By Arsen Yelegen
From January 20 to 22, more than 40 young adults from 16 parishes across the Eastern Diocese gathered at St. Kevork Church in Houston, TX for the annual ACYOA Seniors Chapter Workshop. Organized by the ACYOA Central Council, the weekend focused on finding ways to strengthen local ACYOA chapters. The Rev. Fr. Martiros Hakobyan, pastor of St. Kevork Church, served as the weekend’s chaplain.
The workshop began on Friday evening with icebreakers and a session introducing the five “Circles of the Cross,” led by Central Council members Chelsea Kress and Nora Knadjian. The session placed emphasis on fellowship, which is one of the five circles, and examined how to encourage youth involvement at the parish level. The evening concluded with a vespers service led by Fr. Hakobyan.
Saturday started with a session on chapter administration led by Central Council members Lauren Piligian and Danielle Malconian. Working in three groups, participants brainstormed ways to tackle obstacles that many ACYOA chapters face, including fundraising, building membership, and bridging the gap between the ACYOA Juniors and Seniors.
Later that day, Central Council members led a Bible Study from the Book of Romans, stressing the importance of recognizing both one’s own talents and the talents of others.
Lorie Odabashian and Kathryn Ashbahian of the Diocese’s Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries revisited an exercise first introduced at the ACYOA Leadership Conference last year. Participants were prompted to discuss scenarios in one group comprised of similar personality types and in a second group comprised of different personality types to see how they would approach a given situation. The session helped them gain a better understanding of themselves and others, and sparked ideas on teamwork and collaboration.
Chelsea Kress and Nora Knadjian led a service project where ACYOA members made Valentine cards for the residents of the Armenian and Nursing Rehabilitation Center in Emerson, NJ. Central Council members Mallory Maslar and Daniel Zalinov led participants in a discussion of strategies to help build their ACYOA chapters.
The last session of the day involved goal setting. Participants were split into groups based on their geographic region to discuss the events they organized throughout the year based on the “Circles of the Cross” and to come up with ideas for new activities. The afternoon concluded with a vespers service and closing prayer.
“I thought Chapter Workshop was a fulfilling experience and I learned a lot that I’m eager to implement in my chapter,” said Laura Dosch of St. Leon Church in Fair Lawn, NJ.
On Saturday evening, the participants gathered for dinner with parishioners at St. Kevork Church and enjoyed a comedy show featuring Armenian comedian Antic Margarian.
On Sunday, the group participated in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Kevork Church before heading back to their home parishes. Fr. Hakobyan offered a special blessing for the young adults and prayed that they remain faithful to the mission of the ACYOA.
“I enjoyed meeting ACYOA Seniors from across the Diocese and reconnecting with friends from nearby parishes,” said Christopher Artun of the Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside, NY. “The workshop was very helpful in empowering our chapter with the tools to continue flourishing. And as always, we can’t wait for next year’s workshop!