Youth And Our Church

By Pattyl Aposhian

My hand trembles as I open the rusted mailbox outside my house. This tin box contains my future. Quickly–I begin making promises to myself–be it attending Sunday mass–volunteering as a mentor for the local church youth group–or even a task as simple as lighting a candle? all in return for a letter of admission. At that moment–I think of everything and anything to deepen my faith and truly seek God before I read the letter that will change my life.

As I tear open the envelope–a smile lights up my face when I read the official letter of acceptance. Instantaneously–I forget the small promises made seconds ago and go about my life as I had before–without doing anything differently.

It’s either the best of times or the worst of times. Teenagers today have come to view faith and the church as an escape from reality or a forum for social happiness. We turn to the church during the birth of a child or the marriage of a friend or loved one. We turn to the church when we have scored a 170 on our LSAT’s and received an acceptance letter from Harvard Law School. We turn to the church when our lives are moving in the right direction and we know–without question–that our faith and belief in God had something to do with it.

On the other hand–we turn to our church and clergymen to ask "why?" Why didn’t I get accepted to Business School? Why did the police officer stop me for speeding and slap me with a DUI? Why are my friends allowed to break curfew and I’m not? Why has life thrown me a curve ball?

Seem too simple? Today’s youth questions faith on different levels. An older individual reading this article may view hardship and its link to faith differently than a teenager. A teenager may turn to faith because of problems such as peer pressure–materialism–beauty–and perhaps even a need for acceptance–in other words–subject matters that adults "just don’t understand."

Times have changed. Generations before us viewed church differently than we do today. Attending church every Sunday was not an option for our parents or grandparents. Going to the wedding reception and "skipping" the church ceremony was unthinkable.

Now–it has become a matter of choice. The "cool" way to attend church is to hang out in the quad or parking lot twice a year–Easter and Christmas–as you use the opportunity to wear your Sunday best and socialize with friends. Some of us make a small effort and go into the church to light a candle. We spot a place to sit between two elderly women and think otherwise. We stand near the door for two minutes–observing the sea of salt and pepper hair only to realize that the average age of attendees is double ours. We walk away thinking this sermon really isn’t for us anyways.

Reality is–the younger generation just doesn’t understand–seeking faith is not something that takes place on our clock. Attending church should not be associated with social gatherings or harrowing times. Our faith should surround us every day and be blind to time schedules–daily occurrences–and our own personal lives.

Armenian youth are an integral part of the Armenian culture and our faith is an important determining factor in our choice of values. The Western Prelacy of Armenian Churches has committed to taking the youth deeper into the Bible–prayer–and mentoring programs so that Generation X and Y will be grounded to our faith. By witnessing the need for special programs for youth–the Church has responded to the needs of the Armenian community by setting up youth groups and youth services. With every passing day–youth programs are growing stronger and developing along practical lines of life.

We are more fortunate than our counterparts of the 1960s and 1970s. Our personalities seem much more cheerful. We do not drift along with the current. Our behavior is more practical and reasonable. We survive by adaptation–and we seek development through creativity. In other words–the manifestation of our sense of values regarding faith–knowledge–spirituality–work–modernization–marriage–consumerism–and other areas of life–all have a special personality–and reflect trends in society’s development.

If we compare the values of today’s youth with those of an older tradition–we find these values significantly different. We–Generation X and Y–not only emphasize the life of the spirit–but we also pay greater attention to material life and the quality of life. For example–the traditional Armenian attitude towards life is: be content with what you have–be hardworking and thrifty–study hard–and bear your burdens. But today’s youth seek a life of quality and beauty. We have doubts about the traditional value system–and we challenge it. Sometimes–we do not understand why our parents repeatedly emphasize industriousness and hard work. The atmosphere of consumerism prevails–but the Armenian community still emphasizes duty–practicality–steadfastness–and patience. But today’s youth seek novel things. We seek success; we want to travel; we want to enjoy gatherings of family and friends. We also seek a variety of social stimuli. However–we still seek faith and spirituality.

With the changes and developmen’s in modern society taking place so rapidly–everyone is adapting quickly–especially the Western Prelacy. The Church understands the challenge of youth involvement and the influence of democratic ideas–equality–and modern technology. The church sees the change in family life–schools–and society and reflects on how it can play the role of prophet and speak out for justice in society. Furthermore–the Church has taken its commitment to the youth further by adapting to their needs.

Therefore–I ask the Armenian youth? Where are you? Why can’t you log off a couple of hours early and attend church on Sunday? Why can’t you make friends at youth group gatherings rather than flirt with disaster at local bars and coffee houses? In short–why are you not actively involved with the church?

The church has done its share. Now–it’s our turn to prove that the Armenian youth is willing–dedicated–and faithful.


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