Attending the Earth Harmony Festival at Avalon Gardens in Tumecaruia Arizona was a life changing experience. This festival was promoted as a “sustainable living event” and that is exactly what it was. The farms media team used their awesome video and other promotional activities to draw in visitors from all around Arizona, including a large group of forty college students from Arizona State College. Their program included tours of the property, lots of live music, and many vendors. Avalon Garden residents provided meals for campers, as well as solar heated showers. I would estimate that a few hundred people or more visited the festival over the weekend.
There was much anticipation and even minor anxiety about this trip mostly due to the responses to the post “What Media Can Do” which highlighted the festivals media promotion and appeal. There was definitely concern that I was being deceived by this community and that when I arrived I would discover they are really a backwards spiritual cult, being lead astray by their leader “Gabrial of Urantia”. This did not happen.
You might be thinking to yourself “did they do this event just as a vehicle to proselytize?” and the answer is no. The only way you would have known that Avalon Gardens was a community of Urantia Book readers is if you would have visited their information tent and asked what the big blue book was on the table next to dozens of other books. Even then they may not have shared with you what is at the core of their communities spiritual practices. There was no active or organized evangelism of any kind that I was aware of. And really to be honest they didn’t need it. The fruits of their spirits were so present and radiant that words would have been a disservice as an explanation of their motivations and sentiments. Every person I encountered was floored by this community, the people in it, and the love they showed. And because of this the second morning at the breakfast table we started a fruitful conversation about the UB which lead to many of the students taking one home with genuine interest.
So let me just say it. I couldn’t have been more impressed or inspired by what I experienced, and that rang true for my Christian friend Tim who also accompanied me, well aware of the stories about this community. Because of the concern that preceded my attending this event I was very up to speed on the opinions in the greater Urantia community about Gabriel, his activities, and actions of the past. I had received everything from requests to take the post about this festival down completely, to phone calls warning me of the possible dangerous nature of Gabriel, as well as other Urantian’s saying my actions had “lack of wisdom and discernment”. All of this was unwarranted, somewhat hurt my feelings, and also gave me great tenacity to learn all I could about what I was getting myself into.
Still I attended this event with an open mind and open heart and was received with the same embrace. My mind set going in was that Gabriel of Urantia must be a strong leader and controller of this group. Because he believes he is in communication with divine beings he is surely set fast in his mission and not open to others ideas and motivations. But through my communications with Gabriels son Amadon and the fun nature of their media I could sense that, just as we are experiencing in our community, the next generation was taking a big roll in the progress of the movement.
While at this event I meet and had great conversations with most of the full time residents of Avalon Gardens including Gabriel. What I experienced was fun, fulfilled, open minded Urantia Book readers who desired nothing more than to serve me and the others attending the festival. Many of them shared stories with me about their experience of finding this community and how it has changed their lives. They each have talents that they are cultivating including music, art, dance, singing, gardening, and much more. Not a single one tried to talk with me about the continuing revelation that Gabriel teaches. They didn’t care what I thought about their spiritual practices, only that I was a brother and fellow student of the revelation. They also shared stories about leaving the community and coming back. Some have children that have left for years and come back with their family. Everyone is there by their own free will living out their own spiritual journey.
Going to visit Avalon Gardens or Gabriel of Urantia is harmless and quite rewarding, in my opinion. To see such a loving group of spiritually motivated Urantian’s was a eye opener. The insight that was so contrasting to me is their dedication and focus of purpose with no care what so ever with the actions and activities of other Urantia organizations. They never inquired about any other Urantia groups or what they are up to. Its pretty apparent they have excepted being written off and are now 100% focused on their projects. That doesn’t go to say though that they didn’t want to hear what I was doing and how we could work together on common goals.
In conclusion the “Earth Harmony Festival” was a lot of fun and I would recommend that anyone who is curious about Avalon Gardens or their activities go visit them. I fully understand why some people have a negative opinion about some of the history of this group, but my confusion was that a majority of the negative comments were from people who had never visited this community, and those who had mostly had good things to say. So I really desired to find out for myself. I do not feel that our master would sit on one side of a mountain and judge people living on the other side because of stories he had heard. I believe he would surely visit these people and try and discover their sentiments and motivations before passing judgment.
Personally I have not read the books Gabriael has published. From what I have read about his teachings some of the claims contradict the revelation and for me personally that doesn’t work. But I refuse to shut my mind or my heart down to learning more about his claims or the claims of anyone about anything for that matter. Through visiting this community I was able to experience first hand the nature and personality’s of these people.
I pray for open mindedness of my fellow Urantian’s and suggest that we consider that each generation must discover for itself what rings as true and what does not. There are many great workings a foot at Avalon Gardens. I have never in my life experienced such a motivated, loving, health conscious community. Whether you believe in Gabriel or not, what they have accomplished is beautiful and it is working. Is it not possible we could learn something from them? I believe we can.
Any religious belief which is effective in spiritualizing the believer is certain to have powerful repercussions in the social life of such a religionist. Religious experience unfailingly yields the “fruits of the spirit” in the daily life of the spirit-led mortal. P1091:5, 99:5.6
“While your religion is a matter of personal experience, it is most important that you should be exposed to the knowledge of a vast number of other religious experiences (the diverse interpretations of other and diverse mortals) to the end that you may prevent your religious life from becoming egocentric—circumscribed, selfish, and unsocial.” 103:1.3