Northeast American Diocese MMVS Virtual Retreat 2020

The women’s ministry of the Northeast American Diocese, the Marth Mariam Vanitha Samajam, has its first-ever virtual retreat on Saturday, June 20, 2020.  Close to 1,000 people registered for this retreat which began at 9:15AM.  Participants gathered together meditating on the music videos created by the Rockland and Upstate NY region, DC, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina region and Philadelphia region. The presentations were very meaningful with beautiful hymns.

The retreat formally began Third Hour prayer led by our Metropolitan, His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, and our MMVS Vice President, Reverend Father Eby Paulose.  A silent prayer was offered for all those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and their loved ones.

The Virtual Retreat Coordinator Mrs. Shobha Jacob introduced the retreat to the participants. She talked about how we had planned to hold the retreat at our Holy Transfiguration Retreat Center, but plans had to be abandoned due to the pandemic. In a lockdown situation, people are yearning for spiritual comfort more than ever and that prompted MMVS officials to look into conducting a virtual retreat. She introduced Mrs. Sarah Varghese, the General Secretary of MMVS who in turn welcomed the Diocesan Metropolitan, His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, the Vice President, Reverend Father Eby Paulose, keynote speaker, Reverend Father V. M. Shibu, participating clergy, the executive committee of MMVS, members of the technical team and the participants.  Following this, Mrs. Shiny Kalathil from Canada region read Psalm 84.

Thirumeni in his presidential address told us that the pandemic has changed life altogether and how we view life. In the past electronics were shunned in churches and other places, but now they have become the medium for communication. Previously we were reprimanded if we did not attend church, now we might even be punished for going to church! So, life has changed! This virtual retreat is a good example of that. His Grace emphasized the meaning of our theme verse, taken from St. Matthew 17: 20.  We have to use our faith wisely. We will face difficulties in our lives, we cannot hide from those. God allows problems that are like mountains in our lives, they are there for a reason. Our responsibility is to find the answers. If we have faith in God, He will allow us to overcome these difficulties. The pandemic is the current mountain we are facing but we will overcome this with faith in God. Thirumeni in his concluding remarks expressed his happiness with the virtual conference and congratulated Eby Achen, MMVS executive team and the technical team for bringing it all together.

Music video made by New Jersey and Staten Island was played after Thirumeni’s speech which was amazing.  The keynote speaker Reverend Father V. M. Shibu addressed the participants after this. Achen expounded on the theme verse and the context in which our Lord said this to the disciples. A boy afflicted with epilepsy was brought to the disciples, but they were not able to heal him. The boy was healed by Jesus when presented to Him. Jesus told the disciples that their little faith was the reason why they could not heal him. Nothing is impossible for God. This is a pertinent point for us also. We may claim to have faith but when we are faced with even minor problems, we may get frustrated.

The Coronavirus has posed a big challenge globally. One way or another this small virus has affected all of us. This is the big problem we are facing at present. How do we overcome the challenges in our lives which are our mountains? We have to depend on the holy Bible and our prayer books to find the solution to these problems. Achen mentioned the prayers used during the house blessing and advised people to get houses blessed after the pandemic.

The three things that helped Israel to overcome the plagues they faced were Prayers of Moses, Incense of Aaron and Sword of Phinehas.

Prayer of Moses: Moses was a prayerful man and his prayers are recorded all over Old Testament. There are two important points associated with his prayers. 1) He prayed with outstretched hands and he held a staff in his hand. Prayer with outstretched hands is an intercessory prayer. Moses had his staff with him all the time through which God performed many miracles to help the Israelites. Achen said Lord’s Prayer has eight parts and if we pray this prayer with a contrite heart and faith in God, we will be able to overcome all our struggles. He also said women are equipped with the gift of prayer and gift of nurturing and therefore just like Moses we should use those.

Incense of Aaron: Numbers 16:46-48. Many of our prayers mention the incense of Aaron. Two important facts associated with Aaron’s incense is fragrance and its ability for the atonement of sin. Achen reminded us of the stories of Parumala Thirumeni and Pampady Thirumeni going to places afflicted with plagues carrying censors and bringing relief to the people. The two assets given to the women in this context are beauty and tears. The fragrance we have is from the Myron we received at baptism and we have to emit that fragrance with our lives. Our tears should be tears of repentance and not emotional. We should not be praying to dry our eyes but we should be praying with tears of repentance to receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Sword of Phinehas: Phinehas is the grandson of Aaron. He used his sword against idol worship and immorality that was rampant among Israelites and God put an end to the plague that was sent to punish the people. Deep faith and strong moral values are the two assets women are endowed with in this aspect. We should maintain these assets for the good of others. For example, we can use our tongue to slander others but instead we should use it to bless others and to pray for them. In this time of calamity, we should use it to bring prayer and hope to many.

The assets mentioned in New Testament are: Faith (Hebrews11), Hope (Romans 8) and Love (1 Cori13). Love binds Hope and faith together. God has provided us with these tools for our survival in this world.

In conclusion Achen reminded us not to think about the past, but live in the present. “What you have, live with that, where you are planted, blossom there”. Everyone has something given to them; use that. He used the story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the tree where the tree was cut down, but the stump was left behind. After 7 years the king was restored to his kingdom. He advised us to prevent forming mountains in our lives and to use the special assets given to each one of us. Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.

Achen’s speech was followed by the beautiful music video from Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island region. Subsequent to this two of our members shared their powerful reflection on their fight against COVID-19 and how they overcame it with their faith in God and family support. Canada region presented their music video following the reflections and was excellent.

Mrs. Shobha Jacob introduced Mrs. Lizy Philip treasurer of MMVS. Her video presentation showed the financial sources of MMVS which are raffles, subscription and contribution for local charities. The slides also showed activities of MMVS for the year 2019 including the three-day retreat, annual conference, raffle draw with its prize distribution, quiz competition, and the winners. This was followed by a slide show presentation of Leadership Training Program. Mrs. Shobha Jacob introduced Mrs. Mary Ennacheril who was the coordinator for this program. This slide presentation showed the history of LTP from its inception in 2009 to 2019, the presidents Late Lamented His Grace. Mathews Mar Barnabas and current metropolitan His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, the first coordinator Mrs. Saroja Varghese, all the vice presidents of MMVS, the members of the faculty, and the total number of registrants (483) and graduates (175 Level 3).

Right after this Dr. Ammu Paulose, coordinator for charitable activities introduced the slide show presentation of the seven regions. The slides showcased the activities of the regions which included parish visits, local conferences, attendance at different MMVS events, and charitable activities.

A slide show presentation was followed by an excellent music video presentation of Psalm 91 done by Bronx, Westchester, Connecticut, and Boston region.

Vote of thanks was done by Reverend Father Eby Paulose who thanked Thirumeni for his continued support, keynote speaker Reverend Father V. M. Shibu for an excellent presentation of the theme, all the clergy who attended, all the Kochammas, retreat coordinator Mrs. Shobha Jacob for her untiring dedication and hard work, MMVS executive committee members for all their input and dedication, the participants without whom this retreat could not have taken place, and last but not the least the technical team. Their hard-working and highly motivated members who all are members of St. Mary’s Church, Boston. The team consisted of Preetha Kingsview, Deepa Kunnathu, Sara Thomas, Sonia Sailseh, Jesha John, Nidhi Nitin, Bindhu Thomas, Sebe Kingsview, Jeesmon Jacob. A photo session followed this. Noon prayer ensued and the retreat was dismissed with a benediction by Thirumeni.