As anyone who has been involved in the preparation for a national conference knows, you always wonder if the work that transpired beforehand will help create an atmosphere of organization, inspiration and re-dedication when the event is over. This hopeful wondering on the part of the national staff and of the on-site committee has more than exceeded our expectations.
Last week, we had the opportunity to take a long look at the evaluations that were returned to us as well as the many e-mails that have come in since the National Assembly and we discovered an overwhelming gratitude from all of you for the work that the Assembly entailed as well as the renewed friendships, support and re-commitment to the ministry of peace with justice that happened at the Assembly.
What did you enjoy the most? Most commented on the quality and content of the plenary speakers for their challenges and wake-up calls. The prayer services, liturgies and the ritual at the Dr. King Freedom Center were highly scored by most participants. The workshops were given high marks for informative content and well prepared presenters.
What could have been improved? More time to meet in local/regional groups, more time to have small group interaction following plenary sessions, more time at the Dr. King Freedom Center, more time to visit exhibitors, in short…more time to mingle with other participants and networking together.
Suggestions for future sites: The list goes from Canada to Florida, Boston to Seattle and everywhere in between. Most often suggested were Washington DC, Chicago, St. Louis, New Orleans and Philadelphia.
Future Speakers and Workshops: Many that were named were past speakers at PCUSA events along with a dozen or so new people (thanks for those who sent along brief bios of who the person was they were recommending). Workshops that were suggested included violence against women, healing sexuality, LGBT issues, gun control and more in depth presentations of the workshops that were given at this conference. Some considered the information too basic for those already involved in these justice issues.
Additional Comments: 2 in particular stand out: Have a workshop (even pre-conference) on Peacemaking 101 (or Pax Christi USA 101) for those new to the organization. Also suggested is a workshop on specific organizing ideas (best practices) for doing justice and peace work.
Pre-Conference Communication: Some do not have access to computers making it a challenge getting and giving needed information. Some found they could not access the website in order to register on line, while others do not have current programs on their computers, making it difficult when information is sent using new versions of the software. Some wished we would have put more information on their name tags.
Hotel and Accommodations: Those who stayed at the hotel found the staff most hospitable and gracious. They appreciated the accommodations and the reduced room rate (even though some found the gathering rooms were too cold to be comfortable). A number of people wished we could have had our Assembly at a less expensive location, where perhaps more people could have attended. This is a dilemma which we will continue to explore.
In conclusion, in so many ways the Assembly was a success, in part because of the work that went into the preparation, but mostly because of the good people who participated in Pax Christi USA’s 40th Anniversary National Assembly. Your enthusiasm, generosity, commitment and gratitude will always hold a special place in our hearts.