St. Nersess Offers In-Person Deacons’ Training Program and High School Summer Conference
Participants were all smiles as they returned to the St. Nersess campus for the Deacons’ Training Program on August 1 – 7 and High School Summer Conference on August 8 – 14.
Co-Directed by Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean, and Dn. Armen Terjimanian, a 2020 seminary graduate, and assisted by Dn. Garen Megrdichian, the Deacons’ Training Program included 16 participants from six parishes in the Eastern Diocese and one from the Western Diocese. Although they arrived with varying levels of altar service experience, the program expanded each attendee’s knowledge and proficiency in altar service during the Divine Liturgy.
The younger altar servers learned how to chant the deacons’ parts and the accompanying movements, while the intermediate and advanced altar servers learned the special services of the Blessing of the Grapes for Assumption, Blessing of the Water for Christmas/Theophany, and Blessing of the Fields for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
During the month of July, prior to the program, the participants attended online video classes to learn the special liturgical hymns that were taught at the conference, namely the Blessing of Grapes Service and the Blessing of Water Service. The online teaching sessions were led by Fr. Mamigon Kiledjian and Fr. Hovhan Khoja-Eynatyan.
Highlights of the conference included a nushkhark-making workshop with Fr. Daniel Karadjian; a detailed lecture on current Armenian affairs including the present-day Artsakh situation/conflict by Fr. Vart Gyozalyan; a presentation on the icon of the Assumption of Mary the Mother of God with Fr. Garabed Kochakian; a biblical history lesson on the roots of the Diaconate by Dn. Alex Calikyan; and a talk on khatchkars, imagery, and the Assumption by Dr. Roberta Ervine.
Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese and President of the St. Nersess Board of Directors, spent an afternoon with the participants and offered a lecture on St. James of Nisibis in the St. Hagop Chapel. Newly ordained Fr. Haroutiun Sabounjian visited for one day to surprise the young altar servers from his parish. Fr. Simeon Odabashian also visited the conference as well.
The participants were able to spend a beautiful sunny afternoon at the Cranberry Lake Preserve, located about 15 minutes away from the seminary, and hike one of its trails. Afterwards, they enjoyed ice cream together. There were also daily bible studies related to the feast day services.
The conference concluded Saturday morning, August 7, with a Blessing of the Grapes service in the St. Hagop Chapel officiated by Fr. Daniel Karadjian, who was assisted by several of the program participants.
After the seminary was cleaned and sanitized for the next group to arrive, the High School Summer Conference commenced the following the day.
Ten High School students representing seven parishes across the Eastern Diocese arrived on August 8, ready to embrace their faith and discuss important topics affecting them and the world. The conference was co-directed by Dn. Armen and Emily Terjimanian. Dn. Garen Megrdichian remained on staff.
Each day, the participants enjoyed a different speaker on important faith topics, including Bishop Daniel who led an informal discussion on the Prayers for Healing book, which he also gifted to each student, and discussed how prayer is important. Fr. Davit Karamyan spoke to them about the conflict on Armenia/Artsakh, and recently ordained Fr. Nigoghos Aznavourian discussed how the Bible calls upon us to help the homeless and poor. The students enjoyed a lecture by Dr. Ervine who spoke on the meaning of the Armenian word Park, and Dn. Yervant Kutchukian led a very interesting meditation on anxiety.
There were daily bible studies prefaced with a short intro video by different Diocesan leaders to spark the discussion. Many thanks to Nancy Basmajian, Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, Fr. Haroutiun and Yn. Lucine Sabounjian, Linda Bullock, Fr. Yeprem Kelegian for their time in creating these videos.
Students also had daily Armenian classes and enjoyed free time in the recreation room playing ping-pong and pool or outside playing volleyball and basketball. We are grateful to seminary benefactor Dean Shahinian for his generous donation to the Recreation Complex.
The high school students took two excursions during the week, one to St. Gregory Armenian Church in White Plains where they listened to Fr. Mesrob Hovsepyan speak about St. Mary in the sanctuary, followed by a pizza lunch and time in the parish’s gym. They also had an afternoon outing at the Kensico Dam Plaza where the participants, along with their co-directors, enjoyed lunch, climbed to the top of the dam to enjoy the views of the Kensico Reservoir and Westchester County, and then had ice cream.
Dn. Armen and Emily led important discussions on the challenges that the participants are facing today, including the pandemic, current events, and why as Christians we need to be proper stewards of our natural environment.
There were tears when the high school students departed and promises that they would return next summer!
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