NEW BOARD SEATED
The Board of Trustees and the entire Saint Gregory Church community have had a busy and eventful time over the last eight months. Following our General Membership Meeting, the Board received Executive Council approval of all our minutes and reports. Subsequently, we held elections for tivan (executive) and ultimately kept the same capable executive from the previous year: Greg Afarian, Chair, Robert Kochakian, Vice-chair, Kelly Janian, Corresponding Secretary, Armen Kourkounian, Recording Secretary & Susan Parigian, Treasurer.
Following this, planning went into full swing for the upcoming Easter Season and Armenian Martyrs’ Day commemoration in April. For this year’s commemoration, we invited Mr. George Aghjayan from Worcester as a guest speaker. Mr. Aghjayan has become an expert authority on Armenian genealogy and the history and geography of pre-Genocide era historical Armenia. His fascinating lecture outlined the new and varied (thanks to technology) resources available for Diasporan Armenians wishing to research their family history, and he emphasized that now is a better time than ever for conducting such research.
HOSTING OF NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY
In May, things became even busier as our modest parish suddenly became a bustling center of the entire Eastern Prelacy community, welcoming delegates, clergy, observers and guests numbering more than a hundred at the annual National Representative Assembly (May 9-12). Constituting the national level (Eastern United States), this annual convention takes place every year and is the equivalent of the General Membership Meeting that takes place on the parish level. Each parish of the Eastern Prelacy is represented by elected lay delegates. The Assembly also contains a certain percentage of clergy delegates. Our parish was proudly represented this year by delegates Rita Sarkisian, Sossy Jeknavorian and Sharké Der Apkarian.
And speaking of proudly, did we ever have an achievement to be proud of! We heard nothing but praise and compliments from all our guests! Our Prelate, Archbishop Oshagan gave his highest praises for efforts. From the hotel to the meals to the meeting venues to the transportation and everything in between, all were executed flawlessly by our N.R.A. Steering Committee, headed masterfully by Christine Kourkounian. We would like to thank Der Hayr for his vision and guidance and also the Steering Committee, Trustees and ALL those who volunteered (and there were a LOT of you!) to help out in many capacities throughout the week. Der Hayr and the Board are truly proud of you and what our community was able to achieve during that week in May!
Our congratulations also go to this year’s banquet honorees. There are so many who are deeply dedicated to our parish and who work hard to serve their church, but these individuals have stood out and we were overjoyed to see them recognized not only by our community members, but by our Prelate, clergy and National Representatives at the banquet held on May 11th. Anna Shahtanian & Meliné Almasian (Youth Service Award), Jim & Ann Apovian, Sharké Der Apkarian, Armen Kourkounian and Christine Kourkounian were all more than deserving of the awards received for service to their church and nation at the local and national levels.
Things died down a bit during the summer, although our Ladies’ Guild hosted its annual Spring Food Fair and our Men’s Club held another successful Annual Cigar Night in memory of Der Vartan Kassabian. On the Sunday after May 28, by order of Archbishop Oshagan, we offered the Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Republic of Armenia, along with the blessing of the flags of Armenia, Artsakh and the United States. Once again, members of the Armenian-American Veterans of Lowell Sam Manoyan Post #1 were on hand to bear the flags during the ceremony. We would like to thank the distinguished veterans of this fine organization for once again providing this service, and also for their years spent protecting this country and the freedoms we all hold dearly.
The summer feast days of Pentecost, Transfiguration (Vartavar), Assumption (Blessing of Grapes) and Exaltation of the Cross helped many people to continue the good habit of attending Divine Liturgy during the summer months. Indeed, we were happy that the number of attendees did not dwindle as much as in past summers. This year, thanks to Der Hayr and the altar staff, we also saw the attendance of Sunday School students increase during the summer, as many accepted the invitation to serve on the altar, sing in the choir and read the Epistles on a rotating basis. Although not formal, this program was a success and we would like to commend the parents of these students for bringing their children to church so as to not get out of the habit for too long.
NEW SIGN FOR HALL
As many of you may have noticed, the sign over Jaffarian Hall had weathered and deteriorated quite a bit in condition over the years. This summer saw the completion of the sign’s replacement, with a brand new look that we hope to match with a new sign outside the church in the very near future. This was completed just in time to welcome hundreds of guests to our annual picnic.
Our summer wrapped up with another successful annual picnic, which was held on September 9th of this year. We would like to thank this year’s picnic committee as well all other parishioners and friends who helped make this a spectacular event! Many compliments were about the quality of the food, music and company. Der Hayr, the altar servers and members of the Board and Sunday School conducted the Great Procession of the Holy Cross on the grounds during the picnic. This was well received by the crowd.
ELECTION OF NEW PRELATE
The previous day, September 8, however, was a most remarkable day. Der Hayr and our three National Representatives travelled to New York City for a special session of the National Representative Assembly at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral in Manhattan. The sole purpose of the special assembly was to elect a new Prelate for a four year term. This had been a delayed business item from the N.R.A. held at our church in the spring. Der Stephan announced on the day of the picnic that His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian had been elected as Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America by a margin of almost 2-to-1. Bishop Anoushavan is no stranger to the Prelacy nor to our community. He had served the past twenty years as Vicar General, as an assistant and right-hand-man to Archbishop Oshagan. He visited Saint Gregory Church on many occasions and showed personal, fatherly care and compassion to us when we went through the ordeal of tragically losing our parish priest, Der Vartan, nearly ten years ago.
Bishop Anoushavan has been visiting all of the parishes of the Eastern Prelacy and is scheduled to preside over our parish’s 49th Anniversary celebration on January 27th of next year. We look forward to welcoming our new Prelate to our community in a few short months. In the meantime, we wish Srpazan Hayr the best as he begins this new leg of his journey of spiritual mission to the flock of the Armenian Church. At the time of this writing, the Prelacy’s Executive Council is making preparations for a “Welcoming” Banquet to take place in New York City on December 2. On this occasion, we have donated $500 to the commemorative program booklet that is being prepared.
FIRE/GAS EXPLOSION DISASTER
Just as we thought we would be getting back to our ordinary routine in the fall, a most extraordinary thing happened in the Merrimack Valley area. On September 13, our small town of North Andover and neighboring communities of Andover and Lawrence made international headlines when over seventy fires, explosions and emergency calls occurred in the area on that Thursday afternoon. This was due to a fault with the low pressure gas line that runs through the area – the same line that our church is connected to.
After confirming that all of our members were safe during this tragedy, in which one person was killed, dozens injured and many families were left without homes, we immediately began participating in the relief efforts for affected families in the area. Thanks to the generosity of our parishioners and of many from out of town, we were able to quickly raise $1,200 in monetary aid, as well as a whole van full of food, clothing, household items, laundry detergent, toys and water, which was delivered to the Lawrence Senior Center by Der Hayr and BOT Chair Greg Afarian. The monetary aid was distributed to the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund and the Lazarus House Ministries shelter and charitable organization. Bishop Anoushavan also ordered that a special collection be taken in all Prelacy churches on Sunday, September 23rd. Once this money is received from the Prelacy, it will be distributed through the proper channels.
Along with the relief efforts, work began immediately on restoring gas service to the damaged system, replacing dozens of miles underground pipes and gas run appliances to thousands of homes and business. Our church was not spared the rigor and scrutiny of making sure gas service could be safely restored. After an interruption of approximately two months, gas service was finally restored to the building on November 10. The following work had to be completed in order to make this happen.
While it was truly an ordeal, we are thankful to God that nobody from our community was hurt and that none of our parishioners had any sustained damage to their homes because of the disaster. We are grateful to all our parishioners who donated money and relief items and who volunteered to help during the days when the church was bustling with the activity of work crews and service men.
A particular debt of gratitude must go to our BOT Chairman Greg Afarian for his untiring efforts in coordinating with the claims department, adjustors, inspectors, work and installation crews. He truly stepped above and beyond his role as chairman and became a foreman (truly like a full time job!) in overseeing the progress of the work being done in our church. Thank you, Greg!
We are also thankful that due to the seasonable weather until the second week of November, we were spared any further loss of income or morale by having to cancel any Sunday or regularly scheduled services. While it was a little chilly in the sanctuary in the weeks leading up, our resilient parishioners grabbed their coats and gloves and remained faithful to the worship and service of our Lord.
TRIP TO NEW YORK CITY
On Sunday, November 11, Der Hayr and the Board saw a unique opportunity to plan a trip to New York City in order to visit the Metropolitan Museum’s acclaimed “Armenia!” exhibit, which is on display until January 13, 2019.
Planned partially as a way to vacate our church during the cold spell (ironically, the heat was restored the day before the trip), the trip afforded the 46 parishioners and friends the opportunity to socialize and enjoy a day long getaway to the city in order to view the treasured artifacts of Armenian history, literature and faith that the Met Museum had gathered from many scholarly collections throughout the world. In the morning, the participants attended the Divine Liturgy at the Saint Illuminator’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral in Manhattan, where they were greeted warmly by the pastor, Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian.
The trip was an overwhelming success and many of those who came along expressed their satisfaction for having done so and asked to have more excursions planned for the future. Special thanks to BOT members Rob Kochakian, Susan Parigian, Armen Kourkounian and Sylvia Mahlebjian, who along with Der Hayr acted as coordinators and “shepherds” for the day.
CARE PACKAGES FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
In the midst of all this activity, we didn’t forget our young people studying at colleges and universities locally and throughout the country. As in past years, we continued the tradition of sending a “care package” on behalf of our church to all our college students, in order to help keep a connection between us while they are away and to let them know we have not forgotten them. Special thanks to Rob Kochakian from the Board and Melanie Tokatlian for coordinating this effort and sending the packages out.
In closing, we look back with a sense of awe and amazement for the work that our Lord Jesus Christ has done through us over these past months. We look forward to seeing and greeting all our parishioners during the upcoming holiday season and continuing, by God’s grace and your help, the work that the Board of Trustees has been entrusted with.
On Sunday, November 11, with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate, around 45 parishioners from Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church in North Andover, Mass., traveled to New York City. Led by pastor, Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian, they attended Divine Liturgy at Saint Illuminator's, where they were warmly welcomed by Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian and the entire Cathedral community.
A luncheon followed in Pashalian Hall. Both Der Hayrs had an opportunity to address those present. Der Mesrob welcomed the pilgrims from North Andover on behalf of the Prelate, the Board of Trustees and the entire community. He also remarked that the 2018 National Representative Assembly that took place in North Andover earlier this year was one of the best he had attended in all his years as a priest.
In his remarks, Der Stephan warmly greeted the Prelate, Der Mesrob, the Board of Trustees and all community organizations, and introduced several members of Saint Gregory's Board of Trustees that were present. On behalf of all, he thanked Der Mesrob and the community for opening their doors to them and for their warm hospitality. He reflected on Der Mesrob's role as an elder spiritual brother in his life, and that since the two fall next to each other in seniority, they can often be seen standing next to each other or walking side by side at official events. He expressed hope that they would also remain close spiritually in years to come as they serve the Lord together as fellow priests of the Armenian Church.
Following this, both the North Andover group and a small group from the Cathedral traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the acclaimed "Armenia!" exhibit. The travelers then returned home to Massachusetts, enriched and satisfied by the experience.