Jointly sponsored by the seminary and the Eastern Diocese's Department of Christian Education, the retreat titled "A Time for Prayer" attracted a roster of 27 enthusiastic participants from NY, NJ, CT, RI, MA, and NH who brought with them a shared love for the Lord as well as many experiences to relate from their own unique faith journeys.
Participants received advanced readings on the topic by contemporary theologians/teachers prior to the retreat so the first order of the day was to discuss these readings in small groups. Then attention was focused on a selection of verses in Scripture that described or depicted prayer, notably by and about Jesus Himself.
After examining these passages, retreat facilitator, Fr. Yeprem Kelegian, seminary Spiritual Director, polled the group for favorite Bible passages or stories. "So often," he noted, "this choice sheds a lot of light on where we are in our relationship with God."
After a lunch prepared by Wilma Petrossian, Manager of Food Services, the day continued with a nurturing introduction to silence in prayer. Participants engaged in a brief period of focused stillness and then dispersed for a session of quiet time, time which, many reported later, was a welcome respite from the "noise" of everyday life. The final retreat session, led by Elise Antreassian, explored resources for creating a disciplined approach to spending time with God and surrendering "me time" to Him. These included a 4-week challenge to incorporate Scripture and prayer time in one's daily schedule, an evening prayer exercise, and a journal to keep notes on daily encounters and experiences.
At day's end, all gathered for worship in the chapel. The service, conducted by Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean, added contemporary litanies and participation to the traditional Armenian "jhamerkootiun" format. Group members wrote their own prayer petitions and placed them in a basket on the altar from which they were drawn and read by Der Hayr. It was a poignant moment as the cares of each member of the group became the prayer of all.
Appraisal of the day was gratifyingly positive: "I was amazed! We came from near and far to sit quietly at His feet, to take in His Word. We felt His love," exclaimed participant Lucy Chagachbanian, NJ. "The retreat was just what was needed - a spiritual spa day," commented Donna Woodard, CT. "What a LOVE FEST! The retreat was a wonderful experience and a much needed and welcome respite. I just couldn't help talking to everyone at church about it," recalled Anoush Givelekian, CT.
More one-day retreats will be offered by the seminary and the Eastern Diocese, both at St. Nersess as well as "on the road". Stay tuned!