Find it, Get it, Keep it

Traffic on the George Washington Bridge heading into Manhattan (Wikimedia Commons)

I don’t mind driving but get impatient when stuck in traffic. New York traffic can be notorious, but I detest traffic caused by road construction. Construction is unavoidable in the New York metro area, with its many bridges and tunnels. Like many people, I have also wondered why those repairs never seem to end. 

On May 11, I had the privilege of attending the New York Homenetmen reunion at our church’s main hall. The organizers kindly invited me to offer the opening prayer and share a brief message with the attendees. I took this opportunity to quote something that one of my professors at the St. John’s University’s counseling program once said to my class when I was a student. The context was career counseling, and the remark was, “Find it, get it, and keep it.” He explained that there are three phases in most careers — you have to find a job and get the job, but the most crucial part is that you have to keep the job. This statement has always resonated with me, as I’ve realized it’s not only applicable to our careers but to most things in life, including our hobbies and skills, relationships and marriages, and our involvement in organizations and institutes.

I recently attended the Eastern Prelacy’s annual National Representative’s Assembly. This assembly is the highest legislative body in our church. During this convention, we examine the vitality of our churches in the Armenian communities of the Eastern United States. I find it inspiring to look back at the history of the Armenian parishes in this country, to which Armenians came over a hundred years ago and made it their priority to build churches, receive spiritual nourishment and maintain their Armenian Christian identity. The birth of every Armenian church resulted from hard work, dedication, sacrifice and deep conviction. A century later, we are still enjoying the fruit of the labor of love of our faithful ancestors. 

If I apply my professor’s philosophy of “find it, get it, and keep it,” I see that our past generations have successfully used the first two steps, and it is our role to apply the third: keep it. I would like to explore the “keep it” notion in the context of our mission through our parishes, using Christ’s Parable of the Talents recorded in the Gospel of St. Matthew (25:14–30). It tells the story of a rich man who gives his property to his servants before traveling. The man gives each servant an amount based on their ability, with five talents to one servant, two talents to another and one talent to the third. The first two servants double their money through trading, while the third hides his money. After a long time, the master returns and settles accounts with the servants. The master is furious with the servant who hid his money, saying, “I gave you an amount of property. I knew you could manage, but you did nothing with it. At least you could have put it in the bank to earn a small amount of interest. Now you will lose your talent to the servant who gained five with that.” The master then takes the servant’s talent and casts him out of his household forever. According to Christ’s teaching, “keeping it” is a proactive way of being, not a passive task. 

When considering our churches and how to maintain their vitality, we must not treat the church as a historical monument to be admired occasionally. The church is a living reality that requires our spiritual, emotional and contemplative investment to remain relevant in our lives. During his pontifical visit last year, His Holiness Aram I underscored the importance of rebuilding our parishes. In his recent audio message addressing the assembly, the Pontiff reiterated four crucial points for our mission’s growth. These points revolve around reorganizing our parishes, redefining the relationships between the pastor, parishioners and sister organizations and building a faith community. Vehapar’s directives require that those in leadership positions find new and effective ways of ministering to the spiritual needs of our parishioners and community members on the one hand and encouraging active participation from parishioners on the other. We must stop the blame game of leadership not doing enough and of parishioners being apathetic. Both parties must engage responsibly in the sacred task of “keeping it” to guarantee our survival and reemergence of our Armenian Christian ethos.  

Whenever I’m stuck in traffic due to construction near the New York bridges or tunnels, I am reminded that these structures, built many years ago, facilitate transportation and connect the metro area. The ongoing functionality of these engineering marvels requires constant maintenance. Similarly, our churches serve as bridges connecting us together and to the divine, guiding us from this life to eternal life. Like bridges and tunnels, our churches also require deliberate maintenance through engagement, reimagination and faithful commitment to keep them vital and compelling. 

I pray that during this season of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit will renew our minds and souls, guiding us to cherish the church as the representation of God’s kingdom on earth.

Keep it.

Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian

Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian

Fr. Nareg is a graduate of the Armenian Theological Seminary of the Great House of Cilicia in Antelias and has an MA in Pastoral Theology and an M.S.Ed in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from St John’s University of New York. He was ordained to the rank of priesthood on 2004. In 2005 he was assigned as the pastor of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Douglaston, NY. Fr. Terterian is married to Yeretsgin Annie and blessed with three children: Hovsep, Laurie and Avedis. Fr. Nareg is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.
Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian

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