Report for 2015 Unitarian Universalists General Assembly (UUA) held June 24 – 28 in Portland, Oregon.
This is the first time we have presented the Urantia Book to the UUA. Mark Erickson is a UU member in southern California and decided it was time to attend the Assembly. I was asked to manage the booth, arrange for volunteers, hand out materials and create a banner. We manned the booth for 5 days. Joy Brandt from Portland did a great job of helping me find local readers to volunteer in the booth. I was never alone in the booth and Mark came by often to help when he was not in classes.
There was a wide variation in the attendees, around 4500 strong. It ranged from atheists (including a couple that seemed to revel at giving us a bit of a bad time) to open minded participants who wanted to hear about our book. Similar to the Wild Goose Festival, the UU folks are strong on social justice and community that accepts everyone. A young lady walked up Saturday morning and was so excited to find out that she could read about Jesus’ childhood, something she always wanted to know. She bought a book for herself and one for her father.
When things got quiet in the hall I spent time visiting the other booths. I met a lady named Julia who was helping in her daughter’s booth selling management software for churches. We talked about many things and when she expressed interest in the UB I lent her a copy. The next day she came by with a very pleasant gentleman who wanted to buy a book. This same man showed up the next day with a lady who was connected to the Starr King Theological School. She also wanted to buy a book.
I spent a fair amount of time learning about the half dozen schools that train ministers. The first, Starr King in Berkeley, is a progressive facility that prepares ministerial students in a variety of social justice and community activism tracks leading to ordination. I had a very good talk with one of the managers and brought her a book to peruse. A gal attending another school, Meadville Lombard, that exclusively trains UU ministers, stopped by the booth and after learning more about it bought a book.
I was realizing that these schools may be great places to make books available, especially since their students will be the future ministers of congregations. So why not offer books to their students and faculty? Nancy Votrain and I went to
the various school’s booths. We stopped at the Andover Newton Theological School and had a great talk with Alison, who works in Admissions. At the end of the conversation she agreed to offer each enrolled student an opportunity to have a Urantia Book. I told her we would send them as needed. Then she asked if we would provide a presenter on the UB teachings for their students . I told them we had a Harvard Divinity student near them named Angie that would be a great choice. I will ask Angie if she is interested in doing this. The students will get class credits for their attendance. Very encouraging indeed!
I spoke with the other schools and they showed varying degrees of interest. I will be sending formal letters of introduction to them with a copy of the book. It would be great to expand this effort. If anyone is interested in helping, let me know.
We sold 27 books, gifted 7 and have an agreement to send two cases to one school for a total of 46 books going out as a result of this effort. And we collected information on 29 new contacts.
There were many good connections made over the five days and we are considering attending the 2016 conference in Columbus, Ohio. Let us know if you live in that area and/or wish to help make this happen.
A big Thank You to Mark Erickson for his inspiration and financial support to help make our participation at the UUA happen. Thanks also to the volunteers that gave generously of their time: Tony Finstad, Doug Parker, Nancy Votrain, Joy Brandt, Phil Hoffman, Aaron Esselstrom and Lisa Dreezsen.
A final thought…Some of our reader volunteers were of the opinion that we should not mention God as the UU’s are not too keen on God and religion in general. Others thought that since they have so little God/religion, it would be a good thing for us to add that element into their conversation. I started out on the prior and ended up the latter.
Thomas Orjala – Outreach Committee