Urantia Activities in Australia and New Zealand
(Presented at the October 2020 online ANZURA Conference)
Much on ANZURA’s website – like other websites – is an archive, and I hope you will agree, a very valuable resource – both for aiding in study and for keeping our memories alive.
Good memories can be energizing especially in these times of turmoil. They can bring to the fore those values we desperately need to hang on to if we want – for us and the next generations – to get safely through “the high seas of constant change” and end up in a safe harbor once more.
- It all started with some people – scattered hither and yonder across Australia and New Zealand.
- Then there came the first Newsletter – aptly named “Six-O-Six” – spearheaded by Neil Francey and amongst others, Ian Esmore (at a meeting in the Macedon ranges in Victoria I believe).
- And then more meetings and conferences, where action plans were devised and most importantly, relationships were sealed.
Looking through those early issues of the Six-O-Six newsletters gave me an insight into the amount of effort that was made and leadership that was shown by those early reader/believers of The Urantia Book. They have extended the way they learned to discuss and fight for a standard we now accept as a given.
These were our pioneers – they were spearheading – literally – what is now ANZURA. They were visionaries – strategically and grounded clear thinkers (thank God for that…).
And it was all done by sitting down at their typewriters, some might have already owned a word processor of sorts in the nineties – churning out a Newsletter, a one-pager at first, but then it grew and more pages were filled….
But the engagement to initiate and keep the discussion alive and their perseverance to achieve an outcome is truly praise worthy – I have kept mumbling to myself over and over “W-O-W”.
There were some bumpy rides along the way, some ‘really strange teachers’ out and about and the struggle between tolerance and ‘the right or better way’ – always challenging! I Hope those of you that were there in those times, know now that it was all worth it. Thank you all!
The first ever conference was held in Narrabeen, Sydney, at the home of Kathleen and Trevor Swadling in October 1983 with eight earnest Urantia adherents in attendance. And this is where the first project for the Library Book Placement project and other general book distribution issues were discussed. Thank God once more for that because I did find The Urantia Book in my Newcastle library in 1987!
The second conference in Melbourne in 1984 saw 40 readers coming together and Neil Francey commented in his talk:
“In my closing words, I would like to say, ‘these are great days’. I say that because there are tough days ahead – days of criticism, vested interests, and confusion. We will be prepared for that, so enjoy our small effort of initial progress, which is going to prove of immense value. This will change, and we must of necessity move with the times and adjust our efforts accordingly: but for today, ‘these are great days.’”
Amongst these first ‘movers and shakers’ were:
Neil Francey, William Wentworth, Kathleen and Trevor Swadling, Steve Shanahan, Tom and Pam Reynolds and Ian Esmore – they were the signatories on a letter to John Hales in November 1984 (the Executive Director of the former Urantia Brotherhood) stating the desire for, and making inquiries about, a legal structure to be formed for readers of The Urantia Book in Australia. This legal structure eventually came into being in 1990 and was first known as the “Australian Association for Students of The Urantia Book” (AASUB) then, after connecting with our New Zealand family of readers across the Tasman, and joining the newly formed Urantia Association International in 1992 it became known as the “Australia and New Zealand Urantia Association” (ANZURA)
To see a year-by-year record of conferences from 1983 to 2013 visit the website at:
In the last couple of months a combined effort has been underway that has included Neil Francey, Tony Rudd, Steve Shanahan, William Wentworth, and myself – to collect, transcribe, and scan all the Six-O-Six’s from 1980 to 1993 – for well – eternal safe-keeping!! If you use Dropbox you may find them at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/vuk0m3ke8xowvpu/AADYi8yxLqESUT19vlrKtcb1a?dl=0
This Dropbox folder has been made available for us to access courtesy of Tony Rudd in Perth. Here you will find the earliest issues of The Six-0-Six Newsletter.
(They are being stored in a Drop box folder because scanning renders them excessively large – 40 GB mostly. I’m working on downsizing them, but they are still too big to populate a website.)
All that and more is to come to the website and internet once we have finalized this combined effort of transcribing and saving these old newsletters, dating from 1980 to 1993. In addition we are collecting the Innerface International, which many of you remember was a newsletter created by Ken Glasziou from 1994 to 2004.
And for an extensive archive of our current newsletter/publication: The Arena visit:
Here you find now, that this brings you straight into our fabulous website that has been in the making for several years now under the watchful eye and skillful management of the current Urantia Association International’s Communications chair – Kathleen Swadling.
Searching through some of the older Arena issues going back 20 years or so, I came across some articles I wished could be more ‘out there’ rather than hidden away in a newsletter pdf and this started yet another project of ‘lifting’ these gems and introducing them again, or just simply archiving them on the website under various categories. In this venture Susan Hemmingsen from New Zealand has a knack of converting old style into new formats – yea! To view the list of topics our articles have been categorized in visit: https://anzura.urantia-association.org/topical-index-study-aids/
Amongst these many categories is the permanent feature since 2007 of the New Zealand corner and the President’s Report. To revisit these essays gives us another historic timeline of both our National Association but also the comprehension of the various writers at the time of the current situation – just sweet treats they are – especially if you are personally acquainted with these people! See:
Now this brings us once more to the subject of:
From the first conference in 1983 at Narrabeen comes a prediction…
“This inaugural conference has paved the way for the future. No doubt in the years to come conferences will be held in other capital cities of Australia…”
A wonderful prediction – apart from this one – imagine! Conferencing via the internet (Zoom) was unheard of nor imagined back then!
And another reflection:
From Dennis Clampitt, NZ, after the South Pacific meeting in 1988 (Six-O-Six Jan/Feb 1989)
All of the New Zealanders who attended the South Pacific Meeting agreed, that it was a success. We appreciated the relaxed approach in the time-table which allowed for such adjustments as inevitably resulted from rescheduling so many activities over four days.
“It is to be hoped that we New Zealanders can match such an effort in the future, should we host such a broadly based South Pacific conference. True to its theme, we certainly had a unity in cultural diversity.”
From these comments I can taste the joy we are experiencing when meeting, socializing and studying at these events. Let’s hope it won’t be too long before we can again travel and gather in numbers face-to-face!
Just another little snipped in honor of our present NZ conference organizers. Consider your beginnings….
A report and a New Zealand meeting from Six-O-Six, June 1981:
“There’s good news from across the Tasman in New Zealand. The Urantia Book is well represented there by a nucleus of readers who also share a strong interest in music.
“A recent letter from Mark McEwan in Auckland tells of their latest news. It is of particular interest for fellow readers in Australia, and we’d like to present relevant details for your enjoyment:
“The scene in New Zealand, as far as readers of The Urantia Book goes, is still in the early stages with a hard core of about seven or eight (it varies), based in Wellington, and two readers in Auckland. The study group in Wellington has been functioning for over two years now and has had its share of conflicts, but if not continuing formally, it certainly continues informally.
“One recent undertaking which is becoming a very successful enterprise is the development of the New Zealand Jazz Foundation. Colin Hemmingsen, one of our readers, was elected president, and his wife Susan is putting in many hours of unpaid work to function as secretary and behind-the-scenes organiser. Other readers are involved with this Foundation in various ways, but the important thing is that this organization has ‘clout’, and can open our education system to aspiring creative musicians. The Hemmingsen’s also ran a ‘Creative Music School’ for some years and were responsible for the introduction of the National Jazz Clinics to New Zealand, which entailed some twenty odd faculties from the U.S.A. visiting and passing on their approach and philosophies.
“I can see the results, not only in the positive repercussions on fellow musicians, but also in the enhancement of life that sincere believers, with direction and intelligent effort, have brought to this small part of the world.”
Six-O-Six March/April 1990. Does anyone remember your first gathering?
By Marion Steward, Auckland:
“Last year some of the readers in New Zealand got together for a weekend meeting, a first for most of us here, and a very valuable experience. We met at Neville and Trish Twist’s house in Auckland, on the 14th and 15th October 1989, and comprised the Auckland Study Group plus Susan and Colin Hemmingsen from Wellington. A group of readers from Hamilton had been invited, but were unable to make it this time.
“The meeting started with a presentation by Mark McEwan, who gave us a very concise overview of life according to The Urantia Book from an individual point of view, describing all the myriad of spiritual influences on each of us and how it all interacts, complete with diagrams. This was followed by a very thought-provoking presentation from Neville dealing with apparent inconsistencies in the book regarding seraphic velocities.
“We spent the afternoon reading the paper on Christianity’s problem, which generated much discussion, as we all come from varying religious backgrounds, and have quite different viewpoints.
“The day was rounded off by listening to some of the Sadler tapes, which we have acquired thanks to Trevor and Kathleen Swadling, and which I for one find utterly fascinating, coming as they do from the very beginnings of The Urantia Book. Most of the group then indulged in a meal from the local Indian takeaway place, which by all accounts turned into quite a test of one’s tolerance for high spice levels!
“On Sunday morning we were just discussing what paper to read, when two visitors arrived, and at their request we read from ‘Government on a Neighbouring Planet’, and some quite intriguing ideas came forth on how part of this paper could be applied to modern Urantia. Our visitors were quite new to the book but were also keen to promote their own particular interests and turned the discussion to astral travel and channelling. I would like to share this with other readers, as I think it happens quite a lot, and we as a group have discussed it several times before i.e. the appropriate way of relating to people who express an interest in the book but see it as one of many sources of truth and wisdom, and who investigate everything.
“In The Urantia Book we are encouraged to find out about other religions and to take the best from them all, but do we do this in the context of a study group or is it best done individually? We would welcome any comment on this.
Our meeting progressed through Sunday lunch, followed by a short discussion and multi-cultural and multi-lingual aspects, and winding up with a general agreement that the weekend had been very successful and we must do it again soon! Hopefully, next time we will be joined by the group in Hamilton and rally start to sow the seeds of a New Zealand Urantia Book fraternity.”
(end Marion’s article)
Another visual treat was planned for presentation in form of a small PowerPoint presentation with photos from the 2014 Conference at Long Bay, Auckland New Zealand, but there were technical difficulties with that. In any case it is our intention to make conference photos available in some format on the Website as yet another archival stroll down Memory lane.
Rita Schaad, Newcastle NSW