Random remembrances of the Urantia gathering in the giant redwoods of California
To begin each day, worship services were held in the outdoor amphitheater – a covered stage facing redwood seating built into the hillside inside a circle of towering trees. An 8-foot-high angel painting; Jesus portrait; harp, violin, guitars and keyboards, aaah! What a joy.
Camp Wawona is owned and operated by the 7th Day Adventists. Cheerful vegetarians prepared every meal for us with the exception of the Master’s birthday celebration on Wednesday, which was a full Thanksgiving feast with turkey and all the trimmings. The Adventists were willing to serve meat we had cooked and delivered, but would not prepare any meat dishes themselves, which I thought was a nice compromise on their part, allowing omnivores their meat without compromising Adventist beliefs.
Accommodations included yurts, A-frames, cabins, and a lodge, scattered throughout a hillside filled with trees, deer, and activity arenas- ziplines, swimming pool, ropes course, rock climbing.
On Wednesday, we traveled by bus to the Mariposa Grove where the Grizzly Giant stands in a grove of enormous sequoia trees. We arrived in time for a beautifully planned noon worship service that started with the Ave Maria and included pre-recorded songs, gongs, live music, a poem, prayers, an alleluia chorus and streaming tears. We then sat together in small groups to eat lunch and share the gifts that Jesus has given us in our personal lives.
The experience in Mariposa Grove would have been sufficient awe for one day, but no! We climbed back into our buses for a tour of the Yosemite Valley. We saw the smoke of the enormous fire from afar during the tour, but that was the only evidence of the firestorm (still raging now) that we noticed during the week. The valley itself was clear and stunning.
My “yurt sisters” hailed from California, Finland, Colorado, and Oregon. What a treat it was to share space with them!
Some of us on various nights trekked out for night hikes into the giant sequoia grove. Marching through the moonlit forest, singing hymns to the angels at midnight at the base of the Grizzly Giant, giggling and moon-dancing on the way back down the trail, drumming middle eastern and hawaiian rhythms on the fallen trunk of an ancient redwood as the light from the full moon streamed down through the redwood sentinels deep in the night… surely a memory that will survive with us into the next world.
Thursday, we got to wade in the Merced River at a swimming hole filled with clear fresh water moving over granite monoliths, sunning on the rock slabs like lizards. Yesterday, I watched in envy as a woman nearly my age RAN up the hill to her sleeping quarters. While others were sensible enough to sleep at lower elevations in the comfortable cabins below, I quite enjoyed working off my meals by huffing and puffing my way back to my yurt up the hill.
Personally, I felt deeply aware of what a blessing it was for me to be in community with believers in Yosemite. Most especially, being present at a Urantia gathering sans administrative duties for the first time in more that a decade was absolutely wonderful. I had time to just sit and get to know people! Real mortals whom I’ve been zipping past at conferences for years, or who were names on a email list to me until now.
I had a series of three significant, serendipitous conversations on the first day that really brought home to me how much I’ve been missing all these years. I see now that by spending so much time organizing Urantia stuff, I have not ever been able to be truly present with people. My meeting schedules have been so tight that I’ve had no opening to new experiences. How can the angels accomplish any social engineering with me when I am so damn busy all the time?
I fell deeply in love with so many people. I met a woman with the soul of a poet, an intellectual whose love with God expressed by tears streaming down his face, a tiny Finnish sprite with a twinkle in her eye and an abundant unforgettable goodness, a kind and capable woman fundraising for an worthy project, a gorgeous young medicine woman from Kansas, a 43-year reader who had never before met a group of UBers, a nine-year-old archer. My journey ended with a ride home from a kind and vibrant family from New Hampshire who happened to be heading from the gathering to San Francisco.
TUUFF organizer Diane Le Breque is a human tornado with a seemingly unfailing energy source.
I’m still blissed out. Wish you all could have been there.