.” Then the February 1995 Our Kingdom Ministry insert explained why this adjustment has been made and gave fine suggestions as to how everyone can care for his own food and drink needs at the convention. It would be good for all not only to review that insert themselves but also to go over it with their Bible students as they prepare to attend the convention. It is important that Bible students be informed that all attending should bring their own food and drink to the convention.
26 Just to emphasize some points, you will want to remember these suggested items to bring for the noon break: light, simple, and nourishing lunch items similar to what people often take with them to a secular job, such as cold sandwiches, dried fruits, nuts, baked items, and fresh fruit. Liquids may include coffee, soft drinks, fruit juices, or bottled water, in a nonbreakable container or a thermos. If small coolers are necessary, they are acceptable if they will fit under your seat. However, no large family-size picnic coolers, alcoholic beverages, or glass containers should be brought into the convention facility. Eating or snacking during the program sessions should be avoided. This would show disrespect for the spiritual meal being served.
27 An additional caution is that no cooking is to be done in hotel rooms unless they have a kitchenette for that purpose. It is good to reflect on the fact that the time allowed for the noon break is designed so that we can take in light refreshment and enjoy theocratic association with our brothers and sisters. As Jehovah’s people, we recognize that the spiritual food at the conventions is of primary importance in comparison with material things, and we should plan accordingly.
28 On June 2, 1995, the first of the “Joyful Praisers” District Conventions will begin. Have you completed your preparations, and are you now ready to enjoy three days of happy fellowship and spiritual good things? It is our sincere prayer that Jehovah will bless your efforts to attend this summer’s convention with your brothers and sisters as we dwell on how to be joyful praisers of Jehovah.
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District Convention Reminders
Baptism: Baptismal candidates should be in their seats in the designated section before the program begins on Saturday morning. It has been observed that some wear types of attire that are not dignified and detract from the occasion. A modest bathing suit and a towel should be brought by each one who plans to be baptized. After the baptism talk and prayer by the speaker, the session chairman will give brief instructions to the candidates and will then call for a song. After the last stanza, the attendants will direct the candidates to the immersion site. Since baptism in symbol of one’s dedication is an intimate and personal matter between the individual and Jehovah, there is no provision for so-called partner baptisms in which two or more baptismal candidates embrace or hold hands while being baptized.
Badge Cards: Please wear the 1995 badge card at the convention and while traveling to and from the convention site. This often makes it possible for us to give a fine witness while traveling. Badge cards and holders should be obtained through your congregation, as they will not be available at the convention. Remember to carry your current Advance Medical Directive/Release card. Bethel family members and pioneers should have their identification cards with them.
Rooming: We are asking for the cooperation of everyone in using ONLY the listing of accommodations provided by the convention. If we bypass the Society’s arrangement and secure a hotel not on the approved list or pay more than the agreed-upon rate at one of the listed hotels, we undermine much of the hard work of our brothers who negotiate with the hotels for better rates. IF YOU EXPERIENCE A PROBLEM WITH A HOTEL, please do not hesitate to bring it to the attention of the Rooming Department overseer at the convention so that he can assist you in resolving the matter right away. Congregation secretaries should be sure that Special Needs Room Request forms are promptly forwarded to the appropriate convention address. If you must cancel an accommodation made through the special needs arrangement, you should immediately notify both the landlord or hotel and the convention Rooming Department so that the room can be reassigned.
Baby Strollers and Lawn Chairs: In many locations, baby strollers cannot be used in places of public assembly. Fire regulations prohibit placing them in corridors and aisles or between rows of seats. Since large crowds may cause congested conditions, baby strollers are potentially dangerous not only to the baby but also to any who may stumble over them. So please do not bring them to the convention site. However, infant or car seats are permissible, since these can be secured in seats next to the parents. Also, please do not bring lawn chairs. They are dangerous and are not allowed at large public facilities. Your cooperation in these matters is appreciated.
Volunteer Service: Can you set aside some time at the convention to assist in one of the departments? Serving our brothers, if only for a few hours, can be very helpful and bring a good measure of satisfaction. If you can assist, please report to the Volunteer Service Department at the convention. Children under 16 years of age can also make a fine contribution by working under the direction of a parent or other responsible adult.
Words of Caution: By keeping alert to potential problems, we can save ourselves unnecessary difficulty. Often thieves and other unscrupulous individuals will prey on people who are away from their home environment. Be sure your vehicle is locked at all times, and never leave anything visible to tempt someone to break in. Thieves and pickpockets focus their attention on large gatherings. It would not be wise to leave any valuables at your seat. You cannot be sure that everyone around you is a Christian. Why offer any temptation? Reports have been received of attempts made by some outsiders to lure children away. KEEP YOUR CHILDREN IN SIGHT AT ALL TIMES.
Cable television that is available in many hotels often features lewd, pornographic movies. Be alert to this snare, and do not permit children to have unsupervised access to the television in the room.
Please do not phone the management of the convention auditorium seeking information about any convention matters. If the information is not available from the elders, please write to the convention address found on the back of the Special Needs Room Request forms on file with each congregation secretary.