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Los Angeles Religious Education Congress 2014

April 15, 2014

 We have been to the mountain top and it is amazing! This particular mountain top was the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. Imagine 40,000 people (almost all of them Christians of the Catholic persuasion) living Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel for three days. And that joy was not just because the Congress takes place at the Anaheim Convention Centre, which is across the road from Disneyland. For those three days there was serious competition for the title of ‘happiest place on earth’!

Congress began on Thursday, March 13. 15,000 young people gather and the buzz is electric! This day is for young people and their chaperones only, so we not-so-young have to wait until the Friday for our Congress experience to begin.
There are lots of highlights at Congress: there are over 240 speakers presenting 400 workshops. People like Fr James Martin, Megan McKenna, Fr Ron Rolheiser, Greer Gordon, Richard Gaillardetz … and there amongst them were Michael and Anne presenting on music and drama in RE and liturgy. Workshops in LA are a little different to just about anywhere else. At our smaller workshop we had over 250 people and the largest was for over 500. It takes some creative planning to do a drama workshop with that many people!
And then there’s the resource centre the size of a football field!
It is muso heaven. Imagine the likes of David Hass, Liam Lawton, Mary Haugen, Steve Angrisano, Christopher Walker, Jesse Manibusan…the list goes on, all together in one place. Choosing which workshops to go to  is very, very tricky!
And then there are the liturgies. Oh my! The main arena seats 15,000 and it is full for theopening liturgy and the closing Mass. Celebrating with the Universal Church in such great numbers with such vibrant and inclusive liturgy is the ‘source and summit’ at its most life-giving. The choice was amazing: Celtic, Jazz, Black Culture, Urban Fusion, Contemplative, to name a few. 
Because of the cultural diversity in the area, special attention is given to including people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Proclamation is multi-lingual, dance, music, procession, dress and of course, in the people involved all reflect the enormity of the Church. It is breathtaking!
It was great to meet up with so many Aussies who were attending. A highlight was the lunchtime Arena concert. Michael joined with John Burland and Andrew Chinn and the CASPA team from Sydney to entertain a lunchtime crowd of 5000. What fun that was!
Michael, John, Andrew and the kids setting hearts on fire! 
Those three days at the mountain top were awesome (in the real sense of the word) preparation for those three days we are about to celebrate. Whilst we worshipped like it was the Palm Sunday parade or Easter already, the liturgies were never-the-less Lenten. Deep down we were aware of the outpouring of love that was Good Friday. Jesus was among us in the Word we heard, the communion we shared and in the people who surrounded us. 
LA congress is definitely something you should put on your bucket list. Here’s a Youtube link to give you a little taste. Next year’s dates are March 13-15, 2015.