Leadership Conference 2010
A NEW GENERATION OF CHURCH LEADERS DEVELOPS SKILLS, BUILDS CONFIDENCE, AT THE 11th ACYOA YOUNG ADULT LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
The Eastern Diocese saw the bright future of the Armenian Church in the faces of participants at the 11th annual ACYOA National Young Adult Leadership Conference, which met in Tarrytown, N.Y., from March 5 to 7, 2010.
The two-day conference attracted close to 100 people, including 67 young participants from 32 parishes in the Eastern Diocese, led by clergy, Diocesan Council members, ACYOA Central Council members, and seminarians.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided over the conference, which gave participants an opportunity to hone their leadership skills and to network with ACYOA members from parishes throughout the Eastern Diocese.
“I trust you to lead our church,” Archbishop Barsamian told the delegates in opening remarks Friday evening. “I have faith in your vision, in your commitment, in your spiritual strength, in your feelings of respect and reverence for our Armenian Christian heritage.” He added that the large turnout from throughout the Eastern Diocese “testifies to the great potential for leadership we have in the young adults of our church.”
The Primate thanked everyone for their passion for leading the Armenian Church into the future, and stressed that the church needs the leadership of its youth.
“You are the kind of leaders I want future generations—your own children and grandchildren—to look up to, for guidance, and inspiration. You are the kinds of men and women I want the world to think of, when they hear the word, ‘Armenian.’”
He remarked that organizing the conference had itself been a good model of leadership in action. “Working alongside our excellent ACYOA Central Council members—listening to their creative ideas, suggestions, concerns and criticisms; and working also with Fr. Yeprem Kelegian and Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, with Oscar Tatosian and Nancy Basmajian—all of this has been very rewarding for me, personally.”
Archbishop Barsamian also expressed gratitude to Aso Davitian, Dr. Sarkis Kechejian, Nazar Nazarian, Charles Simonian, and Harry Toufayan, whose generosity made the leadership conference possible.
New Level of Commitment
A dynamic, motivating talk about the need for leadership was delivered by guest speaker Dr. Marvin Zonis, from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. In an animated Q-and-A session, he engaged participants on the question of whether leaders are made or born, and outlined ways to be a better leader.
“With the inspiring words from Dr. Zonis and the support of our Central Council liaisons, I saw a sense of responsibility and maturity emerge from the youth,” said Taleen Terjanian, an ACYOA Seniors member from St. Stepanos Church in Elberon, NJ. She also appreciated the chance to “strengthen old friendships and form new ones.”
Conference sessions on the Bible, Models of Leadership, Leadership Potential, and Leadership in Action were held throughout Saturday. ACYOA members explored the decisive traits that made for good leaders, and discussed the qualities embodied in such diverse Armenian leaders as Catholicos St. Nersess the Great and philanthropist Alex Manoogian.
Seminary dean Fr. Daniel Findikyan, and pastors Fr. Vasken Kouzouian and Fr. Yeprem Kelegian led break-out sessions and prayer services.
“This leadership conference shows growth,” said Fr. Kouzouian, a Diocesan Council member and pastor of the Holy Trinity Church of Cambridge, Mass. “There are a great number of parishes represented here, and it shows that the young adult programs at the Diocese are unified.”
St. Nersess seminarians Justin Ajamian, Levon Asdourian, Vahagn Azizian, Mkritch Ksachikyan, and Stan Sheridan helped facilitate throughout the conference, working alongside ACYOA Central Council members Alex Derderian, Danielle Der Assadourian, Talin Hitik, Ara Janigian, Lydia Kurkjian, Danny Mantis, and Gevork Vartanian.
The conference concluded with a dinner and closing program on Sunday night, during which participants were encouraged to express their individual talents. Mher Saribekyan and Davo Gevorkian played the duduk and the dhol to thunderous applause. Arman Avedyan and Alyne Corrigan sang a lovely Armenian song. The Primate presented certificates and small gifts to each of the attendees.
On Sunday the group attended badarak at the nearby St. Gregory the Enlightener Church in White Plains, N.Y.
“I was very pleased with the outcome of the weekend and the spirit of group,” said ACYOA executive secretary Nancy Basmajian. “I think participants felt affirmed and valued as young leaders. That’s quite an accomplishment, and I was thrilled to be part of it.”
Participants who had attended leadership conferences in the past said they appreciated changes to the format this year.
“This year the ACYOA Central Council and Srpazan took the leadership conference to a new level,” said Arpi Paylan, from the St. James Church of Evanston, Ill. “I came away from the weekend inspired to redouble my commitment to parish life—not only because I felt motivated by the dedication and passion of my peers, but also because I left with a specific skill set and a renewed vision for my role in my church.”
For other attendees, the gathering was their first time at an ACYOA Leadership Conference, but probably not their last.
“It was a wonderful learning experience that makes me want to come back next year,” said Arese Soghomonian, a Leadership Conference first-timer from the St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Church of Wynnewood, Pa.
Ara Janigian, a member of the ACYOA Central Council, from the Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church of Providence, R.I., extolled “the level of commitment and passion our youth have within our Diocese. Once again, I left an ACYOA event feeling more confident about our future.”
He added: “It’s vital for our church that we continue to get support and guidance from our elders.”
The same theme was struck by Diocesan Council chairman Oscar Tatosian. “There are leadership capabilities in each of us, and it’s our obligation as Diocesan leaders to encourage, foster, and cultivate that potential. We need to give our young adults the tools to bring out the great leadership abilities within them.”
From that perspective, Mr. Tatosian added, “This weekend was a tremendous success.”