Lay ministry a focus of ACYOA lenten retreat

Published: Monday April 09, 2012

Retreat participants at Holy Martyrs Church in Bayside, N.Y.

Close to 30 young adults gathered for a Lenten retreat sponsored by the ACYOA Central Council at Holy Martyrs Church of Bayside, N.Y.

The March 3 gathering focused on understanding lay ministry, and participants explored this topic through Bible study, discussion, and reflection. In addition to young adults from local parishes of the Eastern Diocese, the program drew young representatives from the Coptic Orthodox Church, who were led by their pastor, the Rev. Fr. Michael Sorial of St. Mary and St. Antonios Church of Ridgewood, N.Y.

ACYOA executive secretary Nancy Basmajian started the day's sessions by defining lay ministry as a call from God to use one's individual talents in the service of others. In a session titled "Follow Me," participants read passages from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and discussed how they respond to Christ's call to follow him and the obstacles they face in their spiritual journeys.

The Rev. Fr. Bedros Kadehjian, interim pastor at Holy Martyrs Church, led a session titled "Who Am I and What Am I Here For?" Fr. Kadehjian stressed that life is a gift from God, and reminded the young people that they are called to share God's love with others. Participants also discussed their personal relationship with God, and brainstormed ways they could strengthen that bond.

"The importance of exposing young people to lay ministry is to help them understand that we must live out our faith," Fr. Kadehjian said. "This means incorporating the teachings of Christ into all aspects of our lives."

Later in the afternoon, Elise Antreassian, the Diocese's Christian Education coordinator, elaborated on this concept in a session on "What are the Habits of a Disciple?" She spoke about the importance of discipline in daily life, and went on to outline four "habits" that place you on the path to discipleship: reading the Bible, prayer and worship, service, and fellowship through the church.

In a session titled "Why the Church?" Nancy Basmajian explained that the church represents the body of Christ. Participants then read about early Christian communities and spoke about how the work of those communities inspires the ACYOA's mission of worship, education, fellowship, service, and witness.

Olivia Derderian, ACYOA Central Council program coordinator, concluded the afternoon by encouraging participants to identify which gifts they possess and to think about ways they might use these gifts to help others. Fr. Kadehjian led a Vespers service in the sanctuary at the close of the program.

"It is important to me during Lent to focus on and improve my relationship with God," said ACYOA Central Council member Adrienne Ashbahian. "The fact that this retreat allowed me to draw strength from my fellow Christians during this season is the ultimate joy."

Other participants added that the opportunity to bond with youth from the Coptic Church was beneficial.

"It's a great opportunity and a blessing for sister churches to unite in service and share the Word of God," said Morcos Hanna of the Coptic Church.

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