Who is A Leader? Serving on the ISB

After finding the book, on a wave of enthusiasm, I decided to try and place it in every public library in my state. Arrangements were made with Urantia Foundation to supply and ship the books. I located and called all the librarians for approval. Together we placed almost a thousand books in Texas public libraries, about one third in Spanish. Is that leading? I don’t know, but I do remember it just felt right. About that same time, I wanted to host a study group. That went on 6 years, for one read through. Is that leading? I’m not sure, but I can see the usefulness in the experience of hosting a study group. I also served a term or two in each of the offices of my local association.

Looking back on life, all the projects I have been involved in, inside and outside the Urantia Book community, all the failures and successes, nothing could have prepared me for four years on UAI’s ISB, the International Service Board (2003-2007). Back then we were known as IUA. Cathy Jones, Seppo Kanerva and many others were finalizing our charter and seeking members to fill out the 12 person Board of Directors.

Cathy asked if I would accept a nomination as “Outreach Chairperson.” My job would be to contact people interested in IUA, to handle referrals from the Foundation, and to provide input/vote on issues that came before the Board. I had long ago learned one of the most crucial choices to be made in life is selecting the right kind of work. So, I thought about it, checked with my inner guides who recognize the right way when it’s too complex for me to deduce. I chose to take on this service — in spite of being uncertain how well-suited I was.

Even though I couldn’t make it to the first meeting of the ISB, there was a telephone hookup. My outreach role was pretty well understood from the beginning so I mostly listened to the others discuss the beginnings of the strategies for reaching IUA’s goals. I received advice from some and offered help here and there — best I could.

At the second meeting I was present around that big old table in the front of the second floor at 533 Diversey in Chicago, where I was informed things were still in flux as regards the structure of the Board. I was told that the Outreach Committee had been eliminated — It had been replaced with an unprecedented committee: DISSEMINATION!

What! I signed on to greet others, and now I am a chairman of the committee that has the most important job on the planet?! I was stunned at first, then fear seized me. I had done many kinds of work but never administrative board work, or managing volunteer committees and projects in disseminating a celestially “indited” revelation of epochal proportions to a whole planet!! No one had!!!

But most of the other Board members had long experience in administration, and most had service time in the education field, and/or directing other boards. What had I gotten into?! I barely made it out of high school, I was a repairman who had almost no experience in administration. This is an entirely different thing for which I was not equipped! Was I??

I finally decided to see it through, at least for four years, no matter what the task of my assigned committee. Thinking the worst I could do is fail the planet and the revelators–I might as well give it my best shot. Besides, I liked and respected the Board members. They were supportive and thoughtful, but never indulgent, competitive or insincere. After that decision I began feeling like we were embarking on a great voyage, and no one had sailed these waters before.

Not knowing what to do exactly, I began fishing around for ideas, within and without. One of the first places I looked without was the opening line of our Charter, UAI’s mission statement. It spoke directly to my committee:

“To foster study of The Urantia Book and to disseminate its teachings.”

Thinking on that statement was followed by much searching, which became a multi-layered plan, one the Board required from each chairperson — as a point of beginning this long and unprecedented work. UAI might not fulfill its mission for hundreds of years, but that did not matter. The journey has to begin with a step, hopefully in the right direction. The fact was, we were all amateurs at spreading this epochal book revelation straight from Uversa. Knowing we would be working in concert with Urantia Foundation helped much.

I began pulling together and sifting all dissemination ideas and created a plan of about ten pages. It was presented to the full Board at a subsequent meeting. I was so nervous it was plainly obvious, I felt inadequate to the task of presentation and as a sprout among giant trees. I felt a painful lack of humility and experience, but pressed on with each part of the plan, explaining the reasoning behind each. It covered everything from seeding the book globally, to prison placement, to recycling old books, to creating brochures, and a half dozen other projects in between. I thought it to be a comprehensive beginning to Dissemination Committee’s role in this gigantic, enduring project. After all objections and critiques were in, the Board approved the plans for the DC, and I relaxed a little.

Next I put out invitations for help. I talked to many a reader about various projects, all the while watching what was transpiring in the Urantia community dissemination-wise. But something essential was missing. Then I recalled that line (in Paper 19) about not fully grasping any situation without first understanding its, “origin history and destiny.” The best place to look for dissemination answers is in the book!

The original disseminator is of course the Eternal Son, the “Word-God.” We have been told the story of how the Word spread all the way from Paradise, even to remote Salvington in the form of Michael and the Divine Mother. For history I looked at the first four epochal revelations sanctioned by Salvington. All things considered, each epoch seemed to employ the same enlightened emissary method: Bring in amenable students, teach and release them. Obviously dissemination’s cosmic destiny is the Supreme Being, of this age at least.

Everything began falling into place after looking at origin, history and destiny. But a debate arose among ISB members about our mission statement’s core meaning. Was my committee supposed to disseminate the teachings only? Or just the text? I realized, it must be both! And that answered most of my lingering questions about the right direction for the DC. Was that leadership? Or just many decisions followed by activities? Is leadership just another word for service?

Next I published a two-part essay in The UAI Journal about the plans and projects for the DC. I felt more certain and able as things went along — as thinking, advice and experience coalesced. Each day I spent a few hours handling communications, fleshing out the grand plan, making decisions about the growing list of details around DC’s projects and activities. Being semi-retired, I had half a day free for this volunteer job — and a half day left to work for pay, attend to home and family responsibilities. But not all volunteer leaders have so much time available, especially parents. It is an important question for all volunteer servers to consider: just how much time do I have available?

Day by day the other Board members helped flesh out the Dissemination Committee’s various subcommittees, policies, funding devices, as the need came up. The DC retained the now-defunct outreach committee’s work of handling referrals. I tried to delegate as much as possible to free up time for other projects. Delegating worked well when I selected and trained the right people. And they are out there, I was surprised to find. But they do not always appear when, where or how you might expect.

There is an old axiom that declares — good leaders are good followers. It took a while for me to learn that when you work with any sized team, it is best not to make a move until you have informed the others! Nonetheless, things gradually smoothed out and clarified as I more fully realized the purpose, range and potential of this committee.

The four years sped by. The ISB met every few months, here and there on the planet, sometimes by phone, often at a reader conference. I learned much, very much, and evolved different views about dissemination. Nonetheless, my ideas and plans had to coincide, correlate and intertwine with the other ISB member’s equally important committees. Not everything worked out. In fact, some plans were simply dropped, or adapted to suit real need and raw practicality. Other ideas emerged as my term went on, important ideas for projects not previously considered.

One of the most unexpected and rewarding aspects of the job as chair of the DC was a feeling. I don’t know exactly where it came from and can’t explain it very well, but it felt like the wind was at our backs, and that my perspective had been vastly widened. The importance and priority of things were always shifting but the right answers to decisions came easier as things evolved. It seemed as though the right people and the right ideas were meshing. All I had to do was pay close attention to each decision, and not take things (especially myself!) too seriously.

The Urantia Book character who most appealed to me was David Zebedee. He saw something that needed doing and did it. But there are so very many ways to lead. Not everyone wants to pitch tents and send out runners. Or sit on a Board and oversee projects. To my amazement, it is very typical that readers have definite and well-formed ideas about how best to disseminate the book or its teachings, if not both.

Most readers, sooner or later, take one Urantia Book theme and create something — a work of art, a poem, a song or some form of literature. But then another reader might collect aluminum cans to sell, use the money to buy and place $10 library books. Some readers serve, and serve well, by simply living the teachings. I am convinced all readers are leaders, even if they do not think of themselves that way.

I think everyone who believes this book automatically becomes a leader of some sort. Several places in it there is a sentence about ascenders being both students and teachers — all the way to Paradise — and beyond. Teaching others is leading, but of course there is an art to it, and I am still a novice. Even so, reflecting on those four years, I did very much enjoy and feel compensated many fold for what I put in, because service is its own reward — even imperfect service.

Fully retired now and no longer serving on the ISB, I still spend about half my day on dissemination related projects. Not because I feel duty-bound, or want to do good, but because it is fun to be a part, no matter how small, of spreading Father’s updated word on this double defaulted, truth hungry world! It’s a unique and brief chance to serve on an evolutionary world, one we will never have again.

No one needs a title to lead, because leading is just acting in consonance with one’s inner creativity and outer need. Indeed, titles accrue from leading. So, please serve on my fellow Agondonters. Whether or not you see yourself as a leader, you will look back on this service someday and smile. Leading might be seen as a way to have cosmic fun, albeit sometimes quite challenging. I try to be fearless and wise, always try to listen to that flawless, unified, three-fold ministry going on inside, yet still realizing I will make mistakes and fall short. Try it. That is my advice for anyone thinking about if, how, where and when to lead, but the best advisor is within.