I was doing some research on another topic and I came across this from the March 1950 Watchtower...
ABSENCE OF PRAYER AT PUBLIC MEETINGS!
November 17, 1949
Answering your query of the 9th instant regarding the absence of prayer in opening and closing our public meetings:
It is certain that the public does not come to our public lectures in our Kingdom Hall or elsewhere to hear us pray, but do come to hear the advertised subject spoken upon by the speaker announced as competent to handle it. Our Exemplar Jesus held many public lectures, but there is no record that he opened or closed any of them with prayer. There is no Bible record that he opened up the sermon on the mount with prayer, or those open-air lectures after which he fed the multitude, first the 5,000 and then the 4,000. But there is a record that when he thus fed the multitudes he did offer prayer of thanksgiving to God before breaking the bread and fish and distributing the pieces to the hungry crowds. And these lectures, mind you, were public gatherings of practically all Jews who already believed in Jehovah God. But in our case today we advertise our public lectures as open to all peoples, whether nominally Catholic, Protestant, Jew, skeptic, atheist, or of the many pagan religions. Surely those of the public who are not of the Christian faith do not turn out to our meetings in order to join with us in prayer to our God, but solely to hear the speech which is the drawing feature. So we give them that and do not think to impose upon them by attaching something else to the lecture which might offend or stumble them before they hear the speech they came for. The apostle Paul, at 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, says Christians should offer prayer at their own meetings in a language to be understood in order that the hearers might be able to say Amen! at its close. But we should not expect any non-Christian public to join in any prayer if offered at a public meeting and then say Amen! with us at the close. Our brethren are offering public lectures in many pagan lands, and if it would be imposing upon the pagan public to offer our prayers before we let them hear our public message, then the same rule ought to apply even in Christendom. Because the message is for the public to tune in on, prayer is likewise not offered over the Society’s radio station WBBR. But this does not mean prayer is never offered in behalf of all such public meetings. It is, privately, by those promoting and supporting the public lecture campaign. That suffices.
Yours faithfully in serving The Theocracy,
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY
The next letter in the same issue...
ATTENDING FUNERALS AND MARRIAGES—WHERE?
November 17, 1949
Your card of the 10th instant refers to our letter in the November 15 issue of The Watchtower on “Weddings and Funerals” and asks whether you are to understand thereby that we “advocate the friends’ attending weddings and funerals when officiated by religious clergy or in their buildings”.
Why, certainly we do not “advocate” it, and the letter in the above Watchtower that answered the inquirer was not commenting on attending weddings and funerals at religious buildings where the clergy hold forth. Our letter mentioned sending out our own representatives to serve at such functions.
However, whether a brother or sister is free to attend such a function under clergy management and in their establishment is another question. Certainly a marriage performed by a religious clergyman is just as valid with the law of the land as one performed by any of our brothers who applies for and gets a license. And when any of our brethren do not have any of our own brothers to perform but go to a municipal building and have the ceremony performed by a justice of the peace or some other duly constituted public official, they do not ask first whether that official is a Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or other kind of religionist. The main thing is, Does he represent the law of the land and is he empowered to give legal authority and recognition to the marriage? All other matters are incidental and unimportant and without bearing.
A father or mother, who for reasons beyond their control feel obliged to go to a religious building to see their child married or buried, goes there to see the marriage or the funeral and for no religious reason, if they are in the truth. It is the same as in the apostle’s day in the case of a man who went into an idol’s temple for something to eat. He goes in there to get a meal, but not to worship. (1 Corinthians 8:7-10, American Standard Version) Some other brother’s conscience would not be strong enough to permit him to do this, and his weak conscience would take offense if he saw his Christian brother in such a place for just a meal. So while we do not “advocate” it, we are not within our province to criticize or condemn, but will let God judge our brother who according to his conscience may feel obligated to attend functions under clergy officiation.
Faithfully yours in Theocratic service,
WATCH TOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY
I just thought it was interesting to see how MUCH things have changed.