Welcome to this Summer 2012 edition of the Arena. No doubt this will find you preparing for that hectic time of year as Christmas, New Year and the summer holidays loom. I wish you all a happy and save season.
It’s been an eventful few months since the last edition as many of us made the journey to the Sunshine Coast for ANZURA’s annual reader conference. Some wonderful presentations were given which we will share with you as much as possible in article form in this and the next few issues. Seeing as I volunteered to write the conference report this year I thought I’d dedicate my President’s report to the conference. Before I do though I’d like to announce that the crew from the Canberra study group has volunteered to host next year’s 2013 conference in Canberra. More details to follow later in this issue. Also the New Zealander’s have offered to host the 2014 conference in New Zealand so start making plans for that long awaited holiday across the Tasman for 2014.
ANZURA’s annual Urantia Book readers’ conference for 2012 was recently held at Alexandra Headland on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast 14-17 September. It was a resounding success. A big thank you to Graeme Chapman from Brisbane for organising this wonderful event. This was Graeme’s first ever attempt at hosting an ANZURA conference and what an excellent job he did — from providing the theme: More Things in Heaven and Earth — Adapting to an Expanded Description of Reality, to inviting the speakers and working out the program, to booking the venue, to creating excellent reversion, to paying attention to the logistical details to ensure we were all comfortable and wanted for nothing throughout the weekend, and even finding room to do a couple of presentations as well as be an able host and program coordinator.
We were blessed to have three qualified scientists (Nigel Nunn, Robert Coenraads and Graeme Chapman) and two scholarly academics (Marion Steward and Neil Francey) in our midst who gave us high level, informative and educational presentations. Starting with a presentation from Nigel Nunn who is an astrophysicist as well as a long time Urantia Book reader and founding member of ANZURA, the tone was set to be a mind bending, thought provoking day in the contemplation of much science and cosmology from The Urantia Book. Nigel’s presentation was titled “More Things in Heaven and Earth: from Force Organisers to Ultimatons”.
We were treated to a riveting, well presented and easy to understand hour or so of Nigel’s speculations of a new image of Orvonton. He said: “With God Particles popping out of colliders, and Next-Gen telescopes coming on-line, it’s a good time to see how the Big Picture of Science fits into the frame set up by The Urantia Book. We’ll take a close look at what The Urantia Book implies we might expect to see.” Nigel used gorgeous graphics of the cosmos and the Milky Way galaxy, and by blending today’s mainstream cosmology with Urantia Book insights, he was able to postulate a theory that if we could view Orvonton from above we may see a much unexpected “shape”… Somewhere in this newsletter you will find some of these interesting graphics. Nigel also handed out copies of the introductory DVD he’s been working on. Parts 1,2,& 3 are complete and he will be using this presentations on the cosmos as the beginnings of the development of Part 4 of the DVD.
Next came an enthralling presentation by geologist and long-time reader Robert Coenraads on “An Illustrated History of Urantia”.
With a high quality Power Point presentation he gave us a fascinating lesson on the geographical history of our planet along with supporting quotes from The Urantia Book. I was intrigued by an animated movie that showed the movement of the continents over millions of years, which explains much about the present day positions and shapes of the continents. Robert said: “Many events and processes from the history of our Earth are described in The Urantia Book. And many are also recorded in the rocks themselves, giving us a plentiful supply of natural illustrations to enjoy along with the text and which magnify its meaning.” He pointed out some of the problems associated with the Revelators’ attempts to move us forward into the unknown without unearned knowledge due to the limitations placed upon them. Robert even managed to touch upon the sensitive subject of racial improvement balancing it with the warnings of the dangerous methods used in the 1930’s by Hitler’s infamous Third Reich regime.
While we were all in the mood for geology and evolution Graeme Chapman, geologist, long time Urantia Book reader and good friend and colleague of Robert’s presented “The Way of Evolution”. Graeme used his knowledge of science and The Urantia Book to illustrate the patterns of God. “Evolution has quite a range of meanings in The Urantia Book, all treated with a degree of importance and respect. The conventional, earthly kind that Charles Darwin would recognise still has much to teach about its ways, even the more heavenly kinds. Life survives but only as it learns to pay very close attention to practically everything it can detect, and the universe seems to like it that way.”
Neil Francey, long time Urantia Book reader, founding member of ANZURA, former editor of the Six-O-Six newsletter, creator of the Urantology website and academic expert on Ethics, told us about his project of creating derivative works from The Urantia Book. His presentation was titled Some Derivative Works and MOTA-VATION.
He said: “Examples of recent derivative works will be presented, the most recent being called MOTA-VATION. Thanks to revelation, we are discovering more of heaven and reinventing it into a time and space dynamic on earth. Life itself is a derivative work. We are endowed with spirit mechanisms whereby we can access the Revelators’ storehouse and receive that which we have earned.” Neil managed to give us an outline of some of the books he has been working on that have the potential to assist readers in their study and also to help students develop teaching techniques for sharing The Urantia Book’s teachings.
Graeme Chapman presented again, this time on an interesting theme he called The Urantia Book for Atheists which was inspired by a book titled Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton which has some similarities to The Urantia Book and advocates the need to reform religion and the art of living. Graeme said: “Like The Urantia Book, a recent work by popular philosopher Alain de Botton has picked up on some of the attributes of useful and mature religion. Many who maintain an atheist position sometimes do well in their efforts to avoid being “pushed around” by religion. But they would also do well to pay attention to the deep lessons that religion has encoded during many years of sincere effort, including the nearly forgotten one that faith is about carrying on, most especially in the absence of competent answers.
Saturday night was spent playing Urantia Trivial Pursuit. We broke up into 4 teams and competed with one another. Graeme created a whole bunch of cards that contained many tricky questions from The Urantia Book. There was lots of fun and laughter as we all demonstrated just how much about the book we didn’t know! Thank you Graeme for reminding us that we must keep reading and studying!
Sunday began with some lovely quiet reflective worship time in the outdoor chapel which was surrounded by tall gum trees and the musical sounds of nature. This set the tone for a day to be spent more on contemplating Jesus and his inspiring life.
Our lovely New Zealand sister Marion Steward, also a long time Urantia Book reader and founding member of ANZURA as well as a qualified English teacher who came all the way from across the Tasman Sea, delighted and entertained us with her captivating presentation titled “Surprises from the Undercover Boss”. (What a great title!)
She began her presentation by reflecting on the things that surprised her most when she first read the Jesus papers. She said: “When the Creator of our local universe came to Urantia and lived as an average human being, he combined Heaven and Earth in his own experience, and the in-depth story of this experience has much to enlighten, delight and surprise us. For most of his life, he lived undercover, never revealing until the last phase that he was actually the Boss. Part IV of The Urantia Book reveals many fascinating facts about the reason for his arrival, his early life and his broad experiences on our planet, and teaches many compelling concepts that greatly expand on current mainstream Christian thought.” Marion pointed out some of the things which Jesus had to sacrifice in order to fit in with the Jewish culture of his day which included his love of art and sport. He also gave up his harp to help with the family finances. And one of the major sacrifices was his supernatural powers! He lived as an average man, did much to support the equality of women, and came to live for us not die for us. It’s more accurate to refer to his life not so much as an example but as a true inspiration.
After lunch we broke into small study groups where we studied paper 151, Tarrying and Teaching by the Seaside”. This is where Jesus first introduced the use of parables as his new teaching method. As usual, this paper stimulated much animated discussion and left us all with plenty of food for thought.
ANZURA’s AGM was held before dinner and it was decided to hold next year’s conference in Canberra. The Canberra crew wasted no time in putting their heads together to discuss preliminary plans for a conference theme. Another exciting decision made at the AGM was that Marion Steward, on behalf of her New Zealand colleagues agreed to host the 2014 annual conference in New Zealand. When the group was asked who would be prepared to travel to New Zealand in 2014, practically everyone raised their hands. So there’s plenty of time to plan for that long awaited holiday to New Zealand.
The conference came to an end all too quickly on Monday morning as we lingered over goodbye hugs and last minute conversations. I’m sure everyone who attended the conference will agree that it was a refreshing and invigorating experience and well worth attending. I look forward to meeting up with everyone again in Canberra next year.