St. Nersess Deacons' Training Program Sharpens Skills, Inspires Hearts, Fosters Friendships
For the 47th consecutive year, the Seminary has sponsored its annual Deacons' Training Program, which has not only prepared hundreds of devoted servants of the church, but also was a key inspiration for dozens of the Seminary's alumni who today serve as priests in the Armenian Dioceses of North America.
The week's intensive program focused on morning workshops, where the students were drilled in the practical skills of the deacon: correctly chanting the words and melodies of the deacons' litanies of the Divine Liturgy, using the poorvar to offer incense, learning the censing patterns for the Divine Liturgy and other services; vesting the priest; and more. Experienced altar servers who were already familiar with the chants and rituals of the Badarak learned the deacons' parts and the hymns of the Armenian Church's rich funeral services.
"It was a great week: I learned the funeral service, improved my Armenian and learned more about my faith in God," said 15-year old Yeghia Keleshian of Plano, TX, who returned for his second year. Thirteen-year old Arras Korogluyan of Highland Park, IL, agreed. "This was a unique learning experience. The teachers teach with love, passing down to us what they know. Everyone receives individual attention."
Maestro Khoren Meikhanedjian, Director of Music Ministry for the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church, worked with the advanced students. Other instructors included Rev. Fr. Daniel Karadjian, and Deacon Sarkis Altunian (St. Sarkis, Dallas, TX). Deacon Sarkis was present for his twelfth consecutive Deacons' Training Program. Hagop Klachian (St. Sarkis, Dallas, TX) and Deacon Haik Tigranyan (Glendale, CA) served as counselors.
To see Maestro Khoren working with the deacons, CLICK HERE. To see Fr. Daniel Karadjian coaching students in the chants of the Divine Liturgy CLICK HERE.
The evening hours were dedicated to learning the deeper meaning of the deacons' service. Dr. Thomas Samuelian, Emeritus Professor of Armenian Language and Director ofArak-29, a charitable educational institution headquartered in Armenia, introduced the participants to the ever-growing variety of interactive resources available via the internet for those who would like to learn the Armenian language (both Modern and Classical), the fundamentals of the Armenian Church's history and doctrines, and the meaning of the Divine Liturgy and other services of the church.
V. Rev. Fr. Vahan Hovhanessian, Pastor of the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs (Bayside, NY), a St. Nersess alumnus and expert in Biblical Studies, led a discussion on the role, qualifications, and responsibilities of the deacon according to the Bible.
His Eminence Abp. Khajag Barsamian spent an evening at the Seminary with the young altar servers sharing insights and anecdotes from his own life of church service.
Professor Sergio LaPorta, Visiting Professor of Armenian Studies at the Seminary and newly-appointed Associate Professor at Fresno State University, gave a lecture and slide presentation on the history of Armenians in the Holy Land.
A special series of Bible Studies, prepared by V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Dean and Director of the Deacons' Training Program, and Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, Director of Youth and Vocations. The series targets some of the challenges to Christian faith that young people face, and the Bible's advice for combatting them. The students discussed the Bible's answers to: Stress, Anxiety and Pressure, Fear, Guilt, Doubt, Temptation, and Desires of the Flesh.
An hour each day was devoted to reading Armenian. Students who did not know the Armenian alphabet used interactive Discover Armenian software to learn the letters and begin reading simple texts. Those who already knew the alphabet worked closely with instructors to improve their fluency and pronunciation. Fluent Armenian readers took part in a special introduction to Church Armenian, which introduced them to elements of Classical Armenian grammar and vocabulary. The course was designed by the St. Nersess faculty specifically for the Deacons' Training Program.
On Sunday, June 29, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Vartavar), the staff and participants traveled two hours by bus to Elberon, New Jersey, where they participated in the Morning Service and festal Divine Liturgy at St. Stepanos Armenian Church. They were warmly received by the Pastor, V. Rev. Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian, as well as the parish council and faithful, who prepared lunch for the group.
"This entire experience has been a very powerful one for me," said Vartan Shatarevyan of Van Nuys, CA. "The instruction and the all the participants inspired me to invest more time into the liturgical life of the church and to live it out as best I can."
Deacon Haik Tigranyan of Glendale, California, who served as a staff member, observed, "I am glad that I was able to help these young men with the knowledge I have about the Divine Liturgy. It is great to see so many young kids interested in becoming deacons." Deacon Haik will begin his studies for the priesthood at St. Nersess this Fall, preparing for ministry in the Western Diocese.
To see scenes from the 2008 Deacons' Training Program see the photo gallery.