My experience of College Conference was incredible. I was thoroughly impressed with all of the workshops and speakers. As someone who was raised in the church, I was thrilled to not just get Sunday-school answers to issues, but to have actual honest discussion about the topics. My favourite workshop was on Media Martyrdom, hosted by Steven Christoforou. I thought he did an excellent job of reflecting on media in today’s society and offering some ideas without feeling the need to come to an easy cookie-cutter resolution. I thought the teaching Liturgy was also very well done. His Grace, Bishop Gregory did an excellent job explaining the history and significance of the different parts of the Liturgy in a way that didn’t disrupt the prayerfulness of the service. And again, as someone who grew up attending church and Sunday-school each week, I was happy that it wasn’t a repeat of stuff I’d heard a thousand times before.
One of the things I really appreciated about College Conference was getting to experience all of the different ethnic traditions represented there. Both my parents are converts to Orthodoxy, so I have not had a lot of exposure to many of the rich cultural traditions that make up the Orthodox Church in North America. I found this diversity especially beautiful after Compline, when the chapel would be left open for us to stay up praying. Hearing many different hymns in various styles of chanting really brought me a new appreciation for the variety of traditions we have in North America, while all still being Orthodox.
The highlight of the conference for me was the visit of the Kardiotissa, the myrrh-streaming icon. There was something immensely powerful about over 300 college students serving a Paraklesis together in the presence of the Mother of God. After the Paraklesis service, those of us who wanted stayed up early into the morning to pray in the presence of the icon, which was left out in the chapel overnight. It was an altogether moving experience.