(Adapted from the Meeting Minutes and reports submitted by Chris Moseley, UK and Sebastian Nozzi, Germany)
Members of National and Local Urantia Associations in Europe met at the Ibersol Hotel in Sitges, Catalonia 27—29 October 2017 for three days of fellowship and discussion about the present and future of the Urantia movement in Europe. Participants came from Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Finland, Estonia, and the UK. This was no ordinary pan-European Urantia meeting; the main thing everyone had in common was their affiliation with Urantia Association International. Thank you to the Association’s Conference Chair, Antonio Schefer from the Netherlands for organizing this historic event.
The main purpose of this meeting was to gather together the leaders of the various European Urantia Associations so they may get to know one another and begin creating a European focus. The aim was to discuss common goals for the revelation and decide on how European readers could work together to achieve these goals in their respective regions. Some of the main topics discussed were:
- Improved communication between European associations.
- Greater mutual support and active involvement in pan-European activities.
- A pan-European conference in 2019.
- A European website to provide a forum for news and events.
- Projects that appeal to younger audiences in each country and more effective ways to reach these audiences.
- Financial self-sufficiency and fundraising activities.
The program of activities was well-structured, allowing for flexibility when need be. Each morning began with meditation at sunrise on the beach for the early birds. An important part of the first morning’s program was the second European readers’ conference, to be planned for 2019. Various cities were discussed as location options such as Rome, Birmingham, Barcelona, Vienna, Tallinn, York, Lyon and Galilee. The final choice will be made before the 2018 International Conference in Amsterdam.
Presentations were made by the representatives of each association. Jaap Terra spoke for the National Association of the Netherlands and talked about his association’s great challenge of hosting Urantia Association’s 2018 International Conference. Ivan Stol from France, Carmelo Martínez from Spain, and Risto Mäntynen from Finland all reported on their associations, noting the challenges faced with an aging membership which is not being replenished with younger readers. These three associations are well established with numerous study groups in various towns. The most important thing is that all groups expressed a willingness to take measures to ensure that new and potential readers know there are Urantia associations in their regions that provide information about other readers, study groups and Urantia related events being held in local regions. There are many things that can be done in this regard, like having websites that are easy to find with clear and engaging messages, newsletters, promoting secondary works and developing a higher profile in social media.
In Estonia, Karmo Kalda has been energetically promoting The Urantia Book as well as handling the production of a children’s introduction to the teachings. Danielle La Scala reported on the efforts in Italy, where it is hard to form study groups with so few readers spread out. Chris Moseley reported on the UK and Ireland describing the long history of their study groups and annual Summer Retreats—the next of which will be held at Charney Manor 7—9 September, 2018 in Oxfordshire. Alex H, the new President for DACH (Germany, Switzerland and Austria) reported on his new fledgling association. They are working on establishing study groups and recently held an annual gathering. Although the numbers are still small there is a true commitment to “stay the course.” They are in the process of establishing a website to service the German-speaking European regions.
Anna Zeven from the Netherlands and member of the Urantia Young Adults Association gave a wonderful presentation on “Light and Life” focusing on how we can improve the way we promote and talk about The Urantia Book, especially among young readers. The number of older readers compared to younger ones is sorely out of balance. Some of Anna’s practical suggestions included:
- Tailoring our meetings and events to appeal to young people—they must be engaging and alive.
- Developing warm “welcome paths” for young people and those who are new to the book.
- Walk the talk; “wherever Jesus walked, the world changed.”
- Avoid dogmatism at all costs.
- Present a cosmic point of view.
- Outreach suggestions included producing movies, podcasts and video clips, utilizing a Urantia Book Network (UBN), and making better use of social media.
A brain-storming session facilitated by Antonio Schefer and Sebastian Nozzi was held. Some of the points put forward were: a visit to Israel; a tour in Italy following Jesus’ steps; a Swiss/Italian conference; contact readers and facilitate Urantia movements in Portugal, Belgium, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden; support translations in other European languages; support readers in Africa; fundraise for operations in Europe; make The Urantia Book more accessible throughout Europe.
The last major item on the agenda was a Zoom meeting with the officers of the Association’s International Service Board (ISB.) The presentation by Chris Wood, President, about the future direction of the Association was informative and inspiring. A lot of emphasis was placed on European activities. Chris presented the Association’s three-year goals as well as a longer-term plan. He also explained that the Association has created a “European Restricted Fund” where people may donate finds to be used exclusively for European activities. Margaret Slater-Thompson, Executive Administrator, explained the database services that are now available to each association in English, French and Spanish. Susan Owen, Secretary, explained the website services that are now available to associations in the form of “Subsites.” Luis Garcia Bory, Membership Chair, reported on a Global Members Survey he is introducing aimed at leadership development.
Despite such a packed agenda, there was plenty of time for socializing and getting to know each other, especially over the sumptuous dinners provided by the hotel. Also, thanks to the sunny weather, we were able to engage with one another during relaxing strolls along the beach. In the words of Chris Moseley from the UK: “…it was a wonderful experience, and I want to pass on to you my strong sense that we must collaborate at every opportunity in the future with our European brothers and sisters—starting with the international conference planned for Amsterdam next April. It is bound to be inspiring.” In the words of Sebastian Nozzi from Germany: “…it was energizing, fun, stimulating—not only from an organizational perspective but more particularly from a personal point of view. At the end of the day it felt to me like a group of good friends getting together and talking about our common goals.”