This weekend I participated in the Urantia Book Fellowship’s Youth and Young Adult (YaYA) conference with a theme of ‘The Inner Life’. The four day conference (Fri-Tues) took place in the greater Las Vegas area where we were graciously hosted at the homes of Gard Jameson and Marvin Gawryn. There were 25 young adults who attended the conference, primarily from the western U.S. Also attending the event were mentors including a Foundation trustee, the presidents of local societies, executive committee members of the Fellowship past and present, and Richard Jernigan from Texas, who incorporated many of the conference participants in a Urantia based film project he is working on.
I experienced the entire weekend to be a feast for the hearts, minds, bodies, and souls of all involved. Resonant at the event was the beautifully centering experience of a Urantia family, the subtle quality of fellowship that gave me and I hope all of the participants of different backgrounds there, the confidence of knowing that our spirit-purpose was united. As for our bodies, food was nutritious and abundant. The local Las Vegas readers set the bar for generosity and selflessness by preparing a number of meals for the entire gathering throughout the weekend. Their generosity was then challenged (in the best way) by a bountiful contribution of heirloom and organic fruits and vegetables from Avalon Gardens, a cornucopia of donated organic foods and snacks from a regional food co-op, and even further food items provided by our hosts, the Jameson family. The peaceful setting and feeling of sanctuary provided by the beautiful Jameson estate provided the best opportunity to keep our minds poised for the weekend. And for the nourishing of our spirits? With all these catalyzing factors of soul-growth provided by all those involved, I am sure our Thought Adjusters were putting in some overtime!
Saturday kicked off the weekend with a few hours of service at a local support event for the Las Vegas homeless. Food and clothes were donated and distributed by the truckload and we were able to provide for the physical needs of a line of people stretching around the block. Many participants had the opportunity to pray with and uplift the souls of the individuals there. Tom Choquette donated spiritual vitamins for distribution and one truth seeker even walked away with a Urantia Book. After a period of rest, the Inner Life program kicked off, facilitated by the Las Vegas-local and spiritual dynamo, Janelle Mazza. Aside from organizing a bulk of the conference herself, she facilitated a series of workshop exercises on mindfulness, prayer, and worship. Discussions brought about valuable reflections on each of our own unique inner life practices and inspired many insightful conversations about the soul, personality, and our Thought Adjusters. Evening fellowship included a visit to the Hoover Dam, worship, music, games, and swimming.
Sunday began bright and early with another meditation on the inner life followed by a reflective group hike along Lake Mead. A few passers-by were so impressed by our group energy (accompanied by a poetry reading) that Jisoo, one of the participants, and I were able to most-naturally share with them the Urantia Book. The afternoon switched gears to a book study and potluck with other Las Vegas readers. Small groups read and discussed paper 111, The Thought Adjuster and the Soul. I experienced it to be a great opportunity to listen to the wisdom and insight of the tenured UB readers intermixed in our small-group. After another brief discourse on mindfulness, we enjoyed a group dinner out on the town before a majority ventured to the strip.
Admittedly (and probably purposefully) this transition presented a lot of problems – logistically and otherwise. For me, there was a palpable feeling of dissonance. After such a continuous stream of worship, love, and service as a conference body, I felt a definite strain in transition as we struggled to break into groups to satisfy the desires of each individual.. That is not to say however that whoever ventured out didn’t have fun in the revelries of the evening – groups participated in sightseeing, some light gambling, dancing, and even 2 am steaks.
After a leisurely morning, we re-centered with what for me was the highlight of the weekend, a centering prayer workshop facilitated by Gard Jameson and Marvin Gawryn. Decades of wisdom of the presenters on how to seek and find God through worship were shared in a brief hour and I would be surprised if any of the youth participants were not in some way transformed by the experience shared that morning.
The worship gave me a jolt of energy for our final activity of the weekend, an afternoon of outreach on the University of Nevada: Las Vegas (UNLV) campus. We set up a few tables of materials, passed out spiritual vitamins, and advertised for a mid-afternoon forum on personal religious experience and the Urantia Book held in the campus auditorium. I missed the campus presentation and some evening workshops, which I am sure another author will have the opportunity to share. Instead I spent the evening evangelizing on campus. My evening was filled with conversations of interest about the Revelation and the Urantia Book, and Teuvo and I were even invited to share at an ad-hoc Bible study group and give a 30 minute Q&A about the Urantia Book. Having done outreach at home alone, I can definitively say there is power in numbers. I felt it a personal blessing to serve the Revelation that afternoon.
And the rest is history. After saying goodbye to my radiant cohort of Urantia Book reading sisters and brothers, I had to sprint to the airport for a skin-of-my-teeth departure. Having now this moment to reflect, my heart is only filled with gratitude to all of you who donate to the Fellowship to make events like this possible. An equally heartfelt special thanks goes out to the Jameson family and all those involved to make this once-in-a-lifetime weekend a reality.