Ever wonder if hosting a UB Study group would be any fun? It has proven so in my case. After every meeting, the uplift lasts a day or two. Don't know if it's because we laugh so much or some special study group angel graces us with her presence, but it is a sweet loving feeling. A feeling one searches for ways to sustain.
Our group, in its nearly 3 year run, has evolved, mostly in surprising ways. The first meeting, I felt awkward. Twelve people came! David, Suzanne and I had them sit, we welcomed them and went right into Paper 1, each person reading one segment.
After 72 meetings, I am much more at ease, mostly because ours is such a forgiving and adaptable group. We meet every other Thursday night. We started on Wednesdays and one member had school on Wednesdays and so we switched. We meet at 7:30 now. People couldn't make it by 7:00 pm so after securing unanimity, we changed it to 7:30.
In the beginning, we read a page or two each. I remember sometimes breaking out in a sweat when I stumbled excessively or if the material was difficult. Finally, about 8 meetings ago, we began to read only one paragraph each. Amazingly, we went from 10 to 12 pages per session to 14 to 16. The meeting clicked along better and everyone was relieved of the pressure of an extended reading.
The only rule imposed on our group is No Politics. I saw almost immediately that strong feelings were involved. Everyone respects this one rule. I believe all approve of it though its never been debated.
We meet in a large room in my home where my mother and I live. As people enter we widen the circle. If there are 10 or less we gather around a common table. Eleven or more we spread into the living room. I serve cookies and water. Ray Haney brings a decent coffee.
I learned early on to flow rather than make an agenda. One December I requested the group read a paper in Part IV in honor of Christmas. They went along, but I knew it was inappropriate. I don't tamper with the format unless it seems truly needed.
Another time only four people showed up and I suggested we read and discuss material on the copyright debate. That seemed quite appropriate somehow, and worked well. It is not a rule by any means, but always directing the conversation back to the text is my sole focus as the study group leader. And I mention this because it became apparent that a group leader is needed. When we started I thought the group would operate just fine autonomously, but an ever so light touch is required to keep the meetings focused on the book. I have only to bring the drift of conversation back to the book and keep cookies and water at the center of the table, its very simple.
Meetings invariably take on a life all their own and I don't worry about hosting much anymore as I am enjoying the different interpretations. I was blessed from the beginning with the assistance of two earth angels, David Glass and Suzanne Kelly-Ward, who, between them have about 30 years with the book.
The most rewarding thing about being a part of a study group is the making a new class of friends. Friends with whom I have something very deep in common - budding cosmic awareness. It is interesting to watch them grow, as I did through the various stages that the revelation puts us through. It is one of the most gratifying feelings I have ever experienced to lead a study group. Along the way I grow as a teacher and a student of the revelation.
On the alternate Thursday, group members went to another reader's home. On my Thursday we read from paper 1 and have never skipped around. The alternate Thursday group was all skipping, deeper examination and speculation. Then a work schedule change forced the alternate host to cancel his meetings. Now most study group members visit other groups in our area, (on Wednesdays and Sundays) during the off-week. It's a real pleasure to have a variety of groups to choose from in one's area. Every group has a completely different flavor.
If I had to advise anyone in a few words, about starting a group, I would say, keep it simple, keep coming back to the text and keep it nonpartisan.
It has proven best not to fret trying to get everything perfect for the meeting. People are very understanding and patient, so I learned to relax and not put to much pressure on myself in preparations, lest I come to dread it.
The only other point of vigilance I practice upon our group is to draw out, (but not force) the quiet people. It is important for everyone to feel there is a chance for them to speak. Otherwise the dominant speakers will be the only ones heard from. This is a delicate task, but not as tough as you might think.
Wouldn't it be good if Houston had a study group every night of the week somewhere? And shouldn't cities of the size of Lubbock or Amarillo have 3 or 4 meetings a week. Don't Dallas, Austin and San Antonio people deserve several choices to go read each week? There will soon be 20 million people in Texas. Wouldn't it be a fine thing is every reader were within driving distance of a meeting? New readers are popping up all the time. Hosting needs you and me to build the network that knits together all readers everywhere. My hope is everyone who reads this will consider starting a reader's group.
Study group leaders will be needed more and more, but the best reason to host a readership group is because it's fun. And it's good for Urantian society to be prepared in this humble way for an eventual cover which will spread the world over, even to its most remote parts.