The Eastern Diocese sent six representatives to the 2020 Orthodox Youth and Camp Workers Conference, hosted by the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America and sponsored by the Orthodox Youth Directors in North America. The conference took place January 23-25, at the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Phoenix, AZ.
The Diocese’s delegation included pastors Fr. Khachatur Kesablyan (Sts. Vartanantz Church, Chelmsford, MA), Fr. Vart Gyozalyan (Hye Pointe Church, Haverhill, MA), and Fr. Tadeos Barseghyan (St. Sahag Church, St. Paul, MN); parish youth worker Lisa Mardigian (St. John Church, Southfield, MI); and Diocesan Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries staffers Kathryn Ashbahian and Jennifer Morris.
The yearly gathering combines professional development opportunities with informative sessions on cultural trends and their impact on Orthodox Christian youth and young adults.
Keynote speakers Fr. Josiah Trenham, Dr. Eugenia Constantinou, Gabriel Otte, and Jonathan Ignatius Green made presentations under titles like “The Bible and the Fathers in Youth Formation,” “Recovering from Failure,” “Youth and Social Media,” and “Resisting Radical Social Agenda.” The conference featured a screening of the documentary film “Social Animals.”
Youth, Faith, and Social Media
The emphasis on the effects of social media on young souls was meaningful to the participants. “Orthodox theology has a lot to offer discussions surrounding technology,” said Kathryn Ashbahian. “It’s crucial to have these conversations about social media so that we can provide our youth with meaningful boundaries that protect their mental and spiritual health.”
For several of the representative, attending the conference is an annual outing that is not only informative but spiritually uplifting; a chance to “gain knowledge and be inspired by fellow Orthodox youth workers,” in the words of Jennifer Morris. “We share stories from the trenches and learn from one another to improve our work.”
“I appreciate spending this time with fellow Diocesan youth leaders and camp directors,” said Lisa Mardigian. “The conference helps us brainstorm for the upcoming camp season.”
As a fruit of the conference, Fr. Tadeos Barseghyan will shortly launch a new program called “iFaith,” to facilitate conversations with the teens of his parish community, utilizing topics discussed at the conference and resources from the Department of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.