Last weekend we had a mini conference in San Diego California. Andrea Barnes and I, who are both active members of committees of The Urantia Book Fellowship, had the idea that we needed to be more active in building community in our local area. Seeing as we are both in Southern California, we decided San Diego would be the location to give it a try.
Many of you know about, or have attended, the Fellowship’s International Conferences that happen every three years. This last summer IC’11 was held in Salt Lake City, Utah. The conferences are major undertakings and require a lot of planning and preparation. I think anyone who has attended one of these will tell you they are an amazing experience. What we desired to create was a similar experience on a local level, with the same format but in a shorter time with less preparation.
All in all, the weekend was amazing! Friday night we held an introduction to the Urantia Book that we advertised on Meetup, Craigslist, and Facebook. Aurora Hill and Thomas Orjala have been working to develop a model of introducing the Urantia Book, which was put into practice Friday night by Andrea and Thomas. We had four guests and all of them left open and inspired! One man even came back and joined us for the weekend workshops. Saturday we had workshops on various topics presented by seasoned readers. That evening we had a meal together and plenty of social time. Sunday we had a few more presentations and said our goodbyes.
Kermit Anderson, who is President of the LA society led an excellent workshop on the major concepts found in Papers 1-5. It was a great blend of younger and older folks, and to me it seemed that the older generation really got a fire lit inside them to see the youth so excited about the revelation.
Given that only two of us planned the whole weekend, we had a great turnout at a great location and everyone had a good time. By the end, people were asking when the next one was, and when I told one person it would be next year he looked at me like I was crazy! “A year?” he said. “No, we need to have them more often!” I agree. As UB readers we have no church. We have study groups but they frequently include the same group of people and rarely involve worship, singing, or interaction with new people. To have a weekend that stimulated so much slumbering spiritual energy was a real boost for everyone.
This weekend many readers in San Diego met for the first time, including readers that live only miles apart. Participants are now reaching out to us and asking that together we take action steps in building our community. If the goal was to stimulate the local community I think we succeeded. We are already planning the next gathering and putting outreach projects on the calender.
It is easy to get weighed down by the lack of community and visible action in our movement. We don’t have a church to attend where we see the fruits of spiritual progress. So we tend to lose hope in some respects and become resigned that we can’t make a difference. It can be tempting to accept this as the way it is and go about our daily lives.
We know that the revelation has changed OUR lives but most of us are not sure where to go from there. This is partially due to the implied direction of our leaders. As Meredith Sprunger said “Many people who long to serve and help spread the good news of the fifth epochal revelation are confused by conflicting advice given by leaders in the URANTIA movement. Some are even afraid of violating some “hidden” or “implied” directive of the revelators of The URANTIA Book. It is time that these ambiguities be laid to rest.” Amen Meredith!
What this all says to me is that we need to address the fact that the culture of our community is changing. Meredith Sprunger saw the need for change many years ago and I personally intend to honor him by following his advice to live the teachings. You can also see this in the work of Truthseekers and in the new Youth and Young Adult Committee. There is an increasing focus on living the teachings in our lives in addition to book study. And all of this should not scare anyone who reads the Urantia Book. As Jesus instructed, our only mission is “to share the good news!”. Weekends like this one are a big step in that direction. Small grass roots gatherings of believers can motivate and inspire the spiritual progress of the whole. I encourage others to consider holding similar events in your local areas.