By Sarine Atamian
Youth and clergy from across the Eastern Diocese gathered in Detroit, MI, last weekend for the 68th annual ACYOA General Assembly and Sports Weekend.
The General Assembly was held on May 21 and 22, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Novi, MI, with Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presiding.
The weekend was hosted by the ACYOA Seniors of St. John Church of Southfield, MI. The assembly was chaired by Harry Kezelian of St. John Church. Mallory Maslar of St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, FL, served as vice chair.
On Thursday evening, May 21, delegates heard reports on the Pan ACYO Conference held in Armenia last year, programs at St. Nersess Seminary, and the activities of the Zohrab Information Center. These were presented by Sarine Atamian, the Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, and the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, director of the Eastern Diocese’s Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center, respectively.
Fr. Chevian was presented with the “Very Rev. Fr. Haigazoun Melkonian Award” for his dedication to the youth of the Armenian Church. A reception for the ACYOA delegates and clergy closed out the evening .
Friday morning began with a prayer that included the new “Service of Prayer and Intercession of the Holy Martyrs of the Genocide.”
Archbishop Barsamian delivered a message on the Diocese’s theme for 2015, “Living the Gospel of Christ: Legacy of our Martyrs.”
“As the young, intelligent, inspired generation of our church, you can show others the right way to understand the meaning of the ‘Legacy of Our Martyrs,'” the Primate said. “For surely that meaning is to give the best of ourselves, the best we have to offer, to the cause of advancing our people and church. It is your generation—with your talents and education, your passion and promise—which represents the best, most precious part of our community life.”
The delegates then took part in small-group Bible study led by ACYOA Central Council members. They discussed the feeling of renewal and the responsibilities they have as descendants of the generation that survived the Armenian Genocide.
Later that afternoon, members of the Central Council presented the annual ACYOA awards. The “Chapter A Award” went to the ACYOA Seniors of the Church of the Holy Martyrs of Bayside, NY. The “Sam Nersesian Award”— given to individuals who display Christian values of love, patience, humility, and understanding—was presented to Talene Jermakian of Springfield, MA. The “Gregory Arpajian Award” was presented to Danielle Malconian of Cambridge, MA, for her leadership and service to her community.
Elections were held to fill vacancies on the ACYOA Central Council, Nominating Committee, and Auditing Committee. Chelsea Kress and Daniel Zalinov were re-elected to Central Council and new members Mallory Maslar of Pinellas Park, FL, and Lauren Piligian of Framingham, MA, were elected to the organization’s executive board.
The session continued with a report from the ACYOA Seniors of Holy Trinity Church of Cambridge, MA, who will host the 2016 General Assembly and Sports Weekend. Delegates also had a chance to share updates on activities taking place in their local chapters.
Friday night participants headed to Detroit’s historic performing arts center, the Fox Theatre. As they approached, the marquee read, “Armenian Church Youth Organization of America, Sports Weekend 2015, We Are The Legacy.” The young people enjoyed an evening of music and dancing.
On Saturday, sports competitions—including volleyball, basketball, and tavloo-were held at the Hillside Recreational Center.
A special program that afternoon was dedicated to the holy martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. Alyne Corrigan sang the American and Armenian national anthems and sports journalist Armen Keteyan of CBS News and Pastor Chuck Gaidica gave special presentations on the significance of the Armenian Genocide centennial year and on the broader theme of peace and justice.
On Saturday evening, the young people gathered at the Henry Ford Museum, where they toured the exhibition rooms, and enjoyed music and dancing. The venue showcased such items as the chair in which President Lincoln sat at the Ford Theatre on the night of his assassination, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop, and the bus on which Rosa Parks made her protest.
On Sunday, Archbishop Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. John Church, with the Rev. Fr. Garabed Kochakian, parish pastor, assisting. At the conclusion of the service, the new ACYOA Central Council was installed in a formal ceremony.
Ani Grigorian will serve as chair; Jonathan Pelaez as vice chair; Mallory Maslar as treasurer; Chelsea Kress as secretary; Sarine Atamian as public relations coordinator; Lauren Piligian as programming coordinator; and Daniel Zalinov as chapter relations coordinator.
The sporting events concluded that afternoon, and the participants, along with ACYOA alumni and parishioners of St. John Church, gathered at the church hall for the awards banquet.
Raffi El Chemmas, the nephew of the late Fr. Haigazoun Melkonian, shared memories and lessons he learned from his uncle. He said that Fr. Chevian, who is currently the dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, is a worthy recipient of the “Very Rev. Fr. Haigazoun Melkonian Award.”
Sona Dagley presented the “Rev. Fr. Haroutiun and Yn. Patty Dagley Award,” established in honor of her late parents, to Lisa Mardigian, the youth director at St. John Church.
Jennifer Morris, the diocesan director of Youth and Youth Adult Ministries, presented the “Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan Service Award” to ACYOA Juniors member Zaven Dadian, of St. John Church.
Guest speaker Armen Keteyan presented the trophies to the winning sports teams. Live Armenian music followed the program.
The next morning, with bags packed, the final goodbyes were said at the farewell brunch, before everyone headed home.