A Tale of Two Conferences

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Mike Wood
Tamara Strumfeld with her two daughters, Bettina and Tilly
Tamara Strumfeld with
her two daughters,
Bettina and Tilly
Gary Deinstandt
Gary Deinstandt
Richard Keeler, Tonia Baney, Bob Solone
Richard Keeler, Tonia Baney,
and Bob Solone
Cristina Seaborn
Cristina Seaborn
Lee Armstrong
Lee Armstrong
Painting of Roselyn Armstrong by Tonia Baney
Painting of Roselyn Armstrong
by Tonia Baney
Bob Solone
Bob Solone

By Mike Wood, Urantia Foundation, Chicago, Illinois, United States

July was a busy month at Urantia Foundation. Besides hosting the regular quarterly meeting of the Board of Trustees, we also hosted a meeting of the Urantia Book Internet School Board of Directors just prior to the trustees’ meeting. But sandwiched around these two meetings were two conferences―one hosted by the Urantia Book Fellowship and the other by Urantia Association of the United States (UAUS) ―both of which gave me the opportunity to set up a display for selling discounted copies of The Urantia Book (including all of the translations) as well as a few study aids and workbooks, such as A Study of The Master Universe.

Summer Study Session, Northbrook, Illinois

First up was a short trip to Northbrook, Illinois, where the Fellowship held their Summer Study Session at Techny Towers Spiritual Retreat Center, a beautiful facility run by the Divine Word Missionaries. The conference theme was “Our Gift to God the Father: Service to the Supreme,” and it consisted of workshops during the day and plenary speeches in the evening. The outstanding group of workshop leaders are too numerous to mention but included presentations by Gard Jameson, Bobbie and Steve Drier, Barbara Newsom, David Kulieke, and Barry Clark.

Perhaps the highlight of this very well-run event was the evening plenaries. The Foundation’s very own Tamara Strumfeld kicked off the first night with a wonderful and touching speech about practical living in ways that contribute to the Supreme. She included her thoughts about personal growth resulting from her experiences of being a mother for the last four years. After her talk, the running joke for the rest of the speakers was “how are you going to follow that?” Next up was Seth Wood who, in acknowledging Tamara’s speech, said that his main job was to lower the bar for Cristina Seaborn who was to follow him the next evening. Seth failed in that regard, as he delivered a wonderful talk in a speaking style somewhat reminiscent of Bill Sadler Jr. and Vern Grimsley. He wove inspiring quotes about loving one another, humorous stories of being a second generation reader, and anecdotes from his law practice into an inspiring speech that, if anything, raised the bar even higher.

But Cristina was up to the task the following evening with her talk entitled “How I Serve the Supreme,” in which she discussed how we should all use our talents to the best of our ability to reach for the Supreme. She called this experience a supreme moment. As a talented and accomplished concert violinist and budding public speaker, she certainly has shared more than a few supreme moments with her audiences.

On the last day, Gary Deinstadt continued the theme of the weekend when he mentioned that he met someone on the elevator who didn’t know him and made the offhand remark that he pitied the poor fellow who had to speak last. But Gary was up to the task with his informative and entertaining speech. Gary, an Emmy Award winning composer, is also an ordained interfaith minister with a Masters of Divinity. He gave a talk on “The Gift of Mastery” and was a fitting final speaker for the conference. All in all this year’s event was another in a long line of outstanding Summer Study Sessions.

UAUS National Conference, Leavenworth, Kansas

Two weeks later, after the aforementioned meetings, I traveled to Leavenworth, Kansas, for the UAUS National Conference that was held at St. Mary’s College. This beautiful, 150 year-old college is run by the Sisters of Charity. The seminal aspect of this conference was the fact that it was planned and executed by younger readers under the age of forty. These younger readers not only presented a wonderful conference, but they also gained valuable experience that will serve them and the Urantia community for many years to come. One highlight of the conference, which was perhaps a little different from previous conferences, was the focus on study. Of the five main sessions during the weekend, three of them were actual study groups focused on the conference theme, “Relationships, Human and Divine.”

First up was a study of Paper 110, “Relation of Adjusters to Individual Mortals,” followed the next day by a study of Paper 99, “The Social Problems of Religion.” During the final day, the groups studied several sections pertaining to the family.

One other aspect of this conference that bears mentioning was the entertainment, especially the program on Saturday night that was held in the beautiful Walnut Room. The evening started out with David Glass reciting two original sonnets that were devotional in character and served as a sort of benediction or invocation for the evening. Next up was Lee Armstrong who did a 20 minute reading from Robert Olen Butler’s short story, Every Man She Kisses Dies. It was both humorous and dramatically delivered, as only a professional of Lee’s stature and experience can. Lee then took us into the next part of the evening with a short talk about his wife, Roselyn, who died several years ago after a long battle with cancer. Lee then introduced Tonia Baney and explained that he had commissioned Tonia, a world-class portrait artist (and former executive director of Urantia Foundation) to paint a portrait of Roselyn. We then turned around to see the unveiling of the painting, which had been covered and placed directly behind the audience. It is a stunningly beautiful painting that is beyond my ability to describe.

Following all of this, Bob Solone, an outstanding pianist and chanteur (and former Urantia Foundation manager of reader services), took a seat at the Steinway concert grand piano and played a wonderful selection of music that captured the ears and hearts of everyone in attendance. He even played a couple of requests from the audience. So in one evening, the conference planners pretty well covered the arts with poetry, prose, painting, and music. And all of this entertainment was provided by long-time students of The Urantia Book, who also happen to be highly accomplished in their respective fields. It was an evening that I shall long remember.

Notwithstanding that I am the book vendor at conferences, I do get to listen to great speakers, attend outstanding workshops, participate in high-quality study groups, and enjoy wonderful entertainment, often with readers of The Urantia Book from around the world. Attending Urantia Book conferences, it seems to me, gives one a peek and a preview of what it must be like to live in the age of light and life.

Foundation Info

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Urantia Foundation, 533 W. Diversey Parkway, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
Tel: +1-773-525-3319; Fax: +1-773-525-7739
© Urantia Foundation. All rights reserved