2023 ANZURA Annual Conference Report

It has been an honour and a privilege to be involved in bringing this conference to Urantia Book readers of Australia and New Zealand which was held 25 – 28 August in Pymble, Sydney. It was well attended with people coming from across Sydney, Newcastle, Central Coast, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Adelaide, WA, New Zealand and the USA. Thank you all for coming! We had a great time catching up with old friends and making new ones, engaging with each other and exploring much about our favourite topics!

The theme for this conference was Talkin’ Bout A Revelation and the problem we wanted to try to address was how we, as a readership, talk about The Urantia Book revelation with people less familiar with it. And despite being avid followers of its teachings, we seem to lack some basic principles and adequate tools or experience in attractively conveying its concepts to new readers. It is hoped that the conversations started at this conference have been helpful and that the problem will continue to be addressed.

“Freely have you received; therefore freely should you give of the truth of heaven, and in the giving will this truth multiply and show forth the increasing light of saving grace, even as you minister it.” 176:3.10 (1918.3) 

The act is ours, the consequences God’s. 48:7.13 (556.13)

We were treated to the following excellent presentations:

  • Introduction and Keynote: Talkin’ Bout A Revelation – Daniel Swadling
  • Has Your Time Come? – Rex Merrett & Christine Bannigan
  • Do Your Discovery Before Pitching the Gospel – Julian Martin
  • The Ministry of Mind – Trevor Swadling
  • Evolution & Revelation: A method of seed-planting and expansion – Rita Schaad
  • Spiritual Meditation and Remembrance – Robert Coenraads
  • The Revelation Tone – Chris Wood, USA
  • Understanding People – Andrew Swadling
  • Finding and Attracting New Readers – Phillip Marriott
  • How can we adorn our message with Truth, Beauty, and Goodness? – Julian McGarry
  • A Guided Musical Meditation from the Piano – Gordon Tayler, WA

Chris Wood from the United States, and Gordon Tayler kindly presented via Zoom. Gabriel Rymberg from Israel had also intended to Zoom in with an update on The Center for Unity projects, but unfortunately had to cancel due to travel disruptions.

While one weekend was never going to be enough time to completely cover every angle of the problem of how we talk about the revelation, some of the main conclusions we can draw from the presentations and discussions are:

1. In the first instance, be attractive. We who have embraced the teachings are ambassadors of The Urantia Book. Have things right in our own selves first before trying to teach others, embody what we have learned, demonstrate what the ‘good news’ looks like in practice. Probably the best way to teach the values we’ve gained from the book is in how we live our own lives, that is, be attractive in how we act, think, and behave in the world. Truth is a lived, genuine spiritual experience.

2. We have all been deeply moved, and our lives greatly improved by what we’ve learned from The Urantia Book, and we naturally want to share it with others whenever we can. But we would be wise to avoid the kinds of approaches that are likely to turn people off such as, being over-zealous, forceful, preachy, or proselytising, or using Urantia Book jargon and unfamiliar terms. Even simply handing someone the book isn’t necessarily very effective. The approach demonstrated by Jesus in his life connecting with and teaching us is a better one to emulate.

3. People we meet will of course have vastly different personalities as well as individual, religious and cultural backgrounds. Often it’s when people are in a crisis or have lost self-respect that they look for deeper meanings and answers to very fundamental questions about their lives, and we should be sensitive to their circumstances and any vulnerabilities, and careful not to further diminish their self-respect.

4. If we see someone who seems to be in need, or someone asks us about the ‘big questions’ or indeed directly about the book, then have a strategy in mind that you can use to determine what exactly their needs are and their receptivity to the answers The Urantia Book can provide. Such as:

  • Before attempting to offer them answers and truths from the book, find out a bit about them first. Be genuinely curious about the person and ask open-ended questions to discover their background and their personality. Find out what they’re thinking, what their problems are, what their questions are, what they are looking for, what’s missing in their lives, and their needs and requirements.
  • Build rapport by showing empathy, respect and understanding. Show them they’re valued and build a trusting environment, make a genuine caring connection with them.
  • Have a broad understanding of the book and present the features and advantages of the book’s teachings in a way that matches their needs and shows their value to them.
  • Tailor our approach and the kind of solutions we’re offering to meet the person’s needs. Not everyone will be ready to accept the entire Urantia Book or indeed even the gospel of Jesus. However, we could also refer to the earlier revelations that may still provide the help they need to meet their challenges.
  • Be mindful of the language we use, try to express concepts and truths in everyday language that is easy to understand and not off-putting. Keep to simple points and don’t trail off onto long-winded tangents that may overwhelm.
  • Build on truths they already hold. Add what is positive, rather than try to take away the negative.
  • Ask questions to confirm you’ve understood them correctly, and that what you’ve presented provides the solutions and answers they’re looking for. If there’s any misunderstanding or objections then ask more open questions to discover what you might have missed, there may be further insights from the book to provide.
  • Adopt a tone of casual and gentle certainty in your own convictions, but don’t force your views upon them, allow them to make their own decision about what you have presented. Remember that we may be only providing a step in someone’s spiritual journey, and the degree of spiritual need within them will determine their level of receptivity.

5. Keeping abreast of new developments and discoveries in history, archaeology, cosmology, science, health, religion, etc. can provide opportunities to discuss and share the insights into these fields that we’ve gained from The Urantia Book.

Further to this, we were reminded that our personal study of the book can take various forms. Such as, creating art and musical works, books, essays, talks and podcasts—endeavours that can reveal insights to us that can be shared with others. And reviewing such works by others can greatly increase our own understanding of the book.

Thank you to all who presented and contributed to the running of this excellent conference. Special thanks must go to Julian Martin for running the Urantia Trivia night under difficult circumstances and still making it fun! And to Robert Coenraads for his sublime meditative interlude which helped us to shift our focus onto mind and allow spiritual elements to dominate. And of course, to Nigel Nunn for his generosity and knowledge in the evening Q&A session—it’s always satisfying to hear his clear and entertaining insights into astrophysics, Urantia Book cosmology, and the worlds to come! And special thanks also to Kathleen Swadling and Rita Schaad for their tireless efforts. We know how much work you do and we’re very grateful for keeping all the essential things running at the office.

We look forward to seeing you all again and joining the Melbourne mob at next year’s conference!

I leave you with these comforting words encouraging us all to maintain that living spiritual connection with Jesus, our friend, brother, and teacher:

“You must abide in me, and I in you; the branch will die if it is separated from the vine. As the branch cannot bear fruit except it abides in the vine, so neither can you yield the fruits of loving service except you abide in me. Remember: I am the real vine, and you are the living branches. He who lives in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit of the spirit and experience the supreme joy of yielding this spiritual harvest. If you will maintain this living spiritual connection with me, you will bear abundant fruit…Herein is the Father glorified: that the vine has many living branches, and that every branch bears much fruit. And when the world sees these fruit-bearing branches — my friends who love one another, even as I have loved them — all men will know that you are truly my disciples.” 180:2.1 (1945.4)