A proposal for the development of a curriculum based on The Urantia Book for the certification of teacher/scholars, and the certification of community, regional, and international leaders.
In winning souls for the Master, it is not the first mile of compulsion, duty, or convention that will transform man and his world, but rather the second mile of free service and liberty-loving devotion that betokens the Jesusonian reaching forth to grasp his brother in love and sweep him on under spiritual guidance toward the higher and divine goal of mortal existence. Christianity even now willingly goes the first mile, but mankind languishes and stumbles along in moral darkness because there are so few genuine second-milers—so few professed followers of Jesus who really live and love as he taught his disciples to live and love and serve. [Paper 195:10.5, page 2084.5 emphasis added]
This familiar and challenging passage found in Paper 195 actually defines the name of the lifestyle and religion presented in the fifth epochal revelation: Jesusonianism. Here the individual Jesusonian is challenged to follow the teachings presented in The Urantia Book. It is easy to stop at the level of this quotation and focus entirely on the inner spiritual life of the individual. However, the fifth epochal revelation suggests throughout its text, a third mile that is about community service and world-wide spiritual outreach.
It is this third mile that this paper will explore. It will start with a musical metaphorical definition of each mile. It will continue with an examination of the educational needs of our Urantia movement by suggesting the cultivation of an online teaching institution prepared to develop curriculums that support programs designed to certify teacher/scholars and leaders. It will briefly evaluate the two main online institutions: The Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS) and the Urantia University Institute (UUI). It will note their current roles in the Urantia movement, and will offer a vision of their important place in relation to the teaching curriculums proposed in this paper. The paper will offer models on which such a curriculum might take shape. It will demonstrate the need to adopt a real sense of urgency to begin this work. It will conclude with a call for participation in this massive endeavor.
This paper is a call to Jesusonians to strive to go the third mile in all the many different roles that individuals play in the development of an educational system tasked with the mission to support and propagate The Urantia Book. This paper will not address the debate as to whether or not the Urantia movement should certify teacher/scholars, and leaders, or if the propagation The Urantia Book on a worldwide scale is even desirable.
A Musical Metaphorical Example of the Third Mile: The Composer and a Symphony
Preparation: It is easy to dream of being a great composer. It is not difficult to buy and master computer software that will set up the score and transpose parts with mere keystrokes. Actually, writing a full symphonic score by hand is so yesterday! We live in an age where to dream is easy. The first step of the first mile is to actually start the process of realizing that dream.
The First Mile: While having the insight and vision of a symphonic work is only a little more difficult than the preparatory work, there exist many models and templates upon which a trained musician might be able to formulate a score. Movements are standardized, motivic development is understood, harmonic progressions are well defined, and even the most unique melodies do not actually have to be your own to sound “original.” We live in a “cut-and-paste” world where cookie-cutter composition is ubiquitous. Plug-and play is not all that tough. One simply has to have the patience to do the real work. In composing music, writing a novel, or painting a work of art there is a long process of experimentation, editing, refinement, and crafting into a polished product before completion. For most artists this is an endeavor that requires starting the work, patience, sequential thinking, creative evolution, an understanding of consequences, and sticking with the project until it is done. Here ends the first mile.
The Second Mile: The second mile is much more difficult. It is in that second mile where the composer must put it all “on the line” by sharing the composition with other musicians. This is a harder task because it requires letting go of many heartfelt, even sacred compositional decisions that a composer might be deeply invested in. Sometimes others will reject the work, and that really hurts. Other musicians may suggest, even demand significant changes, and that hurts even more. Ambivalence, the lack of any response at all, is by far the most difficult experience for a composer. The second mile is not achieved until that composition is performed for an audience, and thus is shared with the world.
If the composer is to go the second mile, then he/she must believe that they have something to offer an audience. A composer does not wait to hear what the audience wants, but presents a new idea that appeals to something within the heart of the listener. In the first mile there is never an assurance that his/her composition will do that. To go the first mile takes bold faith and a willingness to invest in something that has no certainty for success. How many symphonies have been written that have never met the light of day? Far more than those we listen to today! It is in the bold second mile that acceptance, indifference, and outright rejection is met, evaluation is accepted, necessary changes are made, and the fate of the composition is submitted to the Will of God: “let go and let God.”
The Third Mile: It is in the third mile where there is a response to the Jesusonian calling. Here begins the dialogue: the editing of method, the refinement of message, and the learning from the new perspective of others. The third mile embraces mutual growth beyond the mindset of the individual. Community is born. In The Urantia Book section on universal artisans, it is revealed that music, art, light, and many other mediums merge into a larger communal activity, and the results thereof have the power to enrapture billions of souls.
So, for the composer and musicians the third mile is not about the loss of identity, but the contribution to the greater whole. That is the power of a beloved symphony. The audience goes beyond the admiration of the composer and musicians and embraces a much deeper level of music. This, my friends, is the experience of worship. To achieve this level of experiencing high art is a significant antidote to spiritual egoism which is such a challenge for first and second milers.
It is in the third mile that real spiritual growth will take place for the individual and the community. It is here that a union of souls emerges. In the harbor “the tide raises all ships alike.” This process of communal spiritual maturation is a critical step because the first mile only produces the basic work and the second mile is largely introductory. The third mile engages the common cause, the advancement of spiritual purpose, and the setting of new goals beyond mere completion of that second mile (a reading session if you will). Here, ambivalence is turned away and truth emerges.
It is with the third mile that the very best symphonies take root in society while lesser works fall on rocks or are choked out by weeds. True, it takes many first milers to produce a few successful second mile experiences (much like selling insurance), but that effort must be engaged to attain any hope of going on to the even more difficult third mile. In the third mile truth is fostered, prayers are lifted, worship is achieved, beauty is experienced, and love becomes the foundational force of life for the community.
The Educational Needs of the Urantia Movement
In the past sixty-plus years, the Urantia movement has made excellent progress in developing online educational centers of Urantia Book focused training. Even so, it is time to begin working on a new online curriculum that will strive for the establishment of higher-level educational programs that are truly focused on The Urantia Book. Such a curriculum would support the strong work that has already been done by the Urantia movement. It will be a part of a larger system of schools uplifting each other in the outreach mission of the fifth epochal revelation. It will also attempt to reach out to the many other religions and faith expressions of the world in the effort to promote and uplift the spiritualization of this planet to universally ascendant levels. A true union of souls will become the focus of this common cause.
This paper proposes three programs for consideration:
- To prepare unique spiritually called individuals, families, and groups to spread the message of the fifth epochal revelation in local, regional, and international settings incorporating everything from one-on-one outreach to world-wide media methodologies depending on the skill sets and calling of the individual, family, or group. Such teachers will be prepared to represent the spiritual truths of The Urantia Book to honest seekers of truth. They will encourage new readers to become involved in the Urantia movement, and help them find mentors and communities where new readers may grow, learn, and practice spiritual living. Also, they will be prepared to reach out to individuals of other religious faith traditions and spiritual practices. This program would be completed with a spiritual calling to families and groups, and a more advanced process for exceptionally dedicated individuals.
- To train teachers and scholars to mentor students of The Urantia Book in a way that will foster a culture of lifelong learning through the engagement of significant scholarship of The Urantia Book, the Bible, and other important religious texts. This work is to be shared with other educational institutions, religions, and the world at large with the goal of strengthening the spiritual understanding for the universal upliftment of the planet. This program would be completed with teaching certification upon the acceptance of a major academic project. It will continue to support the spiritual lifelong learning of our scholars.
- To prepare leaders to work for the establishment of local organizations, engage in regional development, and cultivate an international presence of The Urantia Book. It will offer a sequential individually designed curriculum to train leadership to be an effective liaison within the Urantia movement and with other religious institutions and faith-traditions in an effort to strengthen the spiritual renaissance of this modern age. This program would be completed based on three levels of leadership certification: local, regional, and international.
While there may be many other educational programs that our Urantia Book-based schools will offer, the objective is to go the next mile in the development a curriculum tasked with the mission for fostering the training of teachers and scholars, and preparing leaders. In this effort we need to cultivate an educational methodology that responds to the individual needs of each student rather than enforcing some form of institutional dogma or program. There are models for doing that, and we don’t have to repeat the mistakes of other institutions as we have the opportunity to learn from one of the best textbooks on the planet: The Urantia Book.
Consider the many basic questions such a program raises. What is it that makes this effort a uniquely spiritual endeavor? What are the mission, values, and goals of a Urantia Book-based school that provides a curriculum designed to foster the training of teacher/scholars, and prepare leaders? How will its spiritual calling be represented and practiced? What are its educational objectives and measurable outcomes for its students? What would a core curriculum look like? What specialized programs and supporting courses need to be developed? What will its instructional methodology and teaching philosophy be? How do we avoid the pitfalls of institutional dogma or programmatic thinking? How would such a school take advantage of articulating courses from other institutions? How do we train our students in a way that will meet their needs and expectations, not just graduate students from “our program?” What will be the time frame necessary to achieve those goals for the “average” student? How will we manage costs so that third world students may prepare to take the revelation to their communities and their continents? And again and again we must return to this most fundamental of all questions: how can this endeavor be a truly Spirit-led enterprise that focuses on the union of souls?
Any academic institution responding adequately to these questions is not, nor could ever be the work of any single individual. It is, by definition, a massive cooperative endeavor that will require hard work, many volunteers, and the best minds of the Urantia movement. It will need to be focused on collegial cooperation in a true spiritual collaboration based on the union of souls. Big egos, persons seeking a reputation in the Urantia movement, and any sense of spiritual ownership or self-aggrandizement will not only be problematic, but will truly hinder this undertaking. The exemplification of the union of souls may well become one of the most important lessons that our Urantia Book-based educational system may demonstrate to the world in our current spiritual renaissance age.
The Role of Current Schools: The Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS) and Urantia University Institute (UUI)
Today there are a number of educational enterprises sharing The Urantia Book with the rest of the world. Because I do not live in Colorado I have no real knowledge of the recently restarted Boulder School. As I have only participated in a few discussion groups with the Gospel School, I recuse myself from any analysis thereof. I have been somewhat engaged with the development of Ascension University (AU) which is planning to open around 2020 and already has a number of online projects and discussion groups underway. However, I have taken the four UUI classes based on each Part of The Urantia Book and have over three years of experience with UBIS. Therefore, I will focus my analysis on them. I apologize if I have omitted any other educational enterprise and gladly invite those organizations into this discussion. We are, after all, looking to develop a system of schools to support the fifth epochal revelation.
UBIS: Though by design UBIS is not a traditional school with an organized curriculum that results in some form of certification beyond the individual classes, it is a great first Urantia Book-based school because its entire focus is on the development of readers of the fifth epochal revelation. UBIS has some of the best teachers in the Urantia movement and presents an online forum where new and highly experienced readers mingle and learn both as teachers and students. Though its study group format is informal, the online medium demands fairly good reading and writing skills for students and teachers if the classes are to be successful. Their website is limited and tad old fashioned in appearance, but it serves the curricular format that their instructor/facilitators use. UBIS is an excellent training ground for future teachers who need experience in writing about The Urantia Book in an online forum. UBIS is well established, has a lot of history, and offers a wide variety of classes.
UUI: A newer school, UUI tends to look more like many online schools with a sequential curriculum and electives. Its website is outstanding and offers many different student/teacher opportunities for engaged learning through worship, prayer, discussion, chat, instructor developed videos, many links, live webinars, and other highly useful resources. Though the core courses are set, the electives appear to be instructor dependent. UUI tends to be open to other religions and cites a variety of religious writers on its website. UUI is in its early stages of development where classes tend to be small. Consequently, discussion may be somewhat hit or miss. This will improve over time as their teachers cultivate educational experience and additional courses and objectives are developed.
Relationship with a new school: Both schools offer a unique and highly valuable foundation for the proposed curricular programs. They provide an educational system where students seeking advanced learning may be prepared for a higher educational level of study resulting in certification. Both schools will be strong sources of teachers trained to present The Urantia Book to a variety of levels of students and even to other religions and institutions. Frankly, without the foundational work of UBIS and UUI, any new school would have a very difficult time getting off the ground. It is quite possible that UUI might be able to evolve into offering some or all of the curriculum that is proposed herein.
Together UBIS and UUI comprise an excellent online educational system even though they have yet to develop strong articulation arrangements. For example, it is entirely possible that after experiencing a variety of UBIS online courses exposing students to fifth epochal revelation-focused discussion groups, a committed Uranta Book reader might progress through the UUI core curriculum which may be transferred into a new training programs of certification of teacher/scholars, and leaders. These things will evolve as the need arises.
Envisioning a New School Based on The Urantia Book
First and foremost, any Urantia Book-based educational institution should be Christ-centered and Spirit-led, a God’s Will-focused organization. For readers of The Urantia Book that means a sincere focus on the following:
- Seek first the will of God, the First Source and Center
- Commit fully to the leadership of our sovereign Michael
- Actively seek the deep guiding presence of the Spirit of Truth
- Request the support of our unseen planetary helpers and leaders
- Empower and cooperate with the efforts of our beloved angelic friends
- Request the engagement of all Thought Adjusters to be deeply involved together
- Pursue and support the wholehearted dedication of the will of each individual to seek a union of souls embracing spiritual unity in an effort to be a Jesusonian in the best sense of the word.
The effort to develop a real teaching environment committed to share The Urantia Book with the rest of the world will take many people and a number of schools with different missions to accomplish. There is absolutely no interest in hampering or even competing with the already established Urantia Book-based schools. We need to build on and improve what we already have, while new schools emerge to fill in additional needed areas of study. Our schools should not only work in unity with each other, but should be open to other faith expressions and spiritual educational enterprises. No one school has to be the only deliverer of the education offerings to certify teachers, support the ongoing lifelong learning of scholars, and prepare leaders for community, regional and world-wide spiritual service. Articulation agreements between Urantia Book schools and with other spiritual and secular educational institutions should be encouraged, and may well become common practice.
In our educational endeavors we do not need the one-size-fits-all approach to instruction that is observed in most of our American colleges and universities. In contrast, we should focus on curricular flexibility to meet the specific educational and cultural needs of our diverse students. This means looking at different educational models such as European schools (and perhaps Empire State in New York.) While they might provide interesting and workable models, we do not have to be a slave to them. Our focus must be on fostering lifelong learning and equipping for spiritual service. This does not have to be based on three-plus year seminary programs for ordination, but there is much we may learn from many established seminaries (such as Unity Village and Oblate School of Theology.)
We don’t have to start big; just focusing on each individual student will be sufficient for now. If our classes have only a few graduates, that will be a success if they become effective Jesusonian teacher/scholars, and leaders. Our curriculum needs to be flexible, changeable, evolutionary, and molded into what is needed for each individual seeking our help.
The first task we need to do is to develop a catalog where each curriculum is defined and broad course descriptions are presented. This catalog only presents a broad road-map where individual teachers will have the opportunity to imprint their own expertise as courses will be unique depending on the teacher’s leadership and student composition. Teacher/scholar training may involve more traditional class formats, articulate outside courses, might require an education degree or equivalent experience before admission, and should cultivate a major scholarly project. Leadership training is found in many secular and religious institutions and the military. Such a program might require an individually mentored curriculum where applied work may include projects such as the start and fostering of a community organization, working with major Urantia movement institutions, and promoting the international presence of The Urantia Book through media.
All this needs to be organized, well presented, internationally publicized, open to all sincere seekers of spiritual truth, doable in a reasonable amount of time, and affordable to any called to the spiritual service for the fifth epochal revelation. A new school should not only focus on readers of The Urantia Book, but also should reach out to and learn from other religions and sincere faith practices. All Urantia Book-based schools should truly be a Spirit-led endeavor focused on the will of God, the instruction of our Master, the leadership of the Spirit of Truth, in cooperation with our unseen universal helpers and angels, and dedicated to universal service with our Thought Adjusters in unity seeking join together in a union of souls.
The Need for a Sense of Urgency
Members of the Urantia movement need to be aware that there is a tremendous world-wide shortage in the northern continents for trained church leaders. Consider the following examples. My church is well-to-do, has a marvelous facility, has fine music and educational programs that range from the cradle to the grave, is populated with highly educated university folks who are willing to volunteer, is liberally minded, social justice oriented, and very tolerant, is located in a low-cost medium sized university/college town, and pays its staff quite well. After the trauma of firing our full time Education Minister last fall, and after conducting a national search, we have had only one applicant. My underqualified son with his degree in chemistry just landed a gig as piano accompanist for a very nice Methodist church because he was the only applicant in an area that has a university with a Ph.D music program and three colleges with music departments offering degrees in piano. Catholicism is experiencing a major shortage of priests and lay leaders. Other liturgical denominations are now ordaining women to their priesthood to fill their depleting ministerial ranks. Smaller protestant churches all over North America have to share pastors if they are lucky enough to find one. Finally, in music, old rockers, tired of being bar rats, are increasingly moving into the comfort of their weekly church band gig as they jealously guard their guitar slot by actively refusing other musicians (no matter their qualification) a place in the band to the detriment of the cultivation of the next generations of musicians. Scholars who study the Christian church have known about this trend for years, and it is predicted to get much worse in the near future. All this is going on during the most significant spiritual renaissance in world history.
There is an urgent need for the Urantia movement to start the work that will produce certification programs teacher/scholars, and leaders. The Urantia movement needs to understand that the project proposed herein will be a massive effort that will take years to develop and cultivate. Just consider the hard effort that it has taken to get UBIS and UUI to be where they are today, and more than triple that effort for this proposal. It is quite likely that most of the folks engaged in the early development of these programs will have to volunteer their expertise without any form of recognition. Again, this cannot be the work of any single individual, but will take the Urantia movement’s best minds working together in a Spirit-led union of souls to accomplish.
A Call to Go the Third Mile
Going the third mile is absolutely doable. For five years I taught at a historically black university that was started in 1866 by four ex-slaves, which was housed in a shack, and had around a dozen students. Those visionary teachers were determined to go the third mile in believing they could start a successful school for recently freed African-Americans. It was hard, the school was small, there always was a lack of funds, furniture, and books, the teachers often worked for free, and they experienced many trials and hardships before it stabilized. But together they had a vision and dream that they acted upon. They had the fortitude and backbone to start the first mile, labored through the second mile, and the courage and perseverance to walk the third mile even when the Jim Crow South raged against them. Because they were willing to do the heavy lifting, Lincoln University of Jefferson City, Missouri is alive and well today.
So, how do we Jesusonians go that third mile? We need folks like YOU who are willing to step up and go beyond the first mile into the second mile of presenting a real working model: a catalog template where such a school may be formulated and evolve into a reality. While UBIS, UUI, and AU have well developed platforms upon which to offer online courses, what we truly need is the curricular vision that would establish an excellent core curriculum and develop programs resulting in some form of certification. We need strong institutional articulation agreements designed to provide a wide variety of student experiences that will foster outreach , train Urantia Book-focused teachers/scholars, and prepare leaders for community, regional, and international service to the Urantia movement and the world at large.
The Urantia Book clearly calls Jesusonians to this task. The fifth epochal revelation has not been entrusted to us to hide under a bushel for our own spiritual enlightenment or private enjoyment. Consider the following quote, and instead of “Christianity,” insert “Jesusonians:”
Religion does need new leaders, spiritual men and women who will dare to depend solely on Jesus and his incomparable teachings. If Christianity persists in neglecting its spiritual mission while it continues to busy itself with social and material problems, the spiritual renaissance must await the coming of these new teachers of Jesus’ religion who will be exclusively devoted to the spiritual regeneration of men. And then will these spirit-born souls quickly supply the leadership and inspiration requisite for the social, moral, economic, and political reorganization of the world. [Paper 195:10.5, page 2084.5]
Most of all, we need to do the work and begin to walk the third mile. If not us, then WHO? If not now, then WHEN? The fields are ripe, and the laborers very few. God is calling us now. Who will say “SEND ME?”