Town Hall Style Meeting Guages Work of the Board of Trustees & NRA 2018 Steering Committee
On Sunday, November 19, following the Divine Liturgy and Requiem service, the Board of Trustees convened an unofficial membership meeting, conducted town hall style, for the benefit of the members of Saint Gregory Church. During the meeting, both our pastor Fr. Stephan Baljian and Board of Trustees' Chairman Greg Afarian had a chance to address the membership, highlighting the important successes and challenges of the year so far. Members were also given a rough estimate of where the church stands financially, vis a vis this year's annual budget, which was approved at the Annual General Membership Meeting in March of this year. Those in attendance also had the opportunity to voice their concerns in several different areas.
During the meeting also, the membership heard an info. presentation from Christine Kourkounian, who has been selected to chair the steering committee for the 2018 National Representative Assembly of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, which is scheduled to be hosted by our parish here in North Andover, May 9-12, 2018. After presenting the basic details about what the NRA is and what it accomplishes, Ms. Kourkounian listed the members of the steering committee, which consists of our parish's representatives to the NRA, members of the Board of Trustees and other key members of the community selected for their expertise and experience, all under the leadership of our Der Stephan. She then gave a detailed schedule of the Assembly's events and highlighted the preliminary work done to organize the event thus far, appealing to each and every member to volunteer his or her help when the time comes.
Following the presentation, Der Hayr closed the meeting by thanking Greg Afarian and Christine Kourkounian for their respective efforts and wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving.
Students from our 3rd-6th grade class learned a lesson about the Nicene Creed during their Sunday School class. Composed in the year 325 A.D., the Creed is a profession of the Orthodox Christian faith that was generated by the first Ecumenical Council, which took place in Nicaea with the participation of 318 bishops from around the world. (Historical records show the Armenian Apostolic Church was represented at the council by Catholicos St. Arisdages, the son of St. Gregory the Illuminator.
The Nicene Creed is an expansion on older creeds, including the much shorter Apostles' Creed, which traditionally traces its origins back to the first century. In its current form as used in the Divine Liturgy every Sunday, it is an expansion of an older, shorter version of itself. Some of this expansion (including the anathematization of those who deny the eternity of the Son and the Holy Spirit) was accomplished in subsequent decades. The Creed took its final form at the subsequent Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, which took place in 381.
Its content is notable in that it is a clear refutation of the prevalent teaching of one Bishop Arius, who was preaching heretically that God the Son was a created being (however exalted), and therefore not sharing in divinity with God the Father. It is also the first dogmatic statement of the early church to assert that the Son and the Father are of the same "essence" (substance) and "nature." This means, rightly so, that "Sonship" or being begotten (born) of the Father is tantamount to being God, as that which is born of the Divine, must be of that very divine nature or substance himself, and therefore -- God.
The 2017-2018 AVAK Luncheon season is underway with fellowship and education being offered for our senior members in a friendly and laid back environment. AVAK Luncheon takes place beginning at noon on the first Thursday of every month from October through May (the exception is for the month of January, when it takes place on the day of Armenian Christmas, January 6).
Following a delicious luncheon, prepared by crews on a monthly rotation, an innovative speakers' program invites interesting Armenian-American lecturers from different professions and backgrounds of expertise to share their presentations on a wide array of topics. For the month of October, our very Greg Afarian (Chairman of our Board of Trustees) spoke about his father, the late Katcher Afarian's legacy as an expert on and merchant of oriental carpets, also sharing several samples of rare, exquisite Armenian orientals.
In November we viewed the newly released, powerful documentary Architects of Denial, detailing the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the effects the Turkish denial of the genocide continues to have on Armenia and Artsakh today. Following the film, a lively discussion took place, facilitated by Der Stephan.
Plans are underway for the next AVAK luncheon, which will take place on Thursday, December 7, 2017, and will feature our annual Christmas Carol and holiday sing-a-long under the capable leadership of Mary Barooshian at the piano!
Richard Berberian – Dream Big & Shine Bright
by Stacey Alcorn
Richard Berberian is a self-proclaimed music enthusiast who spent the first part of his professional life teaching music in public schools and later at Boston University. As much as this career fulfilled his creative side, it didn’t do much for the entrepreneurial itch within him, and he eventually left teaching to start his own business in the commercial entertainment industry. Berberian was one of the first commercial producers in the country to record and produce talking books on audio cassette, specializing in books for the blind and physically handicapped. He loved being an entrepreneur, but his business was lacking an important component, the ability to feed his creative juices like music had once done. So, in 1999 at the height of the audio and video cassette market, he sold his business and retired at the ripe old age of 44. Retirement didn’t suit Berberian either and his soul yearned for a creative component to augment a new entrepreneurial endeavor.
Richard Berberian is the President and personality behind world-renowned, celebrity endorsed, Elyse Fine Jewelers. Since the mid 1700s, the Balian family (from his mother’s side) have been creative designers and craftsmen with large scale business operations in Ottoman Turkey. Emigrating to the United States in 1915 to escape religious and cultural persecution, the business was reestablished in Massachusetts and successfully operating when a family member approached him to come out of retirement to assist with developing the business further. Once again, Richard Berberian had the opportunity to feed his need to build a business and combined a unique talent for generating profit with an ability to create beauty and art. This entrepreneur saw an opportunity to establish Elyse Fine Jewelers at a whole new level. More importantly, he found a catalyst that would feed his creative and entrepreneurial soul. I recently sat down with Richard to find out what it takes to dream big and shine bright.
Be Rare - Berberian says that the value of a diamond is a byproduct of its rarity. He says, the same is true in business, as entrepreneurs must find a way to differentiate themselves from the competition; the more rare they become, the easier it will be to grow a successful endeavor. Berberian says that when he first started working with his family, he became obsessed with finding a way to differentiate his jewelry store from the millions of others. He found his niche when he partnered with insurance companies who needed a jewelry partner to replace the lost or stolen jewelry of their clients. These pieces were often unique and sentimental to their owners, requiring special skills to replicate. Berberian, so confident that this would be his opportunity to become rare, exited the traditional retail jewelry business and created a new model that attracted high end clients through insurance claims, and then kept those clients for life through the quality of his hand-made jewelry.
Shine Bright Like a Diamond - Berberian began his new trade as an employee working for his family and before long, had grown the insurance business so it was grossing more than the retail business. He soon bought the business from his family and began focusing on the creative side of building a jewelry empire. He wanted to be an architect of his own fine pieces and so he went back to school to establish his credentials at the renowned Gemological Institute of America. Berberian says that much of his time today is spent designing a combination of engagement rings and bridal jewelry, along with unique fashion pieces for celebrity clients from around the world. During our visit, he shared some of his rare pieces, including a beautiful blue necklace which reminded me of The Heart of the Ocean Necklace from The Titanic. Berberian explained that he travels the world to find the most unique and finest gem stones. He brings these stones back and stores them in his vaults where they await his next design inspiration. Berberian says that Elyse Fine Jewelers has the ability to obtain any jewelry piece from the big-name designers, like most jewelry stores do, but he says that most of his clients seek him out for one-of-a-kind pieces that the client will never see on someone else. Many of Berberian’s creations have been featured on celebrity clients and in the styling suite at the Academy Awards. He says that when you shine bright like a diamond, your work will speak for itself and the business will flourish.
Create Your Business Personality - Berberian says that every business has its own personality, and it is the responsibility of the owner or CEO to create that personality. With this goal from the beginning, Berberian’s mission was to make sure the personality of his business was distinguishable from other jewelers. To do this, he moved his jewelry store to a commercial office complex in Reading, Massachusetts, not a retail location like most others. As well, he created a “by appointment” model for customers to visit the store. This enabled Berberian and his team to spend quality time with each client, making sure they have an unhurried experience to casually browse their showcases, while getting a complete education on diamonds and jewelry in the process. Berberian says that the personality of the business is part of what attracts his clients, and he has worked hard at building a personality that attracts individuals ranging from local soccer moms, to corporate execs, to professional athletes and celebrities alike.
Make a Difference - Berberian says that happiness for him is when he’s in his shop doing gemological work and creating new designs. He says that many of his pieces take months or years to build, because he will not settle for a gem that is not perfect for the piece he is designing. He says that he feels blessed that he found an opportunity to reinvent himself in his mid-forties, and to show gratitude for his happiness, he makes it a point to give back to charities that benefit women and children. His mother and the mother of his wife, Christine, both passed away from cancer, so he finds ways to give back to charities that are seeking a cure for this deadly disease. One way in which he does this is through his art, by generously donating rare gems to raise money at charity auctions. He then designs a custom piece using that gem for the lucky bidder. Berberian says that when you are lucky enough to have found your calling in life, you should find ways to share it for the greater good.
Source: Huffington Post
Saint Gregory's annual picnic-festival will take place this coming Sunday, September 10, 2017, from 12:00 to 5:30 P.M!
The weather will be great and the company enjoyable... so come on out and join us for a good time.
Don't forget to come early and participate in the Sunday Divine Liturgy, which begins at 9:30 A.M. Also, during the picnic-festival, the annual Great Procession of the Holy Cross will take place. See you on Sunday!
Saint Gregory Church Celebrates 47th Anniversary; Dedicates New Youth Library in Memory of Tom Vartabedian
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.-- Archbishop Oshagan was on hand at Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley on Sunday, May 21. His Eminence the Archbishop, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern United States, traveled from New York to preside over the parish's 47th Anniversary Celebrations and to dedicate a new library in memory of parishioner extraordinaire and friend of the Armenian community, the late Tom Vartabedian, whose untimely passing last November was a cause of great sorrow and reflection for the entire community.
Unstable weather, particularly a passing snowstorm that it seemed specifically targeted his travel plans, prevented Srpazan Hayr from travelling to North Andover on February 12 of this year, and despite his busy travel schedule and the long week he and Der Stephan Baljian (pastor of Saint Gregory Church) had just endured at the National Representative Assembly in Illinois, he was gracious enough to adjust his travel schedule in order to be with his flock on this joyous occasion.
Srpazan Hayr celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon. During his fatherly message, he emphasized the words of Jesus Christ taken from the Gospel reading of the day (from John, Chapter 10), "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep... Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." "Perhaps we can take a lesson from the ranchers of the old American West, or the shepherds from ancient times," he said, "but just as the cowboys or the shepherds would carefully round up and herd their livestock into the pen or stable -- even sometimes leaving the others to go in search of the lost sheep or steer -- in the same way our loving, heavenly Father, gathers us together into the safety of His Church, and the very gate by which we enter is Jesus himself." He encouraged the faithful to remain in the safety of God's sheepfold, where they might truly find green pastures and the spiritual nourishment human beings so desperately seek throughout their lives.
Following the Divine Liturgy and Requiem service for the deceased Pastors, Deacons, Godfathers, Benefactors, Trustees and N.R.A. delegates, Srpazan Hayr descended the Holy Altar and took his seat in the nave of the church. Der Stephan, in the meantime, made a brief presentation outlining the new youth library, conceived by and almost brought to completion by the late Tom Vartabedian in cooperation with the students and staff of Saint Gregory's joint Sunday/Armenian School.
As part of the observance of 2016's "Year of Service," the idea to have a working library geared toward the youth of the parish and placed at it's disposal sprang out of a Sunday School wide "Forum on Service" conducted in February of 2016. Tom immediately formed a Student Service Committee from among the older Sunday School students and got to work. While everyone involved has some notion that the library, once brought to completion, would eventually be named by him, in the wake of Mr. Vartabedian's illness and subsequent death, everyone involved at every level agreed that it would be fitting to name it the "Thomas M. Vartabedian Library" and dedicate it in his memory. The library, currently housed in one of the Sunday School's classrooms, will contain religious, cultural and literary books in both Armenian and English, geared toward the youth. It is already off to a modest start, thanks to generous donations by Archbishop Oshagan, Mr. Gregory Arabian and many others, and its capacity will also be greatly expandable in the future. During his remarks Der Stephan unveiled the new plaque that will hang in the library.
Following this, the Sunday School commencement ceremony began. The students, under the direction of Principal Sossy Jeknavorian and their teachers, had a chance to share prayers, recitations and insightful reflections about the faith, theology, morality and liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Srpazan Hayr presented the yearly promotion certificates to all of the students. This year's three graduating students, Armen Almasian, Armen Hovsepian and Michael Mahlebjian also had a chance to address the parishioners, their parents and their fellow Sunday School students. In his closing remarks, the Prelate commended the students and congratulated the graduates, encouraging them to remain in the faith they were brought up on and reminding them that their service to our Lord's Church has just begun. He stated that in almost twenty years as Prelate, this was the first time he was presiding over a Sunday School commencement. He praised the parents and teaching staff and stated his satisfaction with the progress the children and community had made.
While parishioners gradually made their way to Jaffarian Hall for the Anniversary banquet, Srpazan Hayr and Der Hayr joined the school children and the Vartabedian Family downstairs in the Vartabedian Library. After some explanatory remarks by Der Hayr, a short dedication service was offered, after which the Prelate once again offered his congratulations as well as his condolences to the Vartabedian family.
Once in Jaffarian Hall, the 47th Anniversary banquet commenced with a capacity crowd of almost 140 people. Board of Trustees Chairman, Greg Afarian, who also served as Master of Ceremonies for the day, offered some opening remarks. After welcoming Srpazan Hayr to the community, he highlighted some of the achievements and setbacks of the parish over the last year. He also invited Nancy Vartabedian, widow of Tom Vartabedian, along with her two sons Ara and Raffi, daughter Sonya and son-in-law Pat Sico up to say a few words and light the candle on the annual anniversary cake. Seizing upon the opportunity, Der Stephan informed the crowd in just two short weeks, Archbishop Oshagan would celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood... a spontaneous rendition of "Happy Anniversary" broke out followed by cheers, applause and good wishes for Srpazan Hayr.
Following dinner, the Armenian School hantes began, which consisted of songs dances, poems and recitations performed by Saint Gregory Armenian School students.
At the conclusion of the hantes, Der Stephan was next to address the crowd. He too welcomed Srpazan Hayr to North Andover, noting his difficult travel schedule and prior rigorous week at the National Representative Assembly in Chicago. He congratulated the parish on its 47th anniversary and noted that the beautiful testimony to the hard work and vision of the founders was evident today in seeing almost all of the 40 students of the Sunday/Armenian School students front and center, enthusiastic about their faith and culture and excited to be demonstrating what they have learned. He also took a moment to thank each and every person who serves the church in any capacity, and also to remember those dedicated parishioners who had done their work and had passed on to the next life. He also presented each of the Sunday/Armenian School graduates with a present.
In his remarks, Srpazan Hayr thanked the North Andover community for all its hard work in preserving this young but integral parish of the Prelacy. He noted his pleasure at seeing so many parishioners present and active in the life of the community, and especially the youth of the parish. He then took the opportunity to announce -- to the great joy and surprise of the congregation -- that along with the Prelacy's Executive Council he had accepted the parish's invitation to convene the 2018 National Representative Assembly in North Andover, and expressed confidence that the future host parish would engage such a task thoroughly lovingly. He exhorted all present to remain faithful to our Lord and to the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian Nation, always carrying out the mission of the Gospel for the glory of God and for the betterment of our people.
Following the final blessing and singing of Giligia, all who were present returned to their homes renewed and encouraged about the future.
The Annual General Membership Meeting of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley convened on March 5, 2017, on the Second Sunday of Great Lent.
We would like to congratulate Kelly Janian, Susan Parigian, and Sylvia Mahlebjian who were elected to serve on the Board of Trustees. Greg Afarian was re-elected to a second term. Sharke' Der Apkarian was elected as delegate to the National Representative Assembly, and she represented our parish at the 2017 National Representative Assembly that took place in Glenview, Illinois, May 18-20.
Our heartfelt thanks go to outgoing Trustees Richard Shahtanian, Joe Almasian & Melanie Tokatlian for their years of faithful service to our church on the Board of Trustees.
Following approval of the minutes and reports of the General Meeting by the Prelacy's Executive Council, the new Board of Trustees met on May 1, 2017 and elected it's new Executive (Tivan) as follows:
Greg Afarian, Chair
Rob Kochakian, Vice Chair
Armen Kourkounian, Recording Secretary
Kelly Janian, Corresponding Secretary
Susan Parigian, Treasurer
We congratulate the new elected Executive of our Board of Trustees & NRA Delegate and wish our entire congregation many blessings and successful undertakings throughout the coming year.
Left to Right: Armen Kourkounian, Recording Secretary, Susan Parigian, Treasurer, Greg Afarian, Chair, Archbishop Oshagan, Prelate, Fr. Stephan Baljian, Pastor, Rob Kochakian, Vice-Chair, Kelly Janian, Corresponding Secretary, Jim Kochakian. Missing from photo: Sylvia Mahlebjian, John Boloian, Jeff Sarkisian
Parishioner Harold Paragamian was honored in The Valley Patriot. Click here to go to the article (Link: http://valleypatriot.com/valley-patriot-of-the-month-hero-in-our-midst-harold-paragamian-wwii/).
Eastern Prelacy Embraces “Year of Renewal” with Assignment of