As fuel prices began to rise in late 2007 and early 2008, it seemed important to make the experience of the OL conferences available to as many people as possible and reduce travel costs for attendees. So we embarked on a strategy of having more locations for the conference, with the same theme and mostly the same speakers, thus making it one conference in three locations — sort of Trinitarian!
In 2008 the single theme was “Feastdays” and we had wonderful speakers talk about their liturgical, scriptural, and calendar traditions associated with the various feast days of the Church year. Four of the speakers spoke at all three locations, in Washington, DC for OL XII East, in San Diego, CA for OL XII West, and in Detroit, MI for OL XII North. The speakers who traveled from place to place included:
- Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ, Professor Emeritus of the Pontifical Orientale Institute in Rome and the world’s foremost theologian on the Byzantine Liturgy.
- Father Thomas Loya, pastor of Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church outside of Chicago, IL and host of the syndicated radio program “Light of the East”.
- Sister Vassa Larin, religious of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and professor at the University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
- Professor Richard Schneider of the Orthodox Church in America, who teaches at York University in Toronto and St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary in New York in the field of “iconology”.
In Washington, we also heard from Father Daniel Findikyan, rector of St. Nerses Armenian Seminary in New York and Professor Shawqi Talia, Chaldean Catholic layman from The Catholic University of America. In San Diego, Father Maximos Davies from Holy Resurrection Monastery, Romanian Greek Catholic Church, was an additional speaker (we also showed Father Findikyan’s talk by video because he could not travel to California at the time). In Detroit, we were blessed to hear from Archbishop Nathaniel, of the Romanian Episcopate of the Orthodox Church in America and Bishop Ibrahim of the Chaldean Catholic Church, both local to Detroit.
Father Loya and Professor Schneider gave wonderful talks using icons and slides to demonstrate their points, and all the other speakers presented fascinating information about the liturgical calendar and traditions from their specific Church. We had a marvelous video recorded talk by Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia entitled “Sacred Time” that was the opening session. His educational approach is marvelous from which to learn, and his anecdotal stories are always fun to hear. Even his video presentation received some higher evaluation scores than the live speakers!
Audio CDs and video DVDs of all plenary sessions and liturgical services at each conference are available for purchase from the online catalog at www.olconference.com or by calling the conference office at 703-691-8862. The hope to make the OL conferences more accessible to more people worked to some extent — we had approximately 60-70 attendees at each location totaling a little over 200, which is more than any single conference in the past. However, the added cost of having three locations, travel expenses for the speakers, and other costs for three different sites caused a significant financial deficit at each location. The breakeven point for an OL conference is about 100 paying attendees.
So for 2009, we are going to “downsize” a bit and hold just one conference in Washington, DC at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center on June 15-18, 2009. We’re sorry that this will not be as convenient for those on the west coast or in the midwest, but for now, we have no other financially viable alternative. Some have also commented to me that it is better to have just ONE conference that is THE conference for the year so that all attendees can gather together and meet each other rather than be spread around the country in different locations. Maybe the future will provide a way to do both — we are in discussions with other possible co-sponsors for 2010 to have more venues again.
We are also significantly lowering the price of the basic conference fee to UNDER $200 per person for three days of meetings, including lunch and dinner. In today’s economic crisis, we are trying to keep the travel costs for speakers to a bare minimum and hope that the lower conference fee will attract more attendees.
We also hope the theme of “Monastic Spirituality for Every Day Life” and the speakers we are planning will bring back our old friends and attract new persons as well, so please spread the word. More information and online registration can be found at:
I look forward to seeing each of you there!