… and helping to establish the Auckland Study Group
I first encountered The Urantia Book some time in 1985. It was through a work colleague who would bring this very large blue book to work and read it at lunchtimes. When I asked him what this big blue book was about, a hesitate answer would say something to the effect “It’s nothing and very hard to understand,” a reply repeated several times, before I picked the book up one day and perused the contents for myself. On seeing the Jesus papers, I knew instantly I had to read this book. Shortly afterwards I secured a copy and started reading and reading and reading!
Having been brought up in a conservative, fundamentalist, Christian home, I was given a good grounding in the teachings of the Bible and listened to many sermons by the likes of the evangelist Billy Graham. And although I hadn’t attended a church for some years, I’d always retained my faith in God. I had a desire to rediscover God and to learn his purpose for my life. This desire took me to exploring other churches and denominations, traveling to far-away countries, to living on a kibbutz in Israel. I was eager for higher truths and the deeper meanings of life.
Not long after I had buried myself in The Urantia Book, (to the detriment of house renovations and many other aspects of my life), we were privileged to have visit us (here in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1986), John Hales, Berkley Elliot and Tom Allen representing Urantia Foundation/Brotherhood. They encouraged us to form a study group and to meet on a regular basis. This we embraced from the outset and formed the first Auckland Urantia Book Study Group, which I am pleased to say, has functioned pretty well ever since. (There had been at least one other study group prior to this in the New Zealand capital city of Wellington).
Although we are a diverse group of individuals, we have stuck together for 30 years now. The study group has become an important focus in our lives. It has been a source of inspiration and learning, an exchange of ideas and meanings, a time of friendship and fellowship with others who are of like mind; knowing we are in possession of the greatest truths on our planet and of the responsibilities this carries; being able to share our inner selves with other believers in the Universal Father, the Creator Son, the brotherhood of man, and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
When we first began our study group, and for the first 10 years or so, we would meet on a weekly basis with fixed papers/themes programed for the whole year. From memory, we read most, if not the entire book this way. Attendees at these meetings ranged from 4 to 10, with a stalwart group of around 5. Over the years we have had many visitors to our group, but unfortunately few have stayed. Many were sincere truth seekers passing through, while others had alternative agendas to promote. Very early on, we determined the study group was for studying The Urantia Book and The Urantia Book only.
Over the years, the way we have conducted the study group meetings has evolved and changed, just as the world around us has changed. Traditionally, we have always had a moderator to chair the meeting and keep things on track. Another part of our format was to begin and end with a short prayer, something I think needs to be part of every study group. It helps one prepare the mind, become more aware of the spiritual forces in and around us; and more welcoming to our unseen visitors. It also helps us to focus on the teachings, and for these teachings to ‘reflect’ true meanings and values to us.
I know a number of people who are sincere readers of The Urantia Book, but for various reasons do not wish to fraternize or study with other readers. To me this is sad. Being able to freely socialise and discuss the teachings with fellow Urantia Book readers is important. And to discover that someone else interpreted a paragraph in a completely different way to what you did – then debate it! We have found holding social occasions very important as well. Celebrating Christmas (21 August), Easter, National Study Day, as well as attending regional and international conferences is also very important, although the latter can be difficult in this part of the world because of our remoteness on the globe.
The world is changing, and changing fast. We live in an evolving universe in time and space, so change is inevitable. Therefore, things will change as to how and where we conduct our study group. The Internet will undoubtedly be a major influence in this change. In fact, at a recent study group, we decided to make our next meeting an Internet meeting by hooking up on either skype or zoom. If this goes well, we propose to hold one meeting per month in this format, so others throughout New Zealand can join in to be part of it. We will always meet in person on a regular basis though, as we feel the social contact part of our study groups and conferences is an essential part of growing with the revelation.
It’s disappointing that membership numbers have remained pretty much static over the years especially as many of our group are heading into their retirement years. It’s a pity there isn’t a younger generation coming through who will take the reins and keep the fires burning. We have been told that we have been given the revelation early, so we must await the time when the teachings will come into their own. No doubt the seraphim of the churches and the seraphim of progress will be debating the most appropriate ways to utilize the revelation. I’m sure Urantia Associations International’s Study Group Committee will be discussing effective ways to foster new study groups and how to link them up.
Over the years, I have attended about 12 regional and international conferences, all in Australia, except for 2 in New Zealand. Through excellent planning and organisation by dedicated and talented individuals, these conferences have always been truly educational, uplifting, motivating, refreshing and inspirational. They are a wonderful opportunity to get to know new readers, reacquaint with old friends, share experiences and to learn from some very wise and clever people. It is also humbling to be able to share in group prayer, meditation and worship, as well as to fraternize with music and skits and laughter. Friendships made that can last a lifetime or maybe much longer.
As an individual, as a believer in The Urantia Book and its teachings, as a believer that the fifth epochal revelation will one day entirely change this world, I believe it is my responsibility to quietly share these truths with others; to whet the appetites of one’s fellows for the truth; try and appeal to their divine fragments. I am never ashamed of The Urantia Book. With discretion I will discuss the book with anyone who hungers for truth. Most people who know me also know that I am a student of The Urantia Book and that I am only too willing to share these supernal truths with anyone who will lend an ear.
What a privilege it is to have discovered The Urantia Book and to have so much confusion, doubt, dogma, theology, tradition and rituals removed. To have a new ‘central point of reference’ in one’s mind; to have hope in this planet, of eternal life and an everlasting universe career. Praise be to the Father and his wonderful creator son, Jesus of Nazareth, son of God and son of man.
Member of Urantia Association’s Study Group Committee
Vice President of ANZURA