NYE Dance at the Armenian Center in Lawrence
The above advertisement appeared in the December 29, 1951 edition of "Hairenik" newspaper, announcing a New Year's Eve dance in the hall of the Armenian Center (Agoump) on Newbury Street in Lawrence. It was sponsored jointly by the Lawrence Armenian Center Executive, both ARF Committees (Lawrence and Haverhill), Armenian Relief Society (Arax Chapter) and AYF "Vartanants" Chapter. That Tuesday night New Year's Eve must have been a memorable evening, as the Armenians of this area rang in the new year 1952 with abundant food and drink, presents for everyone and the fine sounds of New England's famous Dick Shahtanian Ensemble from Lawrence. Did it really end at 3 o'clock in the morning? Does anyone "Remember When?...
This past holiday season, our Prelacy was made aware of an important undertaking by the Christian Education Department of the Catholicosate of Cilicia. Under the leadership of department chair Very Rev. Fr. Zareh Sarkissian, a program was put in place in which needy Armenian families would be given food and groceries during the holiday season. This takes into consideration the difficult economic circumstances in Lebanon and the struggle for many Armenian families to get by with limited opportunity for employment.
An appeal was made to all the Prelacies of the Catholicosate for support of this program, by which a donation of $100 (U.S.) would sponsor a family with sufficient groceries for the home.
Archbishop Anoushavan asked all of the churches of the Eastern Prelacy for a pledge of sponsorship. The Pastor and Board of Trustees decided to sponsor five families for a total donation of $500.
Separately, out of the funds raised during last year's National Representative Assembly a donation in the amount of $500 (authorized by the NRA 2018 Steering Committee) had been sent to Saint Michael's Church (our next door neighbors), expressing our appreciation for their generous donation of use of the church's meeting hall for one of the sessions of the Assembly. The donation was designated for one of their ministries or charitable outlets.
Shortly after this donation was made, the Board received a letter from Fr. Kevin Deeley, pastor of the church, kindly returning the check and stating that the joy of helping neighbors and brothers-in-Christ was more than enough compensation for the parish.
In light of this, a discussion about this occurrence came up at our parish's General Membership Meeting on February 10 of this year, during which it was suggested that the $500 donation that was returned from St. Michael's be allocated to cover the donation that was made to the Lebanese-Armenian food program, in honor and appreciation of the parish's generosity and neighborliness. This motion was unanimously approved.
Below, we provide a copy of the thank you letter received by our Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian. A letter has also been sent to Fr. Deeley of St. Michael's, once again expressing our gratitude and informing him of our membership's decision to honor St. Michael's parish in this way.
On Sunday, March 3, 2019, Poon Parégéntan was celebrated at Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church. Traditionally, Poon Parégéntan is the entry into the liturgical period known as Great Lent (Méds Bahk) and is the equivalent of the Western "Carnivale," "Mardi Gras," or "Shrove Tuesday." Poon Parégéntan is observed over the weekend immediately prior to the start of Great Lent (always on the following Monday). In the old country, the entire community would revel and celebrate for those two days, while also attending church on Saturday evening to witness the official closing of the curtain in front of the main altar, where it was to remain closed for the next forty days, the entirety of the Lenten period. Sunday morning's Divine Liturgy celebrated behind the closed curtain would be a stark reminder of the period of spiritual reflection and sobriety required of the next six weeks. This would be accomplished through a strict fast of abstinence from meat, dairy products and alcohol, increased prayer and worship giving of alms to the poor. All of this, of course is done in preparation for Holy Pascha, or the Feast of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Other cultural traditions include various types of dances, masquerade balls and displays of traditional village costumes. Many activities were also geared toward children, and Parégéntan remains one of the most beloved time of year for Armenian children throughout the world.
Saint Gregory Church continued the tradition handed down by our ancestors, combining spiritual introspection with enjoyable activities for a day of fun and fellowship. Following the Divine Liturgy, Der Stephan invited all the parishioners to fill in the front pews for a religious education seminar on the meaning of "Under Grace" as outlined in Paul's Letter to the Romans. He stated that he often hears, to his chagrin, people in the church talk about trying to do good works or be a "good person" in order to win favor with God. The main ideas of his lesson served to remind everyone that through the love of Jesus Christ, shown in his sacrifice on the cross, we are given salvation and placed under the grace of God. We are brought into this reality of God's grace through our baptism and we live it out in the sacramental life of the church and in keeping God's commandments as a way of showing our love and appreciation for that grace. The good works we do are done because we have been saved, not in order to be saved.
Prior to Der Hayr's educational session, Deacon James Haddad gave a talk to the students of our Sunday/Armenian Schools about the spiritual practices of Great Lent, including fasting, prayer and repentance.
Meanwhile, Saint Gregory parishioner and noted artist and scholar of Armenian cultural tradition, Ani Babayan, gave a wonderful presentation to our Sunday/Armenian School students about the different customs and activities surrounding Parégéntan. Ms. Babayan has previously spoken to our children about Parégéntan. This year, in addition to explaining to them about some of the folklore and children's activities associated with Parégéntan, she engaged them in the artistic project of creating and decorating masks.
Following these educational activities, all parishioners were treated to a festive Parégéntan meal prepared by a team of our Sunday School parents with alumni mom Andrea Frounjian at the helm. The children then participated in a whole host of fun activities and games, including a pie eating contest, musical chairs and the yearly appearance of the candy filled piñata!
During an unauthorized round of the pie-eating contest, four of Saint Gregory's finest -- Greg Afarian, Joe Almasian, Zareh Bulbulian and Deacon James Haddad went head to head in a heated battle for this year's adult title. The competition was fierce, but in the end Mr. Bulbulian was crowned the champion.