The Teen SOYO Advisor

By Robert C. Scarpa

I can remember the date well, July 3rd, 1998. I was sitting in the audience at the Parish Life Conference, Talent Show. It had been a difficult year for me due to the recent passing of my grandfather, a few months prior. Every year, my brothers and I would attend the PLC with my grandparents. On this occasion, my heart was saddened. I found myself reminiscing about wonderful memories, not knowing that my future was about to change in a most profound way at that moment.

Dino Mavropoulos, had just concluded his masterful performance on the violin. As the crowd stood in applause, I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder. I turned around to see Somaya Watkins, with a warm, caring smile on her face. We began a conversation about the youth in the parish and she proceeded to ask me if I had any interest in becoming the next Teen SOYO advisor.

I have always believed that God has always directed my path in life but not until years later would I realize the life changing significance of accepting this request. I nervously said, “Yes.”, not knowing what I was about to get myself into. I have never had any experience dealing with teenagers, on a leadership level, as I was just 22 years old myself. At this time in my life, I was someone who never liked to take any risks. This role was “not in my personality.” I was just beginning graduate school and was anxious on how I was going to divide my time and provide the attention required to be a SOYO advisor.

Over the next 6 years, my life was blessed ten-fold with the experiences that I encountered , by being surrounded with the love of our St. Anthony’s SOYO. Our first event, was a “Lock In” that included 5 teens alongside myself and my brother, Brian.

That night, not knowingly at that time, served as a foundation in which our service ministry would be built upon. Initial, delicate bonds were Continue reading “The Teen SOYO Advisor”

Between the Offices and the Coffee Shop: Walking Down the Hall, Thinking

By Father Joseph Allen, ThD

Director, AHOS

     I’m walking down the hall, past the bookstore, noticing through the glass panel wall so many beautiful items  – icons, incense, book covers, etc.- having just left a meeting in the library of the Antiochian House of Studies (AHOS).  It was a meeting with the staff regarding some of the new and critical theological education programs.  Who will teach what? Where will it fit in our curriculum? Will it be as effective in such a “school without walls?”

father joe

It gets one thinking, gets one pondering: how did all this happen? How did we get to this advanced position of offering the various “tracts” in the AHOS curriculum?

As I walk into the main lobby -offices on one side, coffee shop on the other- I run into a crowd of about 50 students on a break between classes.  There are about 50 other students still meeting in another class at the Ajar Auditorium; they have not reached the point where their “break” begins.  Tonight at Vespers, however, all 100+, along with about 15 faculty members, will stand together in the Chapel: “Let my prayer arise, Oh Lord, in thy sight as incense…”.

It all started 35  years ago.  Thirteen students -thirteen!- made up the first class.  I never thought it would be more than that.  Thirteen. That’s all.  Who else except those few would be interested in Orthodox -or Eastern Christian- Theology, but for various reasons did not -and now could not- attend a seminary?  They had various careers: some were physicians, some CEOs of companies, some educators, some business owners, etc. But there were only thirteen.  They didn’t know each other,  Continue reading “Between the Offices and the Coffee Shop: Walking Down the Hall, Thinking”