The economy may still be putting a damper on meetings business, but many religious conferences are seeing strong and steady growth. One of them is the Religious Education Congress, sponsored by the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese. Held for decades at the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center, this year's congress drew a record 45,000 attendees from March 17-20.
The congress began in 1968 as a small institute primarily for Catholic religious educators. While it still maintains this primary focus, the congress has expanded its reach and for many years now has been open to people of all vocations and from all different faiths.
The three-day weekend event has also grown to include a Youth Day, a daylong event geared for high-school-age youth not just from Los Angeles but from throughout California and the Western states. More than 15,000 youth attended this year's program.
The four-day convention is packed with programming. The March congress included 200 speakers presenting more than 300 workshops, and an expo with more than 250 exhibitors representing publishing houses, religious art and music enterprises, and educational institutions, among others. Reflecting a desire to represent many different cultures, the event also offered 18 different “styles” of liturgical services, including Celtic, Byzantine, Nigerian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Technology plays an increasingly important role for organizers as they attempt to reach an ever-growing global audience. For example, this year for the first time, all four days of the convention were webcast live from the convention center. Parts of the event were also broadcast on Catholic radio and television programs around the country.