By Arsen Yelegen
FLArmenians Guest Contributor
From January 19 to 21, 47 young adults from 18 parishes across the Eastern Diocese gathered at St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, FL for the annual ACYOA Seniors Chapter Workshop. Organized by the ACYOA Central Council, the weekend’s theme was “Stewardship: Time, Talent, and Treasure.”
Participants shared their ACYOA experiences and brainstormed how they can utilize their time, talents, and treasures to strengthen their local chapters. The Rev. Fr. Paren Galstyan, pastor of St. David Church, served as the weekend’s chaplain. The Rev. Fr. Vartan Joulfayan, pastor of St. Mary Church in Hollywood, FL was also present for several sessions throughout the weekend.
The workshop began on Friday evening with a welcome by the ACYOA Central Council, and the participants got to know each other through icebreakers and a group activity. The evening concluded with a vespers service led by Fr. Paren.
Saturday began with a team building activity which involved various groups working together to create the tallest freestanding structure using only newspaper and masking tape. Participants were blindfolded, forced to use one hand, had their legs tied together, and had their mouths taped shut to make the activity more difficult. This activity emphasized teamwork and recognizing the special strengths and talents that each participant brings to the table.
Following this activity, Central Council members led a Bible Study from 1 Corinthians which spoke about stewardship and recognizing our individual talents and gifts.
Afterwards, Central Council members gave a presentation of what it means to be a steward and the importance of church dues, time commitment, and mentoring younger ACYOA members. Artak Apyan, from St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, FL, gave a presentation about the importance of stewardship and the role it has played in his life in the church.
Participants then split up into groups of two and had 60 seconds each to talk about themselves, followed by another 20 minutes to get better acquainted with each other. At the end of the session, participants were asked to describe what role they think their partner would be great at in their chapter based on the skills and abilities they shared earlier.
After lunch, ACYOA members made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Boca Helping Hands as part of a service project. Participants also signed a card for Rev. Fr. Shnork Souin, pastor of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church, who is currently in a rehabilitation center and awaiting a heart transplant.
Central Council members discussed the mission of the ACYOA, as well as the Five Circles of the Cross. Participants then split into groups and discussed various strengths and weaknesses they have observed in their local ACYOA chapters and parishes.
“There was a lot to be learned from the other chapters, big or small. Little tips go a long way. I was able to take home ideas I have never thought of and hope to make the coming years a great success,” said Brian Sarafyan of the Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside, NY.
The last session of the day involved goal setting. Participants watched a TED Talk video about how great leaders inspire action, and they were then split into groups based on their Central Council liaisons. Participants identified leadership qualities of members in their own local ACYOA chapters and started planning events their chapters could host.
On Sunday, the group participated in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. David Church before heading back to their home parishes. “This was my first Chapter Workshop so I didn’t know what to expect. I enjoyed the teambuilding activities that helped us learn about ourselves and how we can best serve the Church and the Armenian community,” said Elen Balasanyan of St. Sarkis Church in Charlotte, NC.
“It was great to get insight from peers through reflections and learn new problem-solving techniques that we can use to strengthen our own chapters.”