In recent years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have come to expect much from Watchtower’s annual meeting – an ostensibly corporate event that has been increasingly used to unveil new publications, or new “understandings of scripture.”
At the 2011 meeting, it was announced that the Governing Body had sort-of decided to move the organization’s headquarters to Warwick in upstate New York. In 2012, it was announced that the Governing Body (and NOT all heaven-bound Christians) were henceforth to be considered the “faithful and discreet slave.” In 2013 a new revised New World Translation Bible was unveiled. In 2014 JW Broadcasting was launched. And at last year’s event, it was announced that the Theocratic Ministry School is no more (something we knew about in advance due to an insider leak).
But trying to find meaningful, interesting news from yesterday’s 2016 annual meeting is decidedly more challenging.
Essentially there will be a new updated songbook to consolidate all the individual songs that have been released since the last songbook was released in 2009 (in a grey, deluxe cover to match the new Bibles). A couple of videos were shown about the new Warwick headquarters. It was announced that next year’s annual meeting will include the dedication ceremony for Warwick, and will be broadcast to all assembly halls. And, er, that was pretty much it. (You have to feel sorry for the audience that sat through several hours of talks just to receive those morsels of information.)
Something that is perhaps worthy of note is the announcement that the updated songbook, titled “Sing Out Joyfully” to Jehovah, is only available in printed version on request. More specifically, Witnesses will have to ask their group overseer for a printed version rather than simply picking one up at the literature counter, as the following paragraph from a letter to congregations makes clear:
In the not-so-distant past when I was assigned to organize the inventory of congregation literature, we always kept a healthy stock of songbooks just in case visiting Witnesses or interested persons needed one.
These days, however, it seems Watchtower is being far more frugal with how its printed “spiritual food” is being dispensed. The fact that costs are expressly cited as a reason for not handing out a new release indiscriminately lends further weight to claims that not all is well with the organization’s finances. This, in turn, would suggest that the halcyon days of new books and brochures being released to much fanfare by “the Slave” may be drawing to a close.