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Young stewards learn ecumenism first hand

Iselin, N.J., November 6, 2007 For the first time since the inception of the program, the National Council of Churches USA's (NCC) Young Stewards Program welcomed two stewards from two of its Orthodox member communions.  

They are volunteering at the 2007 General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service (CWS) in suburban New Jersey.

Maria Derderian of the Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church of America and Phoebe Farag of the Coptic Orthodox Church of North America are currently serving as one of 10 young stewards during the General Assembly.  

This year is significant for the Oriental Orthodox member communions as Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, diocesan legate and ecumenical officer, Armenian Orthodox Church of America, will begin his two year term as the president of the NCC.

Derderian currently works at the Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church. She graduated with a Master of Arts from a joint program of St. Nersess Armenian Theological Seminary and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y.  She grew up in Philadelphia and lives in New York City.

Phoebe Farag represents the Coptic Orthodox Church in the NCC's Justice for Women Working Group.  She is originally from New York and now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. area where she serves youth and young adults at St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church.  She is also an advisor to the church's Mission Life Center.  Farag is the training and evaluation coordinator for Amnesty International USA.

Also serving as stewards are Jared Carson and Laura Strietelmeier of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; DeMay Grunden, Gena Anderson, and Kevin Nelson of the United Methodist Church; Omar Dykes of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, John Frame of the Church of God (Anderson), and Jonathan Hall of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Carson and Grunden are Senior Stewards having served at last year's General Assembly in Orlando, Florida.

For five consecutive years, the Young Stewards Program has brought 10-12 young adults to the NCC/CWS General Assembly to participate by carrying out assignments at the General Assembly while observing the ecumenical work of the delegates attending the conference.

The program is an opportunity for young adults interested in the ecumenical movement to network, learn about different communions, worship in an ecumenical setting, interact with national church leaders, and become more involved in ecumenism.  The Rev. Garland Pierce, (left) the NCC's Associate General Secretary for Education and Leadership Ministries, leads the program every year.

Stewards participate in a young adult pre-assembly and then carry out various support roles throughout the General Assembly, the governing body of the NCC and CWS.  Stewards are able to observe ecumenical
proceedings, interact with delegates from the member communions, and participate in some General Assembly activities.  In the mornings and evenings they meet for devotion and debriefings.

The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches.  These NCC member communions have 45 million
faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

Church World Service is the relief, development, and refugee assistance agency of these same communions, working in 80 countries around the world to eradicate hunger and poverty and promote peace and justice.

Pictures by Kathleen Cameron

General Assembly on site contacts:  Ann Walle, Church World Service; Wesley 'Pat' Pattillo, National Council of Churches USA.

CWS News contact:  Lesley Crosson, 212.870.2676, 

NCC News contact:  Philip Jenks, 212.870.2228,  or Dan Webster, 212.870.2252,


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