by Melanie Sarkisian
On Friday, June 10th to Sunday, June 12th, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary held its third annual Young Adults Weekend. This year, four male participants and one female participant gathered at the seminary to share in worship, education, and fellowship with other young Armenian adults.
The young adults came from a variety of locations and professions. Greg Andonian, from St. Gregory of Narek Church in Cleveland, Ohio, has just completed his Master's degree in Accounting from the University of Akron. Mark Bourghol, from Congers, NY and St. Thomas Armenian Church in Tenafly, NJ, is a part-time student at the seminary and a full-time pre-med student at Fordham University in the Bronx. Chris Kesici, from St. Stepanos Church in Elberon, NJ, has recently finished his graduate work in social studies education from Rutgers Graduate School. Melanie Sarkisian, from Tillson, NY and St. Thomas Armenian Church, is a graduate of Cornell University and she is now the Office Manager of the MS Care Center at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases. Saro Tovmasian, from Fort Lee, NJ and St. Thomas Armenian Church, is a graduate of Stevens University. He is an electrical engineer.
The conference was planned, organized, and coordinated by V. Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Dean of the Seminary and Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, newly designated Director of Vocations and Youth for St. Nersess and Pastor of St. Peter's Armenian Church in Watervliet, NY. The participants were blessed with the leadership, insight, and dedication of these two people.
The weekend began on Friday night at St. Vladimir's Seminary, where the participants attended a lecture titled "I confess the Cross Because I Know the Resurrection" by Dr. Vigen Guroian, Professor of Theology and Ethics at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The lecture focused on Orthodox theology and piety related to the cross. It included a lively discussion on Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ. The evening reconvened at St. Nersess where the participants shared stories about their lives and experiences as young Armenians.
Saturday began with a wonderful breakfast prepared by Yn. Mari Karadjian. Everyone participated in Morning Service in the Seminary chapel.
That afternoon Der Stepanos led the participants in a Bible study entitled, "People of Prayer." They looked at various prayers in both the Old and New Testaments, specifically those of Samuel, Jonah, and Mary, and they related these to their own lives as Armenian Christians today.
Der Stepanos also engaged the participants in a conversation about how we feel about unanswered prayers. Everyone contributed experiences of how they pray and manage their own unanswered prayers. It was an educational and enlightening experience for all as they came to the realization that God answers all our prayers, but at times he does not grant our request of our prayers for a reason and that we must trust in his wisdom.
Saturday evening was the highlight of the conference because the participants decided to forego the traditional evening outing. Instead they created their own original menu and prepared a homemade meal together for all to share. It was a beautiful display of teamwork and service to each other and the seminary. Saro was happy to see that "Each of us made our own dish while still working together." And Greg was proud that "the chicken was flavored with Armenian zest."
On Sunday, everyone attended church services at a variety of locations. One of these was St. Mary's Armenian Church in Livingston, NJ where their annual food festival was held. Fr. Daniel was the celebrant and Fr. Stepanos offered a sermon about finding God in suffering.
Fr. Daniel explained that this year's Young Adults' session was different from last year's because it began on Friday, rather than on Thursday, which allowed the young professionals to come after work at the end of the week without having to take time off. Melanie thought that the conference was also different this year because it seemed more casual and informal than typical weekends at St. Nersess. "It was a welcome time to relax and get my mind focused on something other than work and everyday life."
Overall, the weekend was a great success. Chris felt that the conference was beneficial because it reminded him of what it means to be a Christian.
When Mark was reflecting back on the weekend he stated, "This session was not about quantity, but quality. Even though we only had five participants, we really connected with each other like a family." Everyone enjoyed the spirit of worship, fellowship, and service that St. Nersess continually ignites in us and we are already looking forward to next year.