On Saturday, September 9, nearly 70 people assembled in the Auditorium at Holy Martyrs Armenian Church to experience a special gathering -- a spiritual retreat based on the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. The Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, a lifelong Springsteen fan, developed the retreat and was its facilitator along with his son Jonah, also a Springsteen fan, who was his assistant.
Attendees traveled from PA, NJ and the local area to engage in discussion and reflect upon the biblical meaning behind some of Springsteen’s songs. Amongst the 15 songs chosen as a "set list" for the retreat were Badlands, The Promised Land, Swallowed Up (In the Belly of the Whale), Reason to Believe, and The Rising which was part of a deeper discussion about 9/11.
A recurring theme in Springsteen’s music throughout the 4 ½ hour retreat was Faith, Hope and Love, which came as a surprise to some attendees. “I’ve been listening to Springsteen’s music for decades. I hadn’t realized all these years that perhaps I was moved by the spiritual messages in many of his songs,” wrote one attendee on his evaluation sheet of the retreat.
Each song was played to the participants, after which Biblical connections were made. There was also time for discussion, personal reflection, and dinner and dessert for all. One of the retreat participants, Bruce Ashbahian, summed up his Springsteen experience, “I was surprised to find out how spiritual Bruce Springsteen is…it clearly comes through in his music, but I’ve missed a lot of it over the years."
Another participant commented, “I hope others will be able to connect the Gospel and their faith to other forms of art, to see God wherever He is present.” It was apparent that many who were present for the retreat were surprised that there was such a strong parallel between Springsteen’s music and our faith as Armenian Christians.
Fr. Stepanos reflected on the success of the event stating that, "I have been nourished by many Springsteen songs, and I want to share my faith connection to Springsteen's lyrics with others.”
The retreat was sponsored by the Holy Martyrs Sunday School with funding through the Elizabeth Aktarian Fund. The Sunday School hopes to bring more retreats to Holy Martyrs in the future.