The Deacons’ Training Program in practice at Holy Martyrs Church in Bayside, NY

Deacons Train for Lifetime of Devotion to Church


By Taylor Manookian Gregory

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

ARMONK, N.Y. — Every summer, the St. Nersess Seminary hosts young men from any of the churches within the Eastern and Western Dioceses of the Armenian Church of America, and the Armenian Diocese of Canada. This year, 24 young members from these different churches gathered in this small town north of New York City to delve deeper into the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church, or as it’s called in Armenian, the Badarak. This annual conference, which took place this year June 23 to July 2, is called the Deacons’ Training Program.

This conference is geared towards Armenian youth who are already serving on the altar at their home parish and would like to take the next step in their service. During the day, the program focuses on classes about the Armenian language and the Badarak, and how the language pertains to the Badarak specifically. At night, guest lecturers come to speak on topics such as the church’s impact on the current situation in Artsakh, the role of the church in everyday life, and the role of these future deacons within the church.

Eighteen-year-old Hovsep Seferian was one of the acolytes training this summer. Seferian had taken an interest in St. Nersess because of his lifetime of service at the altar at his own church parish in Washington, DC.

“I’ve been serving on the altar for 13 years,” Seferian said, “I started when I was 5.” He became inspired within recent years to ascend higher in the ranks of his home parish because he realized that the altar is going to eventually need new people to serve once the current generation is no longer able to contribute. “Like everything else, the church eventually has to undertake a changing of the guard,” Seferian said about his readiness to be a part of the next generation of deacons.

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“I was incredibly inspired by a lot of the deacons at my church. I go to St. Mary’s Armenian church in Washington, DC, so people like Deacon Vartkes Keshishian and Deacon Mark Krikorian have been really large figures in my growing up in the church and my growing up as an Armenian,” Seferian cites as further reasons why he is pursuing deaconhood. He was inspired to want to follow in their footsteps to become a leader in the church and says that “St Nersess gives you the opportunity to do that both from a religious perspective, but also being a leader in the community as well.”

Primate of the Eastern Diocese of America V. Rev. Mesrop Parsamyan came to visit the Deacons’ Training participates and Hovsep Seferian shaking his hand

Seferian has already decided the direction of his involvement within the Armenian church: he aims to be serving as a deacon for the rest of his life. He briefly considered priesthood, but ultimately decided that being a deacon is the highest rank he will achieve. Despite this, Seferian points out that if he did wish to ascend to priesthood, St. Nersess has all the resources available to help him reach this level.

“The beauty of St. Nersess and their programs is that if you want that, then you can get it,” he said. “St. Nersess makes any level of the Armenian church accessible to anybody who is willing to put in the effort, the time, and the dedication to the Lord and the church.”

Seferian has found that through these connections made at St Nersess and at his home parish, other avenues in which to explore his culture have presented themselves to him. Not only has the church and St. Nersess introduced him to the language and the Divine Liturgy, but also to the food, dancing, music, people, activism involved in spreading awareness about current Armenian events, and general culture.

Morning Service lead by visiting priest Der Vart Gyozalyan

“The Armenian church has, in a large way, been the most important part of my life,” Seferian said. “It has given me access to the Lord and also it has helped open a door for me to explore the other most important parts of my life which are the other parts of the Armenian culture.”

For more information on the Deacons’ Training Program, visit the St Nersess website at




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