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“Walk Thru The Old Testament” Held in Philadelphia Region

On Saturday, March 9, over 100 people gathered at Holy Trinity Church of Cheltenham, Pa., to do something they never imagined they would ever do—they mimed, spoke, gestured, laughed, and prayed their way through the entire Old Testament in a mere six hours.

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: publicrelations@armeniandiocese.org
Website: www.armenianchurch-ed.net
March 19, 2013
“Walk Thru The Old Testament”  Held in Philadelphia Region
On Saturday, March 9, over 100 people gathered at Holy Trinity Church of Cheltenham, Pa., to do something they never imagined they would ever do—they mimed, spoke, gestured, laughed, and prayed their way through the entire Old Testament in a mere six hours.
“Walk Thru the Old Testament” was sponsored by the Diocesan Department of Youth and Education in generous partnership with the two Philadelphia parishes of Holy Trinity and St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Church of Wynnewood. Jeanette Der Hagopian, vice chair of the Holy Trinity parish council and passionate advocate of adult Christian education, was chiefly responsible for advocating sponsorship and hosting of the event, which the Holy Trinity pastor, parish council, and community then embraced whole-heartedly (with many generous individuals coming forward to defray the costs of the Lenten breakfast and lunch).
This Walk Thru is the third sponsored by the Diocese in different regions, an effort to infuse parishioners of all ages with the infectious joy that comes from knowing Scripture and growing closer to Christ. Upcoming Walk Thru events will focus on the New Testament.
If the success of a program can be marked by early arrivals (especially in an “Armenian time” environment), then this one was clearly off to a great start as participants arrived in huge numbers even before registration time. They were checked in, handed their name tags and textbooks, and guided to a breakfast buffet. In the same spirit, Cheltenham pastor the Rev. Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan warmly welcomed the audience and the day began.
The day’s instructor was Roger Petersen, a professor at Cairn University in Langhorne, Pa., for over thirty years and an instructor for the Walk Thru the Bible organization for 35 (Walk Thru the Bible is an international organization employing thousands of instructors throughout the world, including Armenia). With advanced degrees in education and Biblical/narrative studies and decades of ministry experience as a preacher and teacher, Petersen had many in the audience nodding nostalgically when he related that his earliest memories of the Old Testament were flannelgraph stories in Sunday School.
From the moment Petersen took the stage, the audience was mesmerized. Between brief explanations of content, he led participants through gestures and mnemonic techniques to help them learn and remember the Old Testament story, from Creation through the prophetic voices that preceded the coming of Christ. He called on a host of talents, assuming different voices, even masterfully employing ventriloquism (his storytelling has been featured on a CD of Hans Christian Andersen’s Christian-themed tales).
It was a wondrous exercise in imagination: at one point he had everyone picture themselves as standing on a map of the ancient Near East and locate the great cities, rivers, and seas of Bible times (youngest participant Peter Ohnigian, an 8th grade Sunday School student at Holy Trinity, was designated the city of Ur).
By day’s end, he had participants almost eager for another chance to go through the story themselves from the beginning. “We never thought it would be possible to learn so much in such a short time in such an interesting way!’ observed Larry and Kim Der Hagopian.
Petersen would frequently pause in prayerful reflection and apply biblical lessons to people’s daily lives. As a result, many people later cited a desire to grow more trusting, more loyal, more faithful, and more loving in their relationship with Jesus Christ, as well as extend those goals into all their relationships from friendships to marriages.
Among other inspiring moments was the final exercise when the entire audience of over 100 faced each other in two groups and in responsorial style read verses from Genesis and then Revelation; people were stunned to see the parallels and how all was promised fulfillment in time “when  death and sorrow would be no more and we would once again see the Lord’s face ” (Rev 21:4; 22:4).
“This Walk Thru on the Bible was a great step in the right direction for the Armenian Church—bringing Scripture to life for us all to experience,” shared Diana Lulejian, a vibrant young adult, eager to see a New Testament seminar.
The seminar drew the support and participation of a truly ecumenical group: parishioners from five Armenian congregations, visitors from the area who heard of the program from the Walk Thru website, parish council chairs and members, Sunday School staffers, and pastors from the region: Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan, Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian of St. Sahag and St. Mesrob, Rev. Fr. Nerses Manoogian of St. Gregory Armenian Church, and the Rev. Nishan Bakalian of the Armenian Martyrs Congregational Church (Fr. Mikael Bassale of St. Mark’s Armenian Catholic Church was unable to attend).
The enthusiasm of the audience and their glowing evaluations and pledges of spiritual commitment at day’s end affirmed the DYE vision of Christian education as a never-ending, life-long process. As he bid farewell to the last person departing after a long joyful day, Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan cheerfully declared: “Now when do we schedule a Walk Thru of the New Testament!?”—sentiments echoed by many participants heading home “filled with the Spirit.”
Photos attached.
Photo 1: Roger Petersen leads program participants on a journey through the Old Testament story.
Photo 2: Participants pose for a group photo at Holy Trinity Church.

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