This last weekend I attended the Gathering at the Hood. A regional conference put on by the newly formed Urantia Communities of the Northwest. It was truly an amazing event, to say the least, but it was missing youth participation.
So where are the young people? They are everywhere! They are all around us everyday. Ok, yes, you know I’m speaking specifically about young Urantia Book readers. Well, unfortunately they seem to be in shockingly short supply. But it wasn’t always this way.
When I talk with people about the history of the movement I often hear about how many people found the book in the late 60’s and 70’s. The open minded cultural movement of love and self discovery of those times was the perfect soil for the revelation to grow and an amazing number of people (including many young) became readers in a short period of time.
The UB tells us:
“As the human mind reckons backward into the past, it is evaluating past experience for the purpose of bringing it to bear on a present situation. As mind reaches out into the future, it is attempting to evaluate the future significance of possible action. And having thus reckoned with both experience and wisdom, the human will exercises judgment-decision in the present, and the plan of action thus born of the past and the future becomes existent. “ 118:1.4
To me this quote means that we continue to acknowledge the past of our movement as we plan for the future. Otherwise it seems we will be discussing solutions to a problem we don’t fully understand.
My understanding of this problem has developed out of my life experiences. I was born into a UB home, I’ve traveled on evangelical missions, and I have been a founding member of the Youth and Young Adult Committee. Therefore, I feel my experiences have given me an understanding of my generation that few share.
When I’ve traveled I would hear very personal stories about what some people went through in the 70’s and 80’s. The break up of the Foundation and the Brotherhood, the Fall of Vern Grimsly, and the growth of the teaching mission. All of these events had incredible effects on the Urantia community of those days, and continue to influence us today.
The events of those times should not be taken lightly. Not that they need to be dug up but that they need to be acknowledged if we desire to have a honest conversation about our history and where we find our movement in 2015 and going forward.
These events had a devastating effect on our community for a few specific reasons. One, they started a culture of separation. That groups of us had separate missions while studying the same exact teachings. Two, they caused incredible disappointment. When you have such strong leadership, that you place so much expectation on, the let down is significant if they falter. The desire to support new leaders and trust in strong leadership has been largely lost in our community. Instead of a focus on training young leaders inside the Fellowship we continue as a culture of “study, study, study”. Third, in my opinion, we have not yet figured out what our primary mission is as kingdom believers.
What do I mean by “our mission” ? Well when I say Buddhist you instantly have a clear image of what being Buddhist means right? What about Mormon? Same thing? These groups have established who they are and that’s how the world knows them.
Us UB readers are still just “readers” if you ask most people. In fact as we left the gathering at the Hood one of the staff said “the book club group is leaving today at noon”. That is how we come across to observers. And if you visit your average study group that is what you will find, “readers”.
That is not to say these readers are not living these teachings in their daily lives or are kind and beautiful people. We know they are. I’m saying as a community of Urantia Book students, and believers in Jesus Christ, we have not yet come together in unity of purpose and therefor we are known as readers. Because that is what we primarily do. We read. I know some of you would say that having a unifying mission is not the goal but I would argue it’s why we have so few young people in our movement.
People, especially young, want to be part of something. Not something deep and complex but something tangible, fulfilling, and now! Being part of a book club is not very exciting. Though it might have some spiritual fulfilment, once you get deep enough, it is not enough to attract but a few.
Here is my idea for moving forward and discovering who we are as a movement. I’m proposing that we do EXACTLY what the revelation instructs. It is a fact that the 5th Epochal Revelation does not in fact tell us to study and know the 196 papers of the Urantia Book. It just doesn’t say this. What it DOES say is this:
“Of all human knowledge, that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.” (196:1.3)
This to me is our path to becoming who we know we can be as a community and a worldwide movement. To focus on Jesus’ message first and foremost.
The rest of the Urantia Book is just incredible knowledge and truth to help us become better messengers of the world’s most important Gospel!
As Jesus instructs, this does not mean banging on doors declaring “The Master has risen!” We must meet people where they are in their spiritual path and along the way serve all we find in need. When the whole of our movement, most importantly the leadership, is committed to this mission we will be overflowing with families and youth.
When our message and purpose is simple and tangible we will be shocked by how many people find us and join our cause.
“No cult can survive unless it embodies some masterful mystery and conceals some worthful unattainable” 87:7.9
Do we have this in our movement? If you think we do please leave it in the comments. I don’t personally see one. Not one that unites us and makes us jump out of bed every morning! And until we do find this our community will continue to splinter into many different minimally effective social groups. Losing the potential power we all know we would find if we united behind Jesus and his life saving message.
Let us develop together a message we can all unite behind. It won’t be comfortable for some at first, and it shouldn’t be, but it is the way. When the revelation says it so clearly “Of all human knowledge, that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.” (196:1.3) will we just continue to ignore this? Will we continue to be a book club when we are called to be teachers and leaders for the master? I pray not. I pray we find our common purpose in these teachings and work together to reach the masses with this BEAUTIFUL NEW Gospel we all know will change lives as it has changed ours.
And when we do this the youth will start knocking on our door day and night.
Note from the Author: I feel like I could write 20,000 words about this subject. How to attract and inspire young spiritually minded youth to find and understand revelation. There is no one answer. It really is all wrapped up in how we each move towards following the Masters leading and being true cosmic citizens. I’d love to hear your thought for the future of our movement.