The Second Mile in Retrospect

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Chris Wood

By Chris Wood, New York, USA

Editor's Note: In the last issue of News Online, (Volume 3, Issue 2, June 2009) Chris Wood, a Urantia Book reader from upstate New York wrote an article entitled "The Second Mile as a Community Experience." He organized a conference in Boulder, Colorado with long-time friends Shane C (Colorado, USA) and Michael MacIsaac (Nacka, Sweden).

Trustees Mo Siegel, Richard Keeler, and Marilynn Kulieke attended the conference.

The conference in Boulder was a community experiment. Could a guy from New York, a guy from Sweden, and a guy from Boulder get together and orchestrate a conference with little but gumption as a replacement for our lack of experience? We were steered by the credo of all well-meaning ignoramuses: If we could do it, then anyone could do it. We organizers had quite a list of expectations, the top of which was to foster an intangible, experiential atmosphere that would soak into, and linger in, the memories of the attendees for lifetimes to come. We were aiming for survival value. Our conference preparation was guided by three philosophies, the wisdom of which, in retrospect, warrants a brief evaluation for anyone out there who wishes to do likewise.

First, there are many good reasons to host a conference. A conference can be used to launch an initiative, to attract the necessary players to a meeting, or even to help gel a local community which is otherwise scattered. Our membership organizations have conference schedules which provide regular opportunities for readers to get together. But our proposal was for a conference for its own sake. We were not an organization, we had no initiative, and we had no grand meeting; we just like conferences, and we wanted more of them.

Although there were a few skeptics who would squint their eyes and ask, "Who are you, and why are you really doing this?" by and large people were very supportive and turned out for the event. Of the 120 attendees, I estimate at least 60 of them would not have attended a conference this summer had Boulder not been offered. It was a mixture of the right location on the right weekend. The attendance lent support to the idea that during off years, when not playing host to an international conference, the North American Urantia Community will support multiple regional conferences.

Second, I cannot say if the audience noticed or not, but we decided that the Boulder Conference would be a place for experimentation with the standard conference structure. Some plenary speeches were 10 minutes, others 20, and others 30. We planned a time slot for Sunday morning worship, but specifically did not fill that time until Saturday afternoon, after the conference was in full swing and a "conference identity" had been created. Our workshop list included nature walks, study groups, and a session on the final afternoon reserved for "repeated by popular demand" workshops. The stand-outs for many people were the small discussion groups on Friday afternoon, which made personal a program that too often can seem inaccessible. In general, a regional conference like Boulder was the perfect place for these variations. We had our fair share of successes and flops, a healthy mixture of unexpected joys and panics, but regional conferences are the very place for these experiments.

Third, you may never go broke underestimating people, but you will grow rich depending upon the Urantia Community. A year ago I helped out with the Kansas City Conference, and there we decided that we would prepare our own breakfasts and lunches. Our plan depended upon people showing up and helping out, and lo and behold, with very little prodding, people stepped up to wash fruit, cut vegetables, and serve eggs. In Boulder we catered the meals but kept the faith that Urantia Book readers would step up and make the conference better. When our music plan fell through, people brought out their banjos and guitars. When our Friday night social location proved difficult, a local couple volunteered their home. If given the opportunity to make a conference better, Urantia Book readers will step right in, and that hands-on involvement actually makes the conference experience better. If given the opportunity, 100 Urantia Book readers will make their own fun as long as you do not stand in their way.

The Boulder Conference began as a single idea, but with every idea comes responsibility. In a community of our size, good intentions get lost if not followed by good action. We had a good idea: We love conferences. We want more conferences. It had therefore to follow that we were charged, for one summer at least, with adding to the conference schedule. One thing about Jesus' life is that even Jesus sometimes made mistakes, but he spiritualized all of his slip-ups. His entire life had survival value. Any honest evaluation of my average week would reveal so much that is wasted – perhaps not wasted in the material realm but wasted in the realm of the Supreme. But for a few days in the hills of Boulder, our experiences had a much greater universe value. So, I suppose, in that sense, it was a successful conference.

Urantia Youth at the Second Mile Conference
Urantia Youth at the Second Mile Conference

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