1996 “Messengers of Godly Peace” District Convention
1 The district convention program this year will surely help us to maintain our godly peace, and it will explain our role in helping others to find such peace. As announced in the January 1996 Our Kingdom Ministry, the theme is “Messengers of Godly Peace.” Have you made your plans so as not to miss any of the program?
2 A Three-Day Program: We know you will thoroughly enjoy this year’s convention and will return home with renewed vigor. (2 Chron. 7:10) This year we will again have a three-day program. Have you already made arrangements to get time off from secular work so that you can attend for the entire period? Some of the earlier conventions will be held before school is dismissed for the summer. If you have children of school age, have you respectfully informed their teachers that they will be absent on Friday for this important part of their religious training?
3 The February 15, 1996, Watchtower lists the dates and locations for 198 conventions in the United States branch territory. By now the secretary of your congregation has informed you of the one to which you are assigned. In addition to English, there will be conventions in American Sign Language, Chinese, French, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
4 The program will begin all three days at 9:30 a.m. and conclude on Sunday at approximately 4:00 p.m. Doors will open at 8:00 a.m. The only ones permitted to enter before then are those with work assignments, and these will not be allowed to save seats until the building opens for everyone. Will we demonstrate kindness to our older and infirm brothers by leaving the seats vacant in areas that are more convenient and comfortable? Remember that “love . . . does not look for its own interests.”—1 Cor. 13:4, 5; Phil. 2:4.
5 Will You Be Sharpened? After quoting Proverbs 27:17, “By iron, iron itself is sharpened,” the August 15, 1993, Watchtower observed: “We are like instruments that need regular sharpening. Since expressing love for Jehovah and making decisions based on our faith means being different from the world, we constantly have to cut a different path, as it were, from the majority.” How can we apply that counsel?
6 We are and must remain different from the world. The constant effort to accomplish this has to be maintained if we are to be zealous for fine works. (Titus 2:14) That is why the Watchtower article quoted above went on to say: “When we are with others who love Jehovah, we sharpen one another—we incite one another to love and fine works.” The district convention is one of the provisions from Jehovah to help us stay sharp spiritually. We cannot afford to miss any part of the program.
7 A Wise Person Will Listen: Listening is an art that has to be developed. It has been said that the average person remembers only about half of what he has heard—no matter how carefully he thinks he listened. Since we live in an age of distractions, at times we may experience difficulty concentrating for long periods. Can we try to increase our attention span, especially when sitting in a large audience listening to someone speak? If you were asked to give a summary of each day’s program after returning home from the convention, would you be able to do so? How can all of us improve our ability to listen and pay close attention to each part presented on the convention program?
8 Keen interest is essential, for the divine gift of memory cannot function efficiently without it. For example, the more interest a person shows in a subject, the easier it is to remember the main points of a talk or program part. Yet, much depends on our paying more than the usual attention to the things we are privileged to hear at district conventions. Our keen interest in and attentiveness to each part of the convention program has a bearing on our present spiritual condition as well as on our future prospects. At conventions we are taught Jehovah’s ways and are given instructions for accomplishing a lifesaving work. (1 Tim. 4:16) Think of yourself as a ship in a storm-tossed sea. The promises of Jehovah are the solid anchor of hope. If a person is inattentive at Christian programs and allows his mind to drift, he may miss vital points of counsel and instruction that could prevent him from suffering spiritual shipwreck.—Heb. 2:1; 6:19.
9 In many parts of the world, our brothers put forth great physical effort to attend meetings. It is marvelous to see their rapt attention at conventions. In some places, though, individuals have distracted others by milling around the convention grounds during sessions. Others come in late. At some past conventions, it was difficult to hear the first few minutes of the program because of so many wandering in the corridors and behind the seating areas. These are usually not brothers on work assignments or mothers attending to the needs of their small children. Much of the disturbance is from people who are just visiting. This year the Attendant Department will be giving more attention to the problem, and hopefully, all will be seated when the chairman invites us to do so. Your cooperation in this regard will be greatly appreciated.
10 What practical suggestions will help us to be more attentive to the convention program and to retain more of what is presented? What has been said in past years bears repeating: (a) Focus on the main reason for going to the convention city. It is, not to engage in recreation, but to listen and learn. (Deut. 31:12) Try to get sufficient rest each night. If you come to the convention very tired, concentration will be difficult. (b) Give yourself plenty of time to park your car and get seated before the program starts. Rushing to the seats at the last minute will usually result in your missing some of the opening part. (c) Take brief notes of key points. Excessive note-taking can be a hindrance to good listening. When writing, make sure you do not miss other points because of concentrating on your notes. (d) When a convention part is introduced, view it with eager anticipation. Ask yourself, ‘What can I learn from this part that will increase my appreciation and love for Jehovah? How can the information help me to manifest the new personality more fully? How will this help me to improve in my ministry?’
11 Conduct That Adorns Our Ministry: Paul encouraged Titus to show himself “an example of fine works.” By showing uncorruptness in his teaching, Titus would help others to “adorn the teaching of our Savior, God, in all things.” (Titus 2:7, 10) Each year, we receive kindly reminders about why godly conduct is so important while we are traveling to and from the convention, as well as when we are at hotels and restaurants and at the convention itself. Last year we again heard some heartwarming comments that we would like to share with you.
12 The manager of a hotel stated: “It is always a pleasure to accommodate the Witnesses because they are patient, cooperative, and they keep a close eye on their children.” One hotel desk clerk said that it makes his job “so much easier when the Witnesses are checking in and out of the hotel because, despite having to wait in line, they are always polite, patient, and understanding.” A woman in New England was so impressed with the conduct of the Witness youths staying at the same motel that she requested some literature about our organization.
13 On the other hand, there is room for improvement in certain areas. We would like to share some observations that have been sent to the Society. One traveling overseer reported that the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses need more supervision at hotels. Some have been seen running in the hallways, riding up and down in the elevators, making a lot of noise around the swimming pool, and staying in the pool well past the posted closing time, thus disturbing the sleep of other guests. We need to train our children to understand that Christian conduct is not on a time schedule. It does not end when we walk out of the convention facility. It must last 24 hours a day. Our conduct at the hotel, in restaurants, and on the streets should be as honorable as when we are sitting down during the sessions with our brothers, being taught by Jehovah.—Isa. 54:13; 1 Pet. 2:12.
14 We would also like to share a kindly reminder about tipping. Waiters, waitresses, hotel maids and bellmen, and others in similar occupations are dependent upon tips to make a living.—See Awake! of June 22, 1986, pages 24-7.
15 Although food service has been discontinued at our conventions, there is still considerable expense involved in renting the facility, providing parking, and caring for miscellaneous matters. Our voluntary donations care for these expenses. One sister with teenage children came to the convention with limited funds. However, she and the children still helped out with a small contribution. What each one decides to do in this regard is a personal matter, but we know you appreciate such reminders.—Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 9:7.
16 Recognized by the Way We Dress: The way we dress reveals much about us and about our feelings toward others. Most teenagers and many adults are surrounded by faddish, slipshod styles of clothing in school or in their place of employment. Each year clothing styles become more extreme, even shocking. If we are not careful, we could easily be influenced by worldly peers to dress as they do. Many styles are inappropriate to wear at meetings for worship. A note received after one of last year’s conventions expressed appreciation for the program but added: “I did wonder why there were so many young girls with such short dresses, low tops, and high slits.” Surely all of us desire to be dressed in a manner that befits Christian ministers both at the convention and while socializing after the program. At all times we do well to reflect on the apostle Paul’s counsel for Christians to be adorned in “well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.”—1 Tim. 2:9.
17 Who is to determine what is modest, “well-arranged” dress? Being modest means being “neither bold nor self-assertive.” The dictionary also defines modest as “unpretentious.” Neither the Society nor the elders are to set out rules about dress or grooming. Even so, should it not be clear to a Christian which clothing styles are simply not modest or decent? (Compare Philippians 1:10.) Our grooming and clothing should not attract undue attention. We must be pleasing in appearance, not worldly or offensive. As ministers of the good news, our being appropriately dressed and groomed during the time that we are in the district convention city brings honor to Jehovah and reflects well on the organization. Hence, parents will set the example and then make sure their children dress properly for the occasion. Elders will want to set a good example and be ready to offer kind counsel if necessary.
18 Hotels: Earlier we quoted hotel personnel who said that they were impressed because the brothers were patient, polite, and cooperative. We want to continue to display these Christian qualities if we have to wait in line to register. We appreciate the hotels that have cooperated with the Society in providing rooms at an affordable price. Although we may be tired from travel, we should remember to treat hotel employees with kindness. Our doing so may cause some to examine the truth more closely. Please review the January 1996 Our Kingdom Ministry insert for more information regarding hotel accommodations. Additionally, no cooking is to be done in hotel rooms unless they have a kitchen for that purpose.
19 Cameras, Camcorders, and Audiocassette Recorders: It is permissible to use cameras and other recording equipment, provided we show consideration for others in attendance. If we move around taking pictures during sessions, not only will we distract others who are trying to listen but we will miss some of the program ourselves. We usually benefit more from the convention by paying close attention to the speakers and taking conservative notes. We may be recording for a brother or a sister who is a shut-in; however, for our own use, we may find upon returning home that after taping many hours of the program, there will not be time for us to review much of what we recorded. No recording devices of any sort are to be connected to the electrical or sound systems, nor should equipment block aisles, walkways, or the view of others.
20 Seating: We continue to note improvement in the matter of saving seats. Last year, most of you followed the directions: SEATS MAY BE SAVED ONLY FOR YOUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS AND ANY WHO MAY BE TRAVELING WITH YOU IN YOUR CAR. You probably found it to be less stressful because many were following these clear directions. Even more important, your compliance was pleasing to Jehovah and to the ‘faithful slave,’ who gives the spiritual food.—Matt. 24:45.
21 There is a growing number of our brothers who have special health needs. Some come to the convention in wheelchairs and need to be cared for by family members. Others are on various medications for chronic maladies such as heart problems or seizures. It truly warms our heart to see these dear brothers and sisters at the convention, determined not to miss any of the spiritual food. However, at times, there has been the problem of some persons becoming ill during the convention, with no family or congregation members to render assistance. In certain cases the convention administration was required to call for an emergency medical service to transport a brother or a sister to the hospital. The responsibility for the care of the chronically ill should fall primarily on family members and close relatives. The convention First Aid Department is not in a position to provide care for the chronically ill. If a member of your family is in need of special care, please be sure he is not left alone in case an emergency arises. In addition, there will be no arrangements at the conventions for special rooms to accommodate those who have allergies that preclude their sitting in the general seating areas. Elders will want to be alert to any in their congregation who have special health needs and make sure arrangements are made ahead of time for their care.
22 Convention Food Needs: Many positive comments have been made regarding the benefits of bringing our own food. One brother wrote: “I can clearly see a huge spiritual dividend from this. All that time and energy can now be diverted to spiritual matters. I have not heard one negative comment.” A sister wrote: “By example, you dear brothers encourage us as individual Christians to examine ourselves and seek ways to simplify our lives and increase our theocratic activity.” A traveling overseer wrote about the former food service provisions: “The old arrangement caused a good number of the brothers to miss the entire assembly program.” Regarding the food the brothers brought, one elder wrote: “They had just what they wanted, and they didn’t have to wait in line for it.” Lastly, another sister wrote: “After the sessions it was peaceful and quiet and there was an air of cheerfulness.” Yes, each one could bring enough to sustain himself through the afternoon period. Many commented on the fact that they had more time to visit with friends.
23 There will be no food service again this year. You might take a few minutes to review the May 1995 Our Kingdom Ministry insert, paragraph 26, for suggestions on practical, nourishing food items that can be taken to the convention. Please remember, no glass containers or alcoholic beverages are to be brought into the convention facility. If small coolers are necessary, they must fit under your seat. Have in mind that there is sufficient time during the noon break to eat and drink what you bring. As at our Kingdom Halls during meetings, we always refrain from eating during convention sessions. Thus we demonstrate respect for the arrangement for worship and the spiritual food being provided.
24 Soon the first “Messengers of Godly Peace” District Conventions will begin. Have you completed your preparations to attend, 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.
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District Convention Reminders
Baptism: Baptismal candidates should be seated 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. Congregation elders reviewing the questions in the Our Ministry book with baptismal candidates will want to make sure that each one understands these points. 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 1996 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. Do not wait until a few days before the convention to ask for cards for you and your family. Remember to carry your current Advance Medical Directive/Release card.
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 most 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: With no more food service, many who formerly worked in that department may now find that they can volunteer to work elsewhere. 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: Keep alert to potential problems so as to avoid 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.
Television and video services available in many hotels often feature lewd, pornographic programs. Be alert to this snare, and do not permit children to have unsupervised access to the television in the room.
Please do not phone or write the management of the convention auditorium, seeking information about any convention matters. If the information is not available from the elders, you may write to the address of a specific convention, as found on the back of the Special Needs Room Request forms, one of which is posted on the congregation’s information board.