By: John Ploetz, California, USA (Published in the Journal June 1997)
Have you ever wished you had been alive in Jesus’ time, to walk Galilee with him? If only we could have seen Abraham with Melchizedek, or labored with Van to prepare the Garden, what opportunities we would have had to grow our faith and to be of service!
Unlike most people who have ever lived, we are alive in a time of epochal revelation. The chances to be of service to this revelation are almost unlimited, but we must prepare ourselves. In my opinion, there is no more important task at this stage than the development of leaders and teachers motivated by love and the desire to serve. We must know the book (the facts) and teach the book (the meanings) so that we can live the teachings of the book (the values).
The living laboratory from which teachers naturally emerge is the local study group. Here the in-depth study of difficult material can be attempted in a supportive family of other readers.
Not all groups that will arise around The Urantia Book are study groups. It may be easier to create a religion about the book or to tell others that they ought to read it. But to get beyond the “trifles of living” [1206:2] we really have no choice. Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” We have been given this most amazing book; the least we can do is to study it. A group helps in this greatly.
A number of people lament that there is no study group in their area. I would suggest to these people that they are the study group. Our unseen friends hover over the worlds [379:4] waiting only for our commitment to action. Once you set aside a regular time for your “study group,” even if there are only one or two of you, you will receive help from unexpected sources. It is the regularity and the habit that bring results. “If you build it, they will come.”
With hundreds of thousands of copies of The Urantia Book abroad in the world, there are more readers than you may think. We met another reader who lived on our street. He was getting his mail from the postman and saw an envelope from Urantia Foundation with the three circles on it. He asked the postman for it, thinking it was for him. When told that it was actually for us, he came over and introduced himself and began to attend our group. You may not be as “isolated” as you think!
We have to do what we can wherever we happen to find ourselves. Urantia Association and Urantia Foundation can provide referrals, and some readers have found success with a discreet advertisement in the classifieds (e.g.-“Study group forming for readers of The Urantia Book, [555-1234]”). I wouldn’t advise promoting the book or seeking to attract people who have never heard of it as an effective way to build a solid study group. Remember that quality is more important than quantity, and that it is the regularity of the meeting that brings results.
Group cohesion will avoid many of the problems of individuals being disruptive, argumentative, or simply talking too much. Our study group has evolved some simple rules over the years, and they are easily explained, ahead of time and cordially, to someone inquiring by phone:
We study only The Urantia Book in our group-nothing else.
While we strongly support Urantia Foundation, we don’t discuss the politics of the movement in our group. Since we all have jobs to go to in the morning, we need to meet our goal of reading aloud one paper each night we meet for study group. We encourage discussion, but not speeches… Don’t be afraid to have some ground rules. Having group support for them ahead of time will head off most problems.
Our study group has been meeting for about seven years, and my wife and I consider it the highlight of our week. We read through the book sequentially, one Paper a week. When we finish, we start over. We’ve read the entire book once, and are now reading the Jesus Papers having nearly finished our second reading. It takes about four years to read through the book once, but we don’t miss anything and we can’t avoid the “hard parts.” In a group, you will find that your “hard parts” may be someone else’s “easy parts.”
Once each month, we participate in a Sunday potluck supper open to all readers in our county. This meeting moves to different homes on a regular schedule and affords a more relaxed social hour followed by a topical discussion. New readers are welcome, and people with differing points of view regarding the book mix easily.
The Urantia Book makes many references to group wisdom and the need to be exposed to the diverse interpretations of other and diverse mortals as an antidote to a selfish and unsocial religion [1130:2]. Our study groups are a source of lasting friendships and refreshing insights. Regular group study cannot help but bring benefits, including a real understanding of Jesus, who said, “…where two or three believers are gathered together, there am I in the midst of them.” [1763:0]