Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley Delivered at the Annual General Membership Meeting by Gregory Afarian, Chair, February 10, 2019
Throughout the entire year, the Board of Trustees has progressed with our four goals. The following is a summary of the accomplishments within the year.
Spiritual Growth - Of all of our goals, we must continue to view this goal as our most important – the one that should drive our entire mission at St. Gregory. Teaching, involvement and participation are instrumental in achieving this goal. To that end, this year we continued the practice of having parishioners partake in the Epistle and Confession readings during Divine Liturgy. Lenten Dinners (very successful) and Easter services were very well attended. We offered a different platform and showed a Video Series of The Gospel which was well liked. American and Armenian Christmas attendance numbers were strong this past year. Sunday School and having parent volunteers to help as teachers is another program that is working well. Getting kids involved in church duties is something the BOT would like to continue as we are trying to implement new roles for our youth. We completed our first year for our Sunday School Graduate Interns, which was successful. We had a successful family movie night during Lent. Our bowling trip was another great event, very well attended.
Der Hayr’s weekly email previews, using video and social media / Facebook are other ways we are engaging with fellow parishioners (we have more than 380 followers on Facebook). We did also roll out our new platform of a weekly e-newsletter called “Aghavn-E Weekly”, which informs our parishioners of the weekly Bible Readings, upcoming Hokehankisd requests with an option to donate if you can’t attend, upcoming events and news / link to our blog which ultimately helps keep membership engaged. The news blog, accessible through our website, has also been another key tool to keep parishioners engaged.
Uniting the Community – This is also a key goal as we must continue to reach outside of our community and provide assistance and outreach to the larger community. This past year, St. Gregory was a sponsor for 10 orphans through the Prelacy (the church Sponsored 5, Ladies Guild 1, Men’s Club 2, and Sunday School 2). The Avak Program / Luncheons was well attended; it really is a great way for people to get together, have a wonderful meal at a reasonable price and have a nice cultural program!. Der Hayr did a good job keeping it going and I would like to thank him for his efforts. Our family nights, hosted by the Ladies’ Guild continued as a way to bring our community together in fellowship. We also participated in many Genocide commemoration events – including Flag Raising in Lowell & Peabody and as well as participating in the annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration at the Massachusetts State House. We continue to donate to the House of Hope and this year the Sunday School had a successful canned food drive for the Lazarus House in Lawrence. Last year, The Board of Trustees chose to support Neighbors in Need where we will build further commitment to our North Andover community and to its less fortunate. Our goal will be to engage in more outreach activities to help the less fortunate in our own surrounding communities to fulfill our true Christian mission. We still would like to offer meal assistance at the Lazarus House in Lawrence (any volunteers to help get this off the ground are welcome). We also donated prepared foods to the House of Hope in Lowell. As everyone knows we also hosted the Prelacy’s annual National Rrepresentative Assembly in May. We welcomed our brothers and sisters in Christ from the various church communities to showcase our beautiful church and our wonderful community members. With the help of our own Christine Kourkounian, her committee and the grace of our Lord, we pulled off an extremely successful 4 day event! This was a huge accomplishment for our church and community! Our brothers in Christ at St. Michael Church next door graciously donated their facility to us for usage during the meetings. Thanks to Jamie Corriveau and Joe Almasian, we implemented an all electronic voting process. It was extremely successful and we paved the road to what the future holds for NRA Meetings. The Executive Council of the Prelacy was pleased as we saved them lots of time, which helped speed up the meetings. We had a wonderful banquet at Harris’ Pelham Inn, which highlighted some of our key community members and youth. The proceeds in all totaled around $14,000.
Thank you to all that contributed your time and talents! It's what makes our community so great!
Church Growth - We are proud to say that we again have made significant headway in the area of church membership this year. At year-end, we now have a total of 101 paid members in good standing, which includes 7 new members (doesn’t include 9 members in arrears). One of the key areas that we want to foster is keeping the connection with our former Sunday School students. With many thanks to Melanie Tokatlian we were able to continue our popular care package program for all former students who currently attend college this year. Many were elated to receive word from their church while they were away from home! Thank you to Melanie Tokatlian for spearheading this effort again! Our Choir has never sounded better with the addition of several new members! Knarik our choir director has done a terrific job with working with new members and Anthony Alexander our organist continuous to do a wonderful job!
The Building Committee is continuing their efforts to get a steeple back on our church. It has had some setbacks and we continue to search as to what would be the church’s best options. We are still looking for donations. We have raised some 63K! Thank you to Rich Shahtanian as Chairman of the Building Committee, Joe Almasian and the rest of the Committee and all who have donated! You’ve all worked timelessly on something that is very dear to our hearts “Our spiritual home” and have brought her back to better than new status. What we’ve accomplished is glorifying to our God and I’m sure he is pleased with our community!
Financial Stability - 2018 ended with a net income of $1,631. This is troubling if you consider the fact that we had a LARGE amount of contributions from In Lieu of Flowers donations (due to having had twelve funerals), totalling more than 13K. We had budgeted for $1,500, which means that without those donations, we would have had a LOSS of nearly 13K!
Nevertheless, our organizations had banner numbers! The Men’s Club contributed $42K, with another very successful Cigar Night event (which netted over $33K). Our church picnic generated over $7.8K in profit for the church and the Ladies’ Guild’s popular Food Fair generated $6.5K! I would like to thank all our “faithful” helpers who without their blood and sweat it would not be possible to have events like this. I also would like to thank our volunteer grounds crew Paul Demoorjian, Red Boloian, and John Dagdigian who continue to show their LOVE for our church and again this year help us to save a considerable amount of money in landscaping fees.
As mentioned above, our news blog, which covers all events in the community, has been another main vehicle to promote and enhance user communication / experience for our parishioners, with thanks to Der Hayr! We have rolled out our Aghavn-E E-Newsletter for weekly church communications for events and church happenings and continue to post items and events on our Facebook Page which has more than 380 followers! Finally, our Saint Gregory Endowment Fund program is growing! Through the grace of our Lord, the Men’s Club made a contribution of $15,000 to our Endowment Fund. This means that during the year 2018 we grew our Endowment Fund to $303K, meaning that our goal of $1,000,000 in the next 10 years could be attainable. This goal will ensure St. Gregory’s financial stability for years to come and engrain our spiritual legacy for future generations.
Turning Lemons into Lemonade - Most everyone knows by now about the horrific gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley. Our church was impacted but fortunately wasn’t damaged by the event. Our church was without heat for 2 months and our kitchen was without a stove for nearly 4 months. This however didn’t stop St. Gregory’s! We continued with church service in the cold and in early November organized a trip to The Prelacy Cathedral in NYC which was very well attended. After church, a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art was organized to see the Armenia Exhibit. Our Bazaar was postponed and then ultimately cancelled. However we had an extremely successful White Elephant Table that was run after church and introduced “The Rolling Bazaar” which proved to be a hit! We continued to have Avak & Men’s club even without a stove! In the midst of all this we took a special plate collection to help the local community affected and raised over $1200 which was given to The Lazarus House ($750) and to the Merrimack Valley Disaster Relief Fund ($500). The Prelate also ordered a collection in all Prelacy Churches (we are waiting on) and when we receive those funds, we plan on doing the same type of donation.
At the end of all this, St. Gregory’s ended up with a beautiful NEW stove and new fire suppression & carbon monoxide systems valued over 12K! Also all new pipes in the building, a new hot water heater, and old asbestos removed from the building as well as a new gas meter and new regulators / gas valves on all heating units.
Thank you all that helped in assistance when we needed you. Special thanks to Der Hayr, Sarkis Sarkisian, Olga Sarkisian, Rich Shahtanian, Joe Almasian, Kelly Janian, Ann Apovian and Rob Kochakian. A special gratitude goes to John Dadigian (who never says no to lending a helping hand!). In the end, St. Gregory’s got reimbursed to date $10K for lost revenue for the Bazaar with another $4,795 which is payable to St. Gregory’s. This was unprecedented and a blessing to our church & our community.
Plans for 2019: Last year I pleaded that if everyone gave an extra $25 a month towards a pledge we could eliminate any potential shortfall. I’m not positive but pretty sure nobody took me up with this offer. We are faced again with the same situation! If we could have 100 members offer to pledge $25 a month we would exceed our deficit figures and could be an opportunity to generate $30,000! This would allow us not to rely on asking for mailer donations (Christmas, Easter, Blessing of Grapes, Anniversary, etc.) that don’t really work anyways (not many send in).
I would like to quote a passage from the Book of Proverbs, which is read every year during the Blessing of Grapes service:
Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
As always, the work continues and we are always looking for new people to step up to help the Church / Community to glorify our Lord Jesus Christ! As many of you know, running a church is NOT an easy task! Even though membership was strong this past year our overall weekly attendance could be better! I must admit as Chairman this deeply saddens me. Our church and community has much to offer. I think a good question for everyone to ask themselves is, “How is your spiritual walk with God and our Lord Jesus?” Our own personal goals should be to try and gain a higher relationship with our Lord! We hope to increase attendance for Sunday worship and continue to make “time for church” a weekly priority in parishioners’ lives. As we did with last year, we plan to kick this off during the Lenten services, and the Easter season.
I would like to thank Der Stephan for his commitment and his spiritual guidance to St. Gregory and our community. It is not easy being a priest in this secular world we live in and I feel very privileged to not only have a wonderful spiritual leader to help build our community but also a true friend! I would also like to thank all of the Board members – I’m very grateful for their support and all of their hard work. I am so greatly to have such strong BOT Members, friends and brothers-in Christ. It is because of people like this and their dedication why we can continue to thrive. We love you guys! We have accomplished much this year but as St. Paul says constantly we MUST finish the race! I am confident that we will continue accomplish great things for the benefit of our beloved church but we need everyone’s help! Thank you all again for all of your support!
May the love of Our Lord Jesus bless you all!
Gregory Afarian, Chairman
Board of Trustees