ANZURA held its annual conference from October 5-8 on the shores of the beautiful Narrabeen Lakes just minutes from North Narrabeen beach along Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We had a good turn out and everyone departed enriched by the experience of a weekend chocabloc full of valuable and stimulating exchange.
Rex Merrett began by setting the tone of the theme for the weekend by giving an opening address on “Organising the Soul for Dynamic Service.” He gave the group an exercise to do as an ice-breaker whereby we divided into pairs and spent 15 minutes alternating between talking and listening as we expressed to one another some of our inner-most thoughts on our spiritual lives. He then gave a presentation highlighting how we as individuals, and working together, can assist in the grand scheme of things by living God’s will more dynamically here on Urantia. He pointed out how the realisation of new truth is generally brought about by courageous individuals who are prepared to step outside of the “no hassle zone” of their lives—how we think and act differently when we dare to live our lives with a spiritual purpose as opposed to a purely material one.
This was followed by a presentation from Kathleen Swadling on “How Does the Individual Organise the Soul for Dynamic Service?” which focused on the personal and philosophical aspects of the individual’s spiritual quest as it leads to making the conscious choice of preparing one’s mind, body, and soul for a life dedicated to the service of God and mankind.
William Wentworth presented on “Service in Everyday Life” pointing out the challenges and difficulties we face in our everyday lives as we attempt to find a way of living our lives with the realisation that we are “essential participants in a mighty work” of Grand Universebuilding, while at the same time attempting to down-step our inspiring vision to the realistic, practical level of everyday life.
Saturday afternoon was spent in a group discussion on the morning presentations with a brainstorm session that drew out everyone’s thoughts on the many varied aspects of what we need to do to prepare for dynamic service in our lives, and what hurdles and problems we encounter along the way. There was much discussion on the efficacy of prayer, worship, meditation, and inner communion with the Father. We then divided into break out groups to discuss these matters in a study group environment.
After dinner a series of skits and short plays gave us all some good laughs. The Melbourne contingent surprised us all with an incredible enactment of the episode at the wedding at Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine. Daniel and Andrew Swadling made a great team as they cleverly portrayed the folly of being over enthusiastic in trying to “turn” people onto The Urantia Book. William Wentworth and Trevor Swadling had us in stitches as they played two Solitary Messengers on vacation in the outer-space levels of the Master Universe. Vern Verass and Nigel Nunn gave us all a good laugh as they played two seventh stage finaliters reminiscing on their days on Urantia, and Michael King and Robert Coenraads cracked us up as they played Mick Dundee and an enthusiastic religionist.
Sunday morning began with an inspirational worship service conducted by Rita Schaad utilising the symbol of pieces in a puzzle to illustrate the part we all play in building the whole as our individual lives contribute to the evolution of the Supreme Being.
This was followed by a variety of short presentations by participants who had ideas to share about outreach projects.
Following is short summary of these presentations:
Robert Coenraads presented on the value of studying the world’s main religions so that we, as Urantia Book readers may be better equipped to impart the teachings of The Urantia Book to people of various religions and cultures in such a way where we do not take anything away from their existing belief systems but rather relate to them on familiar ground and build upon what they already believe. He proposed developing a series of courses to run at the University of the Third Age where the teachings of The Urantia Book could be taught without the necessity of mentioning the book itself.
Vern Verass presented on a project he would like to undertake to produce the “Thought Gem” calendars. It is a perpetual calendar with a quote from The Urantia Book for each day of the year. A Californian group of readers has already produced such a product which has proved to be very popular and of immense value. Vern would like us to produce one here so that readers may have them available to give away as gifts and to use as seeds for whetting people’s appetites to the Urantia Book teachings.
An initial fund would need to be made available to finance the first print run.
Neil Francey presented an outline of a project he has been working on for the past several years. He is developing a website called “Urantology.” It contains good quality articles and secondary works relating to the teachings of The Urantia Book that he has been collecting after researching hundreds of pieces of material developed by Urantia Book scholars since the early days of the movement. This website will serve as a resource and archive for many valuable pieces of information that have been produced over the years, and will insure they do not fade into oblivion over time.
Rex Merrett presented on the idea of attending various body, mind, and spirit expos to display The Urantia Book.
He pointed out that local communities were always providing small expos and we could keep a track of the timetables and book a small space for a display booth. The costs are minimal and it could be done very simply. (Since the conference Rex has already made a start on this project and organised a display booth at an expo on the Central Coast. Several readers helped him man the booth and a significant amount of interest in the book was generated. This indicated that it is a worthwhile project.)
Adopt a Bookshop
Kathleen Swadling put forward the idea of “Adopting a Bookshop.” If readers who lived in close proximity to one another decided to “adopt” one of their local bookshops, they could agree to purchase a Urantia Book once a month, or once every two months, and alternate the purchasing among themselves. The book could then be used as a gift or loan book. Say if six people from a study group did this, each member would only need to buy one book a year, and while doing this a turn-over would be generated in the bookshop whereby the owner may decide to purchase more books to place on the shelves for browsing truth seekers to stumble upon. We know that bookshops will only stock a book if it sells, and we know that people don’t have the opportunity to find the book out of serendipity if there are no books on the shelves, so by readers doing the ordering and buying they will be helping to prime the bookshop. For readers who are isolated, a suggestion would be to order a book now and again, and when it arrives ask the bookshop owner if they could leave it on the shelf for one month and if it isn’t sold after a month they would buy it. One person is known to have done this on a regular basis and they never had to buy the book!
A hearty group discussion took place where many other ideas were proposed and discussed.
Daniel Swadling, a second-generation reader, who has grown up with the teachings, closed this segment of the day by philosophically summarising the conference presentations. He highlighted how we need to integrate the revelatory teachings into our lives so that they become an intrinsic part of our nature–so that our natural formula for living is to incorporate the will of God into every aspect of our lives. When this happens our actions will automatically bear the fruits of the spirit without too much conscious choice.
The main aim when choosing this theme of “Organising the Soul for Dynamic Service” was to stimulate thought and discussion on the many avenues of service available for those who have made the decision to dedicate themselves to a life of service for the spiritual upliftment of mankind through the dissemination of the teachings of The Urantia Book. While everyone has to follow their own unique calling and make up their own mind about which avenue to follow to suit their individual situation, it was felt that the discussions at this conference certainly succeeded in presenting much food for thought and inspiration on this important aspect of the individual’s journey.
Monday morning was spent in summarising the weekend’s events. Each participant spent a few minutes sharing his or her personal impressions of the weekend.
Finally it came time to wind things up to say goodbye to new and old friends. The Queensland group has volunteered to host next year’s conference which will most likely be held on the Sunshine Coast. Stay tuned for further details.
(Conference presentations will appear in this and the next issues of The Arena.)