BY INDIANA NASH
WATERVLIET- “We’ve got to get him here,” one congregation member of the St. Peter Armenian Church said when Niskayuna priest Stepanos Doudoukjian announced that he would be holding a Bruce Springsteen retreat.
The idea is unusual to begin with, but it’s especially sharp departure for the traditional Armenian Church.
Doudoukjian is hoping that the uniqueness of the retreat will interest more that those in the congregation.
Although Doudoukjian has shelves full of Springsteen memorabilia and has attended 24 Springsteen concerts, his appreciation for the artist didn’t start until later in life.
“It wasn’t until I was a freshman in college and one of my friends made me go to a concert in 1985 at the Meadowlands,” Doudoukjian said, “Once you go to one of the concerts, you’re a convert.”
Ever since that day, Springsteen’s music and message have inspired Doudoukjian.
“I became one of those fans who goes out and buys the cd or tape on the day it comes out. . . I’ve also used Springsteen’s songs in about five of my sermons,” Doudoukjian said.
The themes of fortitude, of perseverance, redemption, hope and second chances found in Springsteen’s music are what drew Doudoukjian to it and he’s hoping that others will soon feel the same.
“He’s not a god, he’s not a hero, or even a model to me,” Doudoukjian said,”“My intention with this is to bring people together. We’re casting a wider net so to speak.”
When he first proposed the idea, he feared that some in the church community might have the wrong perception of the retreat.
‘Reason to Believe’ is one Springsteen hit that Doudoukjian said really makes people relate to one another and brings out the importance of faith. “Still at the end of every hard day people find some reason to believe,” Doudoukjian quoted.
And Doudoukjian is hoping that ‘the Boss’ himself will make an appearance at the retreat and bring a little more reason for people to believe.
“I’ve made some calls and I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility,” Doudoukjian said, “He goes to dinner at fans houses and he’s invited a college kid up on stage to play with him before.”
Despite being denied by Springsteen’s manager, Doudoukjian said that he’s unfazed and has other connections to Springsteen.
“He came from nothing and now he’s a millionaire – or whatever he is – but he doesn’t let any of that affluence influence his songs,” Doudoukjian said. That ‘down-to-earth’ nature is what might just bring him to town on Oct. 15 for the retreat.
Beyond hoping for a Springsteen appearance, Doudoukjian has planned a traditional Armenian dinner, a musical performance by a congregation member who will cover Springsteen music, a message (or sermon), and time to break into small groups and discuss the music or any of Springsteen’s messages.
While the St. Peter’s congregation ranges from 50 to 100 people every Sunday, Doudoukjian is hoping that anywhere between 100 and 125 people come out for the retreat.
When: Oct. 15 from 4-9
Where: St. Peter Armenian Church (100 Troy-Schenectady Road, Watervliet, NY)
Cost: $15 before Oct. 1. $20 after.