Every three years The Urantia Book Fellowship holds an international conference. In the intervening years are Summer Study Sessions, which are smaller events that still attract a significant gathering of readers. This year’s Summer Study Session was again held at the incredible Techny Towers outside of Chicago, Illinois.
The topic this summer was Progressive Planetary Civilization. There were three days of keynote speakers, workshops, and fellowship. The YaYA Committee was involved in making sure young people not only attended but also gave workshops. The Fellowship generously provided reduced rates for young people; in exchange, we volunteered and helped out. At SSS’10, there were about half a dozen people under age 35. This year, there were more than double that number, and they were actively engaged in the program. Many of those who attended came directly from the YaYA conference at The Urantia Foundation that was planned to dovetail with the Summer Study Session. This gave us more time to study, socialize, and make many needed connections both among our generation and across generations.
The Summer Study Session had a much different feel from an international conference. The focus was clearly on study, which is very important, although I did feel something was missing. Most of the youth there had just come from a very eventful week at the Foundation and some had even previously been in Taos with Truthseekers climbing all over mountains and doing community building activities. By comparison, the Summer Study Session left us craving more opportunities to get to know each other and engage in activities beyond study alone. My question is, is this what the community wants? Do a majority desire to have a very focused and study-based gathering between the more active and fun International Conferences? I personally would be surprised if that were the case. It just seems to me that this is the natural place we have reached and there is nothing wrong with that.
So what might we change to boost the atmosphere of these summer gatherings? I had a few very simple ideas. One: We could mix up the workshop lineup. Maybe have half study or topical and half active or creative. Two: At night we could do something totally non-cerebral. Maybe bring in dance instructors and learn how to salsa or ballroom dance? For those who did attend, you might have noticed all the youth in the corner with their iPods dancing by themselves. Let’s revive dance inside our community! There were also requests to have a kids’ program, which comes up year after year. Maybe doing a survey of what the community would like to see would be a good idea?
One thing is for sure: As we grow and evolve as a community we must push toward a more action-based culture. Please don’t take this to mean we shouldn’t prioritize studying the teachings. But I believe study should largely done in study groups and on our own. When we come together we are already fired up about the teachings! We are now looking to put them into ACTION! How do we do this? At the last YaYA conference, we went to a shelter in Chicago and worked in the kitchen. This is a very simple and practical service project. At our next conference in Santa Cruz this fall, we will be doing a service project at a local special needs home. As we learn to look for ways to help our community become a better place, I know God will put many opportunities in our path.
So at conferences like the Summer Study Session I would like to see a multi-track approach. This is the model that is being adopted for IC’14 and maybe we could practice it at next year’s Summer Study Session!
As usual the coming together of many Urantia Book Readers at the Summer Study Session was a rejuvenating experience this summer. Growing up attending these conferences I was always amazed and thrilled by the level of community and love that was felt at conferences. This summer was no different. As a second generation reader raised and embraced by the UB community it was wonderful to fully participate in a conference as an adult reader. (Growing up I never actually attend the seminars, instead I just socialized with my friends.) While I appreciated the intellectual discussions present at the study session this summer, there was a level of experiential learning that I felt was missing. Different generations appear to have different learning styles that seem to generalize across the generation.
+I have noticed that in general the baby-boomers are marked by a voracious appetite for intellectual discussion and discovery. This desired type of learning fits in beautifully with the seminar model of conferences and has been a valued tool in the learning and dissemination of the teachings. I admire and respect its value, but as a member of a different generation I also call for the incorporation of experiential learning. As of yet I do not have an idea of what this could be, but that was what I walked away from this year’s conference craving. I personally want to talk about UB concepts and then find way to meaningfully live them through the avenues that Jesus took himself, loving service. The conference this summer was as usual a family reunion and a chance to meet more Urantians that share the same beautiful beliefs that I have. I cherish my UB family and always look forward to opportunities to get together with them, especially the YaYA’s. I have learned from and been loved by so many first generation readers that my life would have been markedly different if I had not been raised within our community. I see how far we have come, but I also see how far we need to go. I hope we can heal old wounds through loving and honest communication. Let’s take notes from the manual for life and death that we call the Urantia Book. All of the answers are there, we just need to learn how to live them.