Reflections of the 2018 Summer Study Session

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Gary Deinstadt

By Gary Deinstadt, associate trustee, Connecticut, United States, and David Kulieke, Education Committee Chair of the Urantia Book Fellowship, Illinois, United States

Reflections from Gary Deinstadt

I have been a plenary speaker and have conducted workshops for the Summer Study Sessions in the past, which all required a lot of effort, but I have never had to work as hard as I did to be emcee for the most recent Summer Study Session at Techny Towers near Chicago this past July. Throughout my preparations, I kept returning to this year’s theme, It’s A Friendly Universe: Serving with Our Celestial Family, in order to keep things light and fun. It was all tongue in cheek, and people seemed to enjoy it.

I put videos together for each day’s track with hopes of amusing people. For example, to amplify the “Serving with Our Celestial Family” aspect, I made a video of awkward and terrible family photos that I found online. When it came to “It’s a Friendly Universe,” I tapped into the Blazing Saddles theme using a picture where the whole cast is fighting at the end.

A group of us also performed a very funny skit with our interpretation and reenactment of the Last Supper, a peculiar episode in history, involving musical chairs with apostles vying for seats at the table. One of the last two apostles remaining picked up his chair and ran away with it, then Jesus showed up and reluctantly gave prizes to the last two remaining apostles. It was a sad and hilarious demonstration of what’s possible in human nature. Maybe you had to be there, but if laughter in the room was any indication, the audience found it to be the perfect amount of comedic relief!

I think that everyone can relate to the humor in things, even if they are profound topics. If you can make something that is tense more light with humor, it can help allow you to meet people where they are.

The profound part of my being emcee was the joy brought to the attendees. Many came up to me and told me they couldn’t remember the last time they had such a good laugh. I was happy I could make it positive and joyous for them. It’s what I try to do in everything and goes to my mantra: “Creating the atmosphere where God can do his job.”

This was just a small part of the atmospheric fun that came with the conference theme. Other parts included a pre-conference spiritual retreat led by Gard Jameson and friends, and pre-plenary and daily worship themes developed by Bobbie Dreier and her team. We had an inspiring group of plenary speakers including Chuck Thurston, Chris Wood, Derek Samaras, and Diane Labrecque.

It was also interesting to hear about the latest developments from the multiple Urantia organizations. A description of the Foundation’s efforts on the years and phases involved in creating quality translations was informative. It was great to hear of the collaborative efforts made by Urantia Association International and the Urantia Book Fellowship on their upcoming conference in Vancouver 2020. Overall, there was an apparent desire and commitment to work more effectively together for the advancement of the Urantia Revelation.

Most of the content of the conference was centered around the theme of family in a loving universe—which encompassed ways of fulfilling our natural tendency to serve others more effectively—with an emphasis on doing so in alignment with the patterns of service demonstrated by our celestial family and becoming part of a larger team. Overall, the conference contributed to an increased sense of family and service, that sense which continues to push us beyond our own limits, bringing us ever so lovingly, one small step closer to God.

Many thanks to conference chair: Jackie Koury, and to David Kulieke (Education chair), the Education Committee, workshop and worship facilitators, and so many others who created for us the perfect balance of study, worship, and joy in loving service. Special thanks to the apostles for their comedic performances: John Hales, Andrea Barnes, Susan Blackstock, Dan and Lara Amyx, Mary Higgins, Karen Allen, John Callahan, Dave Tenney, Claudia Ayers, Andre Radatus, and Tony Finstad.

David Kulieke
David Kulieke

Thoughts from David Kulieke

The Summer Study Sessions (SSS) have continually provided high quality study of The Urantia Book every two of three summers since the late 1970s. My experience has become specialized since I was honored to be a steward of this tradition upon becoming the chair of the Fellowship’s Education Committee in 2012. I chaired the SSS in 2013 and 2015.

This year Education Committee member Jackie Koury chaired the event for the first time, and her endeavors helped it to be an outstanding conference. She mentioned in her welcome how she felt the pride of a teacher when she looked at the group of presenters and speakers assembled at 2018. When I see the quality of the program, the fine job Jackie did, and the many years of strong education our committee has provided to readers of The Urantia Book, without any sense of patronization, I also sense the kind of pride in others that Jackie felt.

The Urantia Book tells us that “Education is the business of living; it must continue throughout a lifetime so that mankind may gradually experience the ascending levels of mortal wisdom.” 71:7.5 (806.5)

The Fellowship’s Education Committee, in concert with all of the educational endeavors within the various Urantia organizations, will seek to contribute in our small ways to the spreading of the teachings of the Urantia Revelation as well as to the slow progress of humankind on our challenged but fascinating planet.

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