I didn’t mean to be mysterious about this; it’s just that I’ve been going at this Youth Ministry Center for the last six years without a break. And those six years can’t be categorized as “business as usual” because there was no concept of the “usual.” We began the Youth Ministry Center as a satellite of the Diocesan Youth Ministries’ Department and we’ve been developing it ever since. During the first few years, summer “vacations” meant organizing and running the camp programs for 500 to 600 campers and staff members. Later, the Youth Ministry was also given a parish to minister to the local immigrant community in one of the largest Armenian centers in the world. Simultaneously with the parish we’ve successfully continued quality programming geared at a new generation of believers in the Armenian orthodox message. And so – there’s really never been a time to break and catch a breath since 2003.
In April of this year, immediately after Easter, I informed the parish council at the church that we needed to move forward in new directions that would be challenging as well as meaningful. By the Grace of God, it is apparent that we’ve outgrown the facilities. Later that same month, I expressed the same concerns to the archbishop. The church at the corner of Stocker & Kennilworth, will always have a life as a neighborhood parish, but so many of our projects are crying out for space and room beyond what we can find in the immediate area. Furthermore, our electronic ministry – www.epostle.net – has grown beyond our wildest expectations, and we are now ready for the “next step” for the “Next Step.” We’re in negotiation with an European media firm as well as with an Internet consortium about expansion into video casts on European television as a full blown-out Orthodox ministry on the world stage.
Because we never abandoned our original charter as a Youth Ministries Center, we developed and implemented many activities and events which were conducted under the “In His Shoes” banner. From inner city conferences on violence, to seminars on forgiveness; from art projects on canvas, to breathing-art across the desert; from motivational weekends on Martin Luther King Jr., to weekly broadcasts about Armenian Orthodoxy; from local outreaches to the homeless, to massive fundraisers for the hungry in Africa, we set a standard and a pace for ourselves and hopefully a model of function for others.
Bottom line: we experienced growth at a very fast rate. Many of our projects need further development and there just is not enough hours in a day to dedicate to the growth process. So I asked for and received a “sabbatical” – a period of time away from the daily grind of the parish to contemplate and build these projects that are so vital to the welfare and growth of the Armenian Church.
I’m half way through this self-imposed exile and so much has been going on. I’ve been sharing most of it with you on the Next Step and of course Sundays through my sermons at the Divine Liturgy. (Yes, I’m there on Sunday mornings – after all, I have to worship someplace.) Meanwhile, I have a great team that has been holding down the fort during the week, and some fantastic/energetic priests who’ve been covering for me with the sacraments and counseling issues. Our website InHisShoes.org has links to all the places where you can find us.
Looking ahead and looking up. I will write more frequently now that things are falling into place. I just wanted a place to point people to – to this statement – so that there’s no confusion about the nature or purpose of this time away.