Conventions are a time where people of similar interests meet and discuss issues of mutual concern. Retreats are meant for people to spend time in a private, often secluded place to meditate or look at issues in a calm and reflective manner. Both are important to Coptic youth for coming closer to God, the Church, to others and to one’s inner self.
Individual churches in the L.A. area have organized such events for many years both for youth and for families. With the establishment of the new Diocese, coordination of these activities became possible. Currently, conventions/retreats are held during the summer for different ages and gender in one of the many places designed for retreats in Southern California. These facilities are often owned by religious organizations who rent them for a short period of time for group retreats. These events are arranged for junior high boys, junior high girls, high school boys, high school girls and co-ed college students. They usually last half a week each, in succession. A program with a theme, various speakers, discussion groups and presentations are arranged to match the level of the participants. Young people are also given free time for recreation. Some of the churches’ youth often present a play or an activity similar to a talent show for the whole group.
Retreats require a great deal of preparation and supervision especially for the younger age group. Problems often arise and require strict resolution early on to avoid major problems later. Several priests are always available, both as speakers, devoting time for confession, for advice and overseeing the whole program. H.G. Bishop Serapion is always involved, often with visiting Bishops from U.S., Britain, Australia or Egypt. These retreats are very helpful in establishing friendships among young people from different parishes. They strengthen their sense of belonging to a larger community of similar background than that of an individual parish. To avoid problems of overlapping with individual church retreats, it was agreed that these retreats are to be held in the summer whereas individual church retreats are held during winter and spring vacations.