From November 18 to 20, 60 young adults from some 20 parishes across the Eastern Diocese gathered at Camp Washington in Lakeside, CT, for the annual ACYOA Seniors Leadership Conference. This year, 60 percent of the participants were first-time attendees of the Leadership Conference.
Sponsored by the ACYOA Central Council, the theme of this year’s conference was “The Legacy of Our Martyrs / Legacy of the ACYOA: Our Gift to Carry Forward.” Participants examined different styles of leadership and how to effectively utilize their unique styles in their own parishes.
The conference commenced Friday evening with various icebreakers to help the participants get acquainted with each other. Later in the evening, the Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, pastor of St. Peter Church in Watervliet, NY, led the group in a vespers service, followed by a reflection by Dn. Michael Sabounjian.
Saturday morning began with a matins service led by the Rev. Fr. Sevak Gabrielyan, pastor of St. Mark Church in Springfield, MA, and a reflection by Dn. Narek Garabedian, followed by a Bible study led by ACYOA Central Council members. Participants discussed “servant leadership” and how to be better leaders by serving our communities.
Kathryn Ashbahian, associate at the Diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, gave a presentation about how a person’s personality plays into his or her leadership style and relationships. Before coming to Leadership Conference, the participants were asked to take an online personality test. Following the presentation, participants discussed the results of each person’s personality test, focusing on strengths and weaknesses. The participants also discussed how their strengths translated into leadership, and how they could serve the ACYOA on a parish, regional, and national level.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), visited the conference on Saturday afternoon and presented participants with a Holy Bible as a gift. The young people had a chance to have a question-and-answer session with the Primate.
The afternoon continued with a session by Fr. Doudoukjian on the power of mentoring and how it facilitates effective leadership. A panel discussion with former ACYOA members included Rev. Fr. Avedis Kalayjian, pastor of St. Mesrob Church in Racine, WI; Dottie Bengoian, parishioner of Holy Ascension Church in Trumbull, CT; and Brenda Jermakian and Karen Omartian, parishioners of St. Mark Church in Springfield, MA. The panelists described their lives growing up in the church and their experiences within ACYOA, while also taking questions from the participants.
“It was great learning from a panel of leaders that have gone through the ACYOA,” said Ronnie Malconian of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, MA.
The night continued with a presentation by Nicholas Tashjian of St. Leon Church in Fair Lawn, NJ, about his experience on the Armenia Service Program (ASP) last summer. The 2017 General Assembly and Sports Weekend Committee gave a presentation about the Sports Weekend scheduled for May 2017. Jonathan Campbell gave a presentation on “Ayo!” and its parent organization, the Fund for Armenian Relief.
ACYOA members participated in a service project organized by the Central Council, which included making cards and letters for hospitalized children.
The night ended with evening vespers led by Fr. Kalayjian and a reflection by the Rev. Fr. Untzag Nalbandian, pastor of the Holy Ascension Church in Trumbull, CT.
The conference concluded Sunday with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy by the Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Vicar of the Eastern Diocese. Central Council members led a wrap-up session and open forum following the service.
For the ACYOA members, the weekend was uplifting and worthwhile.
“This was my first time attending Leadership Conference, and it was a great experience. I was reminded that one of the most powerful ways to lead is by humbly serving others,” said Lucine Dayian of the St. Sarkis Church in Carrollton, TX.
“The ACYOA Leadership Conference was an enriching weekend, full of thought-provoking lectures and the opportunity to meet and bond with Armenians from all across the Diocese,” said Adam Bullock of the Church of Our Savior in Worcester, MA.
“It was an incredible experience. Leadership Conference brings together a special group of people who share ideals and love for the Armenian Church,” said Sarine Atamian of Holy Martyrs Church of Bayside, NY.