Who Is Jesus?
15 to 18 September, 2016
Quietly and almost unobtrusively–but impressively–a new milestone in the maturing of the Urantia movement was achieved in September 2016 when a pan-European conference of readers of the revelation was held for the first time. More truly it was a pan-Northern Hemisphere conference, because there was a significant leavening with representatives from the United States and Canada.
Antonio Schefer, conference co-ordinator for Urantia Association International, ably and tactfully assembled an organising team that worked for many months behind the scenes to get this conference ready and running smoothly. There were participating organisers from the various European Associations, and for these people too, it was an important and new learning experience in collaboration.
The germ of the idea came from the loose organisation of readers in the German-speaking lands, DACH, named after the international identifying codes of the three countries, Germany (D), Austria (A) and Switzerland (CH) by their co-ordinator Christian Ruch. (‘Dach’ means ‘roof’ in German, typifying the loose but comfortable and protective covering over all the readers.)
Christian was a steady but unobtrusive organising presence throughout the conference. It was DACH that chose the venue, the Novotel in central Pest, which turned out to be ideal for the purposes of a group of our size (nearly eighty) with a conference hall and workshop rooms on site. For those of us who were also accommodated there, there was no actual need ever to leave the building (though we did, of course, especially for the organised Danube River cruise held on one of the evenings). Even the sumptuous gala dinner was held on the spot, with delicious Hungarian food and wines. Being concentrated in one place meant plenty of opportunities, even in a tight program, for socialising and spreading spiritual fragrance.
And it isn’t a criticism, but it’s definitely a curiosity, that there was no overt Hungarian participation in the whole thing. Éva Papp, co-ordinator of the Hungarian readers’ group, was unfortunately taken seriously ill just before the conference, so we missed her presence there. In that sense, our conference might have been taking place in any European city.
Being multinational, it was also a multilingual conference, and that was where your scribe comes in: I had the honour of co-ordinating the interpretation of the papers into French and Spanish–and here I owe a special debt of gratitude to my dedicated team of translators, who were put upon quite hard in the weeks leading up to the conference, and they came up, if I may use the word, Trumps.
And what of the program? It was thrilling and varied, and the standard was high. Let me treat you to some of the things you missed, if you weren’t there, so you can appreciate the international nature of the gathering. The conference was divided into plenary sessions and (a choice of) workshops. On the first full day, Christian Ruch presented a thoughtful paper entitled “Two in One, One in Two–How Can Man be God?” Ade Awoyinka, the other participant from the UK apart from myself, gave the thematic plenary “Who is Jesus?” Karmo Kalda from Estonia drew on his own professional experience to present “Jesus – The First Marketing Manager.” Alan Theiss from the United States spoke on “Partnership with the Father.” Risto Mäntynen and Eija Seppänen-Bolotinski from Finland gave a visually-based presentation of “The Many Faces of Jesus in Art.” Tamila Ragimova gave her paper in Spanish: “The Life of Jesus as an Example for Humanity.”
The workshops were just as varied as the plenaries, and drew on the particular expertise and interests of their leaders. Ade Awoyinka led a group on “The Life and Times of Jesus.” Jeffrey Wattles, known to many of us already from his on-line classes in the teachings of the book, encouraged us to think about “Effectively Revealing the Master to all Men.” Gaétan Charland presented on “Urantia Book Study Groups–a Learning Adventure.”
The plenaries of the second day examined some other facets of the question “Who is Jesus?” Mike MacIsaac spoke of Jesus’ social aggressiveness and sincere interest in all kinds of people. Doris Calmel from Switzerland gave a paper on Jesus’ attitude towards different religions. “Jesus’ Attitude Towards Children” was the theme of Anton Miroshnichenko’s (Ukraine) plenary. Andrew Story (United States) drew on personal experience to speak of “The House of the Father.” Jeff Wattles was back with a plenary on “Jesus and the Launching of the Gospel Movement,” and Richard Jernigan, also from the United States, spoke thoughtfully on “Our Relationship to Michael.”
And speaking of Richard, there were two showings during the conference of his 2011 film “A Feast of Uncertainty,” based on his visits to locations in Israel and the Palestinian territories in the footsteps of Jesus. I hadn’t seen this film before, and I found it downright wonderful.
Workshops on the second day were again a varied lot. A quartet of women, Carrie Prentice, Line St.Pierre, Doreen Heyne and Katharina Becker, gave us a session on the feminine perspective on Jesus’ teachings “As She Passed By.” Sandra Burga-Cisneros from Switzerland spoke on “Compassionate Communication.” Risto Mäntynen’s (Finland) workshop was called “You Must Not Take the Human Jesus Away from Men.”
The last half-day concluded the conference with two excellent plenaries: Peep Sõber (Estonia) on “The Probable Future of Jesus’ Religion” and Georges Michelson-DuPont (France) explained the work of the Urantia Book Internet School, which has become a valuable educational institution.
There was a final summing-up session before we all reluctantly parted, which then merged into a meeting of European readers, to discuss the plans for the next meeting. We all hope and pray that for the coming together of European Urantia Book readers, this is just the beginning.
(To view video recordings of the plenary presentations go to: http://urantia-association.org/2016/10/19/videos-budapest-conf-2016/)
Chris Moseley (UK)