Criticisms and Replies about the OL Conferences

At each Orientale Lumen Conference, we distribute an Evaluation Form to participants and ask them to rate each of the sessions, various aspects about the conference, and generally give us their feedback for improvements for next year. Last week, I posted the positive feedback. I thought I should also post some of the less favorable comments, and give some reply, as the conference chairman and organizer. I would like to hear from you on your thoughts to improve the conferences.

1. Use the chant tradition of other groups (Galician, Russian, Greek, etc.) rather than mostly Ruthenian.

I try to get as wide a variety of services and singing traditions as possible. But it is very difficult to find people willing to volunteer and lead the singing of services, and who can do a good job at it. For the last few years, we have had more variety at the San Diego conference, with Maronite, Armenian, Romanian and Greek singing. This last year in Washington, we ended up with almost all Carpathian/Ruthenian chant style. I approached four other local churches to provide singers, or to attend a service during our conference, however, all had scheduling conflicts or could not accommodate our group. We will try other options for 2008, and I welcome any reasonable offers to lead the singing. The only tradition I know well is Ruthenian/Carpathian chant, and I use that form when other alternatives are not available.

2. I wish greater interaction with the floor would be possible during the panel discussions.

We use written notecards for questions to keep the discussions moving, and allow the widest number of responses. The moderator can then combine similar questions and select the sequence in which they are asked. This does reduce interaction, but keeps the panel discussions on topic, and provides the panelists with a good format to address many issues. I will review how we can allow more questions directly from the audience in the 2008 conferences, and find a way to try it. We will also try to extend the panel discussion time period. It seems more interesting dialogue occurs among the speakers than comes from the formal presentations.

3. In the service books, if you use Greek or Slavonic, please use the proper type fonts rather than transliterated English.

The majority of the participants cannot read Greek or Slavonic in their proper fonts, and so we provide transliterated texts for their benefit.

4. Why don’t we visit a local church to experience a liturgical service in a more proper setting — a real church?

We did visit churches in San Diego the last three years. I have tried to arrange similar visits in Washington in recent years, but scheduling conflicts have prevented attending a local church. We will work to include that next year for the Washington conference.

5. I think there needs to be greater input and attendance by Roman Catholic and Orthodox participants.

I agree, and we do the best we can to promote the conference with fliers, brochures, press releases, etc. We send out over 6000 brochures every year, and 30 press kits to Orthodox and Eastern Catholic newspapers and diocesan communications offices. The best promotion is “word of mouth” from attendees. Please invite your friends, members of your church, and people that your think would enjoy and benefit from the conference — your help in spreading the word will help the attendance grow.

6. Since icons are a visual expression, there was an expectation that the presentations be visual and not solely auditory.

Actually, we had MORE visual presentations this past year than ever before (none). I do try to give the speakers parameters and expectations, and I accommodate their presentation needs. I do not want to control how they present or what they say. I rely on their expertise and judgment as to how best to present their ideas. They come voluntarily, and I appreciate their contribution of time and effort.

7. Can you get at least a couple of hierarchs to join us next year?

Yes, I would love to have more participation by bishops. I invite every Orthodox and Catholic bishop in the US each year to our conferences. Encouragement from you, the lay persons and clergy, might help — please try.

8. More free time! — The free time was too long between sessions!

I guess the complaints both ways means we got it just about right!

9. More lay speakers and women too!

I would welcome suggestions for lay speakers and women. Your help in this area is important.