At Annual Chapter Workshop, ACYOA Members Reflect on Mission of Organization, Perform Service Project
Members of the Eastern Diocese's Armenian Christian Youth Organization of America gathered in the warm, palm-dotted environs of southeast Florida for the third annual Chapter Workshop, held at the St. David Church of Boca Raton, January 14-16.
The ACYOA Central Council co-sponsored the workshop with the Diocese's Department of Youth and Education. More than 30 young adults, representing 13 Diocesan parishes, participated in the weekend-long program.
The goal was to support local-parish ACYOA chapters in their efforts, and to help chapter executives plan and implement programs that incorporate the ACYOA ideals of worship, witness, service, education, and fellowship—five components that make up what is known as the ACYOA's "five circles of the cross."
To kick off the workshop, participants were able to learn a little about each other, and about their home communities, during a Friday evening gathering, which was followed by a lively round of "Armenian Church Jeopardy."
On Saturday, speakers addressed the topics of worship, witness, service, education, and fellowship. ACYOA Central Council chair Lydia Kurkjian introduced these concepts and explained their integral role in the organization's mission.
Florida-area clergy—including the Very Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian, pastor of St. David Church; the Rev. Fr. Vartan Joulfayan, pastor of St. Mary Church of Hollywood; and the Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, pastor of St. Hagop Church of St. Petersburg—along with ACYOA executive secretary Nancy Basmajian addressed participants on different ways they can incorporate these objectives into their daily life and parish activities.
Chelsea Kress, an ACYOA member at St. Leon Church of Fair Lawn, N.J., said the presentations were helpful and provided a good overview of the ACYOA's core values. "This weekend has taught me more about my faith and about being part of the ACYOA," she said.
During a session titled "Witnessing the Faith," participants gathered outdoors and shared personal stories about their faith and life in the Armenian Church. The exercise was designed and implemented by Central Council vice chair Danny Mantis.
"Participants really came alive talking about their personal relationship with God during the witness session," said Lydia Kurkjian. "It was inspirational to hear that my peers truly turn to God in their everyday lives."
A highlight of the weekend was a service component during which participants and clergy made sandwiches for a local soup kitchen. The sandwiches were delivered to Our Father's House Soup Kitchen in nearby Pompano Beach, Fla., by Dn. Justin Ajamian, a pastoral assistant at St. David Church who also took part in the Chapter Workshop.
"The Soup Kitchen was very thankful and appreciative of our service project and asked us to keep them in our thoughts and prayers," said ACYOA Central Council member George Macarian. "This was a very fulfilling and satisfying service project."
The weekend program also included matins and vespers services and a fellowship evening on Saturday. On Sunday, young people participated in the Divine Liturgy at St. David Church. Following services, they enjoyed a farewell lunch prepared by the host parish.
"It was an amazing weekend to learn and make friends," said Crystal Densmore, an ACYOA member at St. Mesrob Church of Racine, Wis.
Also taking part in weekend activities were the Rev. Fr. Nersess Jebejian, a former ACYOA executive secretary and a lifelong supporter of the organization, and Yn. Anna Demerjian who works closely with young people at her home parish of St. Hagop Church in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"We were so happy to host the workshop at St. David Church," Fr. Berberian said. "It is good for our youth to meet so many young Armenians coming from different parts of this country."
He added: "The weekend provided them with an opportunity to reflect on the mission of the ACYOA and to think about how to get other young people involved in the Armenian Church."