The following are reflections and impressions from three conference attendees: Jay Bird, USA, Samantha Noir, France and Alex H, Germany. They recently attended the 2016 joint conference of Urantia Association of the United States and Urantia Book Fellowship held June 9th to 12th at Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas.
From Jay Bird, USA:
As a young reader I was one of those guys who were helped along in my initial Urantia Book social experience by Berkeley Elliot. The Oklahoma Urantia Book reader’s community was vibrant due to her relentless efforts. It is difficult to express how disillusioning it was for me at that young age to see the leadership of Urantia Foundation and the Fellowship go through the many subsequent years of disagreement and legal action. The joy of my finding the answers to the questions I had been searching for became mixed with the confusion of witnessing the disruption of our community. My reaction was to withdraw from the social side of The Urantia Book reader’s experience. But always, in the back of my mind, I have been waiting for the day of our social reunification.
For me, the San Antonio joint meeting was the fulfilment of those dreams. It provided the setting for a launch into the rarified atmosphere of living truth. Carolyn Prentice’s morning presentation on Friday was the launching point. Her simple message was based on Jesus’ truths spoken from her heart in a brilliantly impactful way. This process of reunifying our split organizations is both positive and powerful. Gathering so many truth seekers together in one place and with one purpose allows us to refocus on our great challenge.
The great challenge to modern man is to achieve better communication with the divine Monitor that dwells within the human mind. Man’s greatest adventure in the flesh consists in the well-balanced and sane effort to advance the borders of self-consciousness out through the dim realms of embryonic soul-consciousness in a wholehearted effort to reach the borderland of spirit-consciousness — contact with the divine presence. Such an experience constitutes God-consciousness… [Paper 196:3.34, page 2097.2]
A big thank you to our Texas brothers and sisters, the organizers, and all the session leaders. You have enhanced our spiritual receptivity!
From Samantha Nior, France:
So I was on my way to see my spiritual family. All excited and energized to see old friends and meet new ones. I had already had contact with a number of younger readers and we would be working together during the conference in hosting a workshop with three different topics. The fact that I knew there would be quite a few younger readers made it even more exciting.
Arriving at the San Antonio Trinity University at midnight Wednesday it was already very hot and heavy, but a beautiful place even at night. I finally met up with a few of the organizers who gave me my room key and a welcoming bag. After a short night the next morning I went to the canteen for breakfast and there were quite a lot of people there, though most would arrive during the day. It was the rekindling of old acquaintances and the connecting with new ones. The atmosphere was light and fun; just mostly hanging around talking and exploring the campus (which by the way is a beautiful university).
The next day was the start of the conference with plenaries and workshops. All of very good quality and good cheer. We all had lunch and in the evening we had a TexMex dinner outside on campus. It was such a beautiful and joyous day. Later in the evening people stayed together playing music and sharing.
Friday and Saturday were also days of plenaries and workshops of which one was hosted by the YaYAs and the UYAI together with Jeffrey Wattles, with each their own topic. The people who attended our workshops were really interested and curious about what we were doing and wanted to do in the future. They were very supportive. In the evenings there was again music and drinks at the improvised bar on campus, with a great big balcony that looked out over San Antonio. In the evening of Saturday we were blessed with a stunning and moving performance by Christina Seaborn and Bob Solone.
We had so much fun and everyone was so relaxed and loving. Of course some stayed up late till the wee hours of the morning every night just talking, sharing and laughing. Some of us had pain in our jaws from laughing.
Sunday was the last morning of the conference and the departure of a lot of friends, which was a mix of happiness of having been able to spend time together and sadness of saying goodbye. Because there was the Fellowship’s General Council meeting for the next two and half days, a bunch of people did not leave until Tuesday. Sunday afternoon a group of us younger readers went out and spent the afternoon together. In the evening some of us went out to dinner, which was really nice. It was like being with longtime friends.
Monday was also a day of hanging out together and going sightseeing in San Antonio with those not in the General Council meeting and in the evening a group of us went to the river walk and had drinks. It is a beautiful city, with lots to see. Again just spending time together and relishing these moments.
Tuesday was sadly the day of departure. Since I left later in the afternoon most people were already gone. I felt like a kid again, you know when you were homesick. The hole I felt of having said goodbye to everyone and my friends leaving knowing I wouldn’t see them again for a while was painful, but I felt so blessed of having had the opportunity to be present during this amazing conference. I left with a sense of having gained knowledge and a bigger family. The pleasure of talking to fellow readers, getting to know each other and having such fun is just exhilarating.
During the Conference there were no borders, no organizations and no generation gaps. We were truly one loving spiritual family just sharing and connecting. It was a glimpse into what the world could be like, if we all respected, loved and were really interested in each other. How lucky are we!
The fact that there were a lot of younger readers with which I have become so close in such a short time and that we will be moving forward towards working together for the future of the revelation, has moved and motivated me beyond words.
I would like to give thanks to the Northern Lights Society of Alaska, the Lone Star Urantia Association and the YaYA Committee for their combined and cooperative efforts to provide me with this wonderful opportunity to experience the benefits of this joint conference and to encourage the growth of our Young Adult Urantia community.
The next Urantia Association International conference will be held near Amsterdam in 2018; organized by the Dutch association UAISUN. It will be situated near the world famous Keukenhof which is also known as the Garden of Europe; it is one of the world’s largest flower gardens. It is also 5 km from the sea.
This will be a perfect opportunity to come together in brotherhood and sonship. We hope you will come and maybe prolong with a holiday in Europe.
Anticipating the next opportunity to see you all again.
Vice President of the Urantia Association of The Netherlands (SUN)
Chair of the Urantia Young Adults International (UYAI)
Executive Team Member of the Membership Committee of Urantia Association International
From Alex H, Germany:
I would like to report on my experience of the 2016 US National Conference (UAUS) and Summer Study Session (Urantia Book Fellowship) that took place at the Trinity University in San Antonio.
I arrived right on time at the Trinity University Campus after an 18-hour trip with three flights from Cologne to Berlin, Berlin to Chicago and Chicago to San Antonio. The Tex-Mex welcoming was just about to start and there was no time to rest as I wished to hug the few people I knew and meet all these new ones directly. After having nice introduction conversations, many of us went up to the Skyline Room, where we all met every evening. Having a wonderful view of the Skyline of San Antonio, this was my first moment thinking, “Yes, now the German guy is in Texas! Feels nice!” And, as I remembered it from other conferences, I just needed to forget for a while where I came from so I could get used to how open and lovely all these brothers and sisters are, and how quickly we get into that feeling of brotherhood.
After the first plenary presentation on Friday with Carolyn Prentice about “The Master Teacher: Exploring how Jesus taught,”I attended James Woodward’s workshop on “Worship: What’s Rest Got To Do With It?” James gave us a good summary on what The Urantia Book teaches about how to worship the Father truly and effectively in our everyday life. After that we, some of the young adults from the YAYA (Youth and Young Adults) and the UYAI (Urantia Young Adults International) groups, along with Jeffrey Wattles, conducted a workshop together with 30-40 people attending. Our workshop was about “Young Adult Students on the Master’s Teachings”. In that workshop we had three groups with three different topical questions. We repeated this workshop on Saturday. In our group we discussed the opportunities of holding an online study group, and shared our experiences with the other participants. Everyone was very excited about how well we young adult readers interact and what our plans are, as the YAYA and the UYAI Committees will work together in future. I would like to thank everyone who took this chance to encourage us younger readers in our activities and offered support for our future plans. The last workshop I attended on Friday was Derek Samaras’ about “The Attractive Personality of Jesus.” In two hours he presented how important it can be for us to be mindful about our own attractiveness in order to spread the gospel.
Saturday morning I gave a short speech about our newly formed tri-national Urantia Association for German speaking Urantia Book readers called Urantia-DACH. I also wanted to promote the next big conference of the European Blue Club in Budapest, Hungary, from 15th to 18th September this year. Our topic will be “Who is Jesus?” With the help of Urantia Association and Urantia Foundation we managed to complete a list of great speakers and workshop-hosts that will make this event a must to visit. I hope that I was able to motivate some of the US readers to come and visit us at this conference. For more information on that please visit the “Upcoming Events” page on Urantia Association’s website. I really enjoyed the many plenary presentations that complimented the workshops in the program. The ones I enjoyed most were David Kulieke’s “Jesus, The Master Learner and Teacher” on Sunday and Jeffrey Wattles’ “What We Can Learn from Jesus if We Aspire to Become Teachers in his Gospel Movement? The Unity of Jesus’ Person, Message and Methods” on Saturday. On Sunday we had a joint meeting of the YAYA and UYAI committees where we young adults collected our ideas and discussed our plans for the future. We are of one accord in that our two committees belong together in some way and that it is our task to grow and cooperate. During that meeting I became emotional when I noticed how much I love and how much I will miss them all when I am back in Germany. This is my international spiritual family.
We finished every evening in the Skyline room with music and socializing. On Saturday evening we enjoyed a great concert given by Bob Solone on piano and Christina Seaborn on violin. It was a great atmosphere in which to catch up with everyone and those with smiling faces who say to you, “Hey, we haven’t been introduced yet?” I call it hardcore socializing when I notice that I had time to converse with nearly everyone present. I loved all those beautiful people and it seemed as if many of them had a special interest in my person, because I was the only guy from Germany there. I did not know that the Americans have so much love for us Germans. That was a precious experience for me. I learned that I really love the Americans too. I like the natural spirituality that connects everyone with another. And the most special thing I noticed is what I would call the ability to be so unconditionally enthusiastic and open-hearted. I often thought of keeping that in mind and taking a bit of this mentality back to my hometown. The time that I shared with the other young readers was especially delightful. We understood each other so well and one could feel the “love in the air” as if we had known each other for years. It is so wonderful how fast we all became brothers and sisters. We had so much fun, that some of us had pain in their cheeks from laughing and smiling. At the end of the conference I felt richer for having a hundred new friends and many more brothers and sisters. For me, to meet all those lovely people, was the most special thing about this trip to Texas, because here in Germany it is very hard to get in touch and get to know and love other readers. I consider that as a fact that needs working on because the revelation is still in the “kindergarten” here. There is much to do in Germany…
I was very lucky that I had the opportunity to stay a few days longer in Texas after the conference, which made my trip feel like a holiday. I remember last year, when I attended the Association’s international conference in Quebec, Canada, I was very sad catch my shuttle as soon as the conference ended; I didn’t even have the time to say goodbye to everyone. But this time I had the pleasure of spending one evening and two more days with others to explore the cities of San Antonio and Austin and have fun together. I will keep this experience in my mind as one of the greatest weekends of my life. To point out that I do not exaggerate with that statement, I have to mention that I have not done very much traveling in my life as yet so have not seen very much of the world, therefore Texas and the USA in general was a very special experience for me. But no experience is greater than to share unconditional love. I love you all! Thank you so much!
Special thanks go to the Lone Star Urantia Association of San Antonio, the Northern Lights Society of Alaska, and Urantia Association for their efforts to make my attendance possible. Without their help I would not have been there. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to meet you all again.
Love to you!
Alexander H, Cologne,
Board Member and Ambassador of Urantia-DACH
Urantia Young Adult International committee member