A Centennial to Remember
GOD’S people have been privileged to observe many modern-day miracles. Outstanding among these has been the growth of the global organization that Jehovah is now using to declare his name throughout the earth. It all started in Pittsburgh during the early 1870’s with a small group of earnest Bible students. These multiplied rapidly, so that it soon became necessary to form a legal corporation to care for the expanding organization. Thus, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was duly incorporated on December 13, 1884, under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Recently, on Saturday, October 6, 1984, the 100th annual meeting of the members of the corporation—known now as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania—was held in Pittsburgh. A special occasion indeed! Just as important events in ancient times were memorialized, so it was appropriate that Jehovah’s Witnesses should mark this centennial of the Watch Tower Society by a special gathering. Thus they could render thanks and praise to the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, who has protected and shepherded this expanding organization through the troublesome years of the past century.—Joshua 4:4-8, 20-24; Esther 9:20-22; Psalm 23:1-6.
Promptly at ten o’clock on the morning of October 6, the annual corporate meeting of the Society was opened at the Coraopolis Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pittsburgh. Among worldly organizations, corporate meetings are usually cut-and-dried, business-only affairs. But this meeting was different.
Of the 429 members of the corporation, 259 were present in person, together with their guests—an assembly totaling 1,615 persons. These had traveled to the meeting from 53 different countries—from such widely scattered places as Alaska, Antigua, Argentina, Australia, Austria, and through the alphabet to Zimbabwe. The formal election of four directors of the Society was followed by a spiritually strengthening program of talks. One of these, based on the yeartext chosen by Jehovah’s Witnesses for 1985, 2 Timothy 4:5, exhorted everyone: "Fully accomplish your ministry."
There followed a stirring address by the Society’s 91-year-old president, F. W. Franz. He stated that he had never been so thrilled as when, some 65 years ago, along with J. F. Rutherford, he first heard the phrase "God’s organization." After tracing the development of the organization in the earth, he expressed thankfulness that this is the 100th year that Jehovah’s organization has used the incorporated Society to bring us life-saving Scriptural information. Brother Franz’ voice rose to a triumphant crescendo as he quoted the last verse of the Psalms, saying, ‘Every breathing thing—let it praise Jah—HALLELUJAH!’
‘Jehovah Is With His People’
Outstanding brotherly love and hospitality were displayed by the Pittsburgh congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Hebrews 13:1, 2) Self-sacrificing attention was given to provide fine meals, accommodations and transportation, and every organizational detail was cared for in readying Pittsburgh’s famous Three Rivers Stadium for the three-hour evening meeting that followed.
It was like a smile of approval from Jehovah that weather conditions for this autumn day were ideal. Thus, the crowd of 37,733 at the stadium could listen in comfort and with appreciation. Telephone tie lines carried the program to 34 Assembly Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States and in Canada, where another 59,715 listened—making a grand total of 97,448 in attendance. All of these were provided with copies of a colorful 32-page brochure-style program as a memento of the happy event.
The evening session commenced with joyful song and prayer. Then ten members of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses shared with many other long-time servants of Jehovah in developing the theme: "Jehovah Has Always Proved to Be With His People." As the program brochure stated: "There is, indeed, much evidence that Jehovah has proved to be with his people and that he has blessed and established the work of their hands—accomplished by the instrumentality of the Watch Tower Society. Therefore, in accord with the thoughts of Psalm 78:2-7, it is appropriate that we use this occasion to relate to the newer generation ‘the praises of Jehovah . . . and his wonderful things that he has done.’"
That is just what the program accomplished! Hitler and apostate religionists had tried to exterminate Jehovah’s Witnesses "like vermin," but such opposers have gone, as always, "like snow in the sun." Bible translator Goodspeed described the first century Christians as "a translating and publishing people." And how true this is also of 20th-century Witnesses! During the 105 years ending in 1984, these Christians published, in 200 and more languages, 8.8 billion Bibles, books, booklets, magazines, and tracts. The New World Translation of the entire Bible, or at least the Greek Scriptures, was printed in 14 languages to a total of 51,034,000 copies. Very soon a pocket edition of this Bible, and also a large-print edition in four volumes, will become available. Thus the Watch Tower Society will continue to be a leader in Bible publication.
The brochure said: "A testimony to the caliber of faithful men who have served with the Watch Tower Society can be seen in the fact that during a period of 100 years only four different men have served in the responsible position of president of the Society." Jehovah’s organization moves on grandly toward final victory. As Martin Poetzinger, who kept integrity through nine years in Nazi concentration camps, commented: "Stick to Jehovah and Christ Jesus and God’s organization, and you will see his triumphant victory over all opposers."
The final speaker of the evening, president F. W. Franz, described this centennial day as "an occasion that will never be duplicated." How true! Reviewing the thrilling history of the Society, Brother Franz recalled the words of J. F. Rutherford, the second president, who died in 1942. Shortly before his death, he said, "Well, Fred, it looks to me the great [crowd] is not going to be so great after all." Brother Franz commented, "He died too soon." At that time Jehovah’s Witnesses numbered fewer than 100,000 worldwide. Today, literally ‘millions of those who will never die’ have been added to the ranks of these loyal servants.
Brother Franz concluded with these words: "We are stirred to say in unison: ‘All hail to Jehovah God the Universal Sovereign.’" By thunderous applause all present expressed their wholehearted agreement. After final song and prayer they left for their home countries and congregations with joyful determination to go on in Jehovah’s work to the finish.