Regional conferences bring faith, leadership to local parishes

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Jake Goshert, Coordinator of Information Services
Tel: (212) 686-0710 Ext. 60; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]

November 10, 2004


Challenging young people to think about their faith in a creative and
constructive way, the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America
(ACYOA) this fall will be holding four day-long, regional conferences
filled with fellowship, prayer, and education.

The first of these — held on Saturday, October 23, at the St. John
Church of Southfield, MI — brought together more than 20 young
parishioners from churches in Cleveland, OH; Racine, WI; and Detroit,

“It’s such a wonderful, fulfilling feeling to talk and be open with one
another about God and our spirituality,” said Allison Haidostian, a
parishioner from St. John Church in Southfield, MI. “I feel recharged.”


At the beginning of the day, the young participants interviewed each
other about their spiritual lives by answering questions focusing on the
theme of the conference: Christian spirituality.

“This conference gave me a greater understanding of myself” said
Jonathan Banks a parishioner and ACYOA member from the St. John Church
of Southfield, MI.

Fr. Garabed Kochakian, pastor at the St. John Church, of Southfield, MI,
spoke to the participants on “Spirituality, Sexuality and Spouses,” a
usual topic of his pre-marital counseling. He told participants that,
contrary to popular belief, the church celebrated sexuality and even
talked about it in the sanctuary — during the sacrament of holy
matrimony. He discussed the importance of spiritual intimacy in a
relationship and spoke on the “Three R’s” of marriage: Regard, Respect,
and Responsibility.

Fr. Yeprem Kelegian, pastor at the St. Mesrob Church of Racine, WI —
who drove 800 miles round-trip to speak at the day-long session —
focused on spirituality as intimacy with God. He defined spirituality
as “the everyday activity of life in communion with God” and discussed
the importance of personal prayer and liturgical prayer in that process.

Prayer, he said, was “sitting with God and listening.” He also shared
information on personality types and spiritual characteristics, offering
participants prayer suggestions for each type.

“This was spiritually refreshing and hopeful for the future,” said Fr.
Yeprem, who is also a member of the Diocesan Council. “The Diocesan
Council and the Primate view the ACYOA as a rich source of spiritual
ideas, idealism, and fervor for the Armenian Church. Anything we can do
to facilitate their growth, we are pleased to do.”

An afternoon session, called “A Spiritual Workout,” asked participants
to examine and reflect on two types of mystical spiritually,
specifically the writings of St. Gregory of Narek and the Wisdom
Liturature (Psalms and Ecclesiastes) of the Bible. Participants were
asked to be creative by putting scripture to music and writing as if
they were Christian mystics such as St. Gregory.

“The results were amazing,” said ACYOA Executive Secretary Nancy
Basmajian, who helped lead the day’s activities alongside ACYOA Central
Council chair Jennifer Morris, ACYOA Central Council treasurer Rita
Akaraz. “I was very inspired by the fact that they took the ‘workout’
seriously and really got into it and said some beautiful things.”

The conference ended with an open forum, lead by ACYOA Central Council
chair Morris, in which she shared Central Council goals and upcoming
activities. There was also a brief presentation on plans for next
year’s ACYOA Sports Weekend by Greg Andonian, chair of the 2005 ACYOA
Sports Weekend being hosted by the St. Gregory of Narek Church of
Cleveland, OH.

“This conference was a true testament to the deep respect Armenian youth
have for each other,” Andonian said. “We are all better off having
received the ideas of those who attended this conference. I will
encourage anyone who is thinking about attending a future regional
conference to be prepared to be challenged and entertained.”

Regional conferences will be held for the New York Metro/Mid-Atlantic
region on November 6 at the St. Mary Church in Livingston, NJ, and for
the Southern region on January 15 at the St. Sarkis Church of Dallas,
TX. For more information, visit the ACYOA website at or
e-mail Nancy Basmajian, ACYOA executive secretary, at
[email protected]

— 11/10/04

E-mail photos available on request. Photos also viewable in the News
and Events section of the Eastern Diocese’s website,

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Fr. Yeprem Kelegian, pastor at the St. Mesrob Church
of Racine, WI, speaks with participants at the ACYOA Mid-West regional
conference on Saturday, October 13, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): Young parishioners from various Mid-west parishes
listen to a speaker during a day-long conference at the St. John Church
of Southfield, MI.

PHOTO CAPTION (3): More than 20 young people came together on Saturday,
October 23, at the St. John Church of Southfield, MI, for the first of
four day-long regional conferences being organized by the ACYOA.

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