The ever-popular "St. Nersess traveling mini-conferences" hit the road once again in late February making a visit to the St. Mary Armenian Church in Hollywood, FL. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary Director of Youth and Vocations, traveled to southern Florida to lead a program for youth of that region.
The theme for this particular mini-conference, "Spring Break or Spring Broke," allowed participants to recognize the broken elements in their lives and to find healthy ways to put the pieces back together again through a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Armenian Church.
The day began with each participant drawing colorful pictures depicting their own lives on ceramic tiles. It was a creative group as many beautiful tiles covered the tables and each participant explained the meaning of his or her drawings. The tiles were kept in front of each participant as Fr. Stepanos spoke about the progression of God's creation of mankind, humanity's perfect union with God in paradise, the fall of mankind, leading to the concept of sin and the need for reconciliation.
Before the group shared a light lunch and enjoyed more fellowship, the participants were shocked to learn that the gorgeous tiles they created were now going to be broken into smaller pieces.
Following lunch and a break, Diocesan Council member James Kalustian, who is also an alumnus of the St. Nersess Summer Conferences, addressed the group and encouraged the participants to grow in their faith and continue serving in their respective churches. Later he shared, "I was very impressed with how comfortable the participants were witnessing their faith. It is not always easy for young adults and teens to do."
Kalustian continued by pointing out that one participant in particular, Stan Sheridan from St. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church (Racine, WI), was very impressive in this light, as he openly shared a story of his personal journey of faith with the group. "I was also very pleased to see families participating together. There were at least two fathers and sons there together. It is so important that families grow up in the church together. Seeing parents and children sharing their faith in an open and personal way was very moving."
The Rev. Fr. Vartan Joulfayan, Pastor of St. Mary Armenian Church (Hollywood, Fl) and a St. Nersess Seminary alumnus, led a passionate, spirit-driven, Bible Study focusing on the strength of the Holy Spirit. He stated that human beings need to go through a process of fire to be renewed and restored and made whole once again just as in the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples and the church.
Stan Sheridan, who is a participant and staff member of the St. Nersess summer conferences, and currently a sophomore at Marquette University noted, "It was a joy to see that the participants of the conference were very serious in serving the church and that they were not only physical members of the church, but spiritual ones." Stan added, "I'm glad that I was able to talk to some of the younger kids and share my own experiences to hopefully influence them in a way that they will want to attend the St. Nersess Summer Conferences, become more involved with the church, and hopefully encourage the few that were thinking of the priesthood. I think that having that passion at such a young age is a very good thing and it is only the start of their flame and I just hope that I was able to add a little bit more fuel to their fire and to hopefully keep that fiery passion burning inside them."
Reflecting on the overall success of the conference, Fr. Doudoukjian said, "The St. Nersess mini conference gave a diverse group of people in southern Florida the opportunity to realize that as human beings we are broken and that through a relationship with Jesus Christ and the Armenian Church we are given the opportunity to become whole. This is one of the goals that the Armenian Church strives to achieve."
Fr. Joulfayan, along with the Very Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian, Pastor of St. David Armenian Church (Boca Raton, FL), and also a St. Nersess Seminary alumnus, assisted with the overall success of the weekend. A special thank you to Fr. Vartan and his parishioners for opening the doors of the church for the daylong conference and providing warm, inviting hospitality.
An optimistic and hope-filled outlook for the Armenian church was prevalent throughout the weekend's activities and was reflected in James Kalustian's summary and review of the conference as he stated, "If we are able to offer these types of programs several times a year, I am confident we will be planting seeds in a lot of fertile soil and with patience, St. Nersess and ultimately the Armenian Church in America will be reaping a rich harvest down the road." Fr. Doudoukjian and the seminary staff have traveled to various parts of the Eastern Diocese in the past two years to conduct these "mini-conferences." To find out more or to help organize a St. Nersess day program in your parish, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.