In 1931, during the course of a reading focusing on membership, Edgar Cayce suggested that the A.R.E. should begin an annual tradition in which members from around the country would be encouraged to get together. The reading recommended that the event take place somewhere between June 15 and July 1; and that the purpose would be for these members to hear speakers, and collectively
...renew the faith, confidence, purposes, aims, of the work itself.
--Edgar Cayce reading 254-57
The annual event came to be called the A.R.E. Congress.
The first annual Congress was held June 27 to July 1, 1932. The agenda featured psychic readings by Edgar Cayce on the following subjects: (1) The Great Pyramid; (2) Training Children in Psychic Development; (3) The Life of Jesus before His Ministry; and (4) The Sphinx. The total number in attendance was not well documented-one of Gladys Davis's notes on file simply states:
Room crowded with Group members [Norfolk Study Group #1] and visitors.
--Edgar Cayce reading 5749-2
A couple of years later, the 1934 Congress (third annual) was heralded as "the most successful so far attempted," and boasted attendees from Alabama, New York, Michigan, Georgia, and Virginia." The following year, the A.R.E. was pleased to announce that it had 244 members, and a mailing list of approximately 3,000 individuals.
On my office wall, I have a framed Congress photo (dated 1945) showing 19 individuals in attendance (at least for the picture). By 1948, we were doing a far better job keeping track of attendance, and noted that the event attracted "77 individuals from 17 states and Canada."
On a number of occasions, I have stated that my first personal experience with Congress was 35 years ago during our 50th Anniversary Congress (1981). I had the opportunity to attend with one of my best friends from my ASFG Study Group in Colorado, Darlene Bodnar (see photo, left), who has remained a lifelong friend (and Congress attendee). The event was truly incredible-attracting people from around the world-and featured a series of dialogues from A.R.E. luminaries Hugh Lynn Cayce and Harmon Bro. I remember being transfixed by the discussion and even now can recall that tenor, and the appeal of Hugh Lynn's voice when talking about this Work, and asking those hundreds in attendance, "How can you not share the best that you know?"
Those Congress events that correspond to 5-year anniversaries have generally attracted the largest audiences. The 75th Anniversary of Congress (2006) had 252 individuals registered plus we held a 75th Anniversary day-long Open House on Saturday, June 17, that attracted approximately 400 individuals, including Virginia Beach's then-mayor, Meyera Oberndorf, who read a city proclamation to the crowd announcing it as the "Association for Research and Enlightenment Day."
This year marks our 85th anniversary. Please consider joining us for the June 19-24 event. Having been to 34 Congress programs myself, I can tell you that it will be quite a celebration! You can find more information on our website or by calling 1-800-333-4499.