Your Eminence, Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Rev. Baljian, my fellow deacons, members of the Board of Trustees, and fellow parishioners:
With filial love I greet you, Srpazan Hayr. As our newly elected Prelate, I bid you welcome on this your first pastoral visit. Please accept our congratulations on the dual occasions of your election and elevation to the rank of Archbishop.
Dear Srpazan Hayr, today is the 49th anniversary of the consecration of our Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church. You, of course, are familiar with our community. Although small, still we are proud of our achievements. With careful consideration we keep our Sunday School active and vibrant in order to train the new generation in Christian instruction.
Additionally, I would happily add that even upon these far-flung shores, our Armenian ecclesiastical, religious and liturgical traditions are fully kept and are conducted under the meticulous and skillful leadership of our pastor, Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian. In the past, as Vicar General, you always stood by our faithful community; we pray that that relationship would be preserved and strengthened.
“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118)
I am truly honored to welcome our newly elected prelate, Archbishop Anoushavan, to our community today as we celebrate our 49th anniversary. In the event of a joyous occasion we all feel the urge to share the good news. Such was the case when, last September, I and others from our parish received the following text message: “We have a new prelate: Anoushavan Surpazan.” As the news spread there was elation throughout the community. That elation was partly because Anoushavan Surpazan was one of us. We knew him throughout his years of service within the Eastern Prelacy. We knew him as a humble, capable, dedicated servant of God and a worthy successor to the prelates who came before him, including Archbishops Mesrob Ashjian and Oshagan Choloyan.
Thirty-four years ago Archbishop Anoushavan came to the U.S. to further his education, earning two Master's Degrees in theology and philosophy. His academic pursuits were interrupted when he was assigned as full-time pastor of St. Sarkis Church in Douglaston, NY, where he served for 14 years. There he directed his efforts toward tirelessly spreading the Word by preaching, strengthening religious education for the youth, organizing the Saint Gregory of Datev Institute, and providing activities for the seniors. Thereafter, he served as vicar general of the Prelacy, with myriad administrative responsibilities. While doing so he also completed his doctoral work at Columbia University. In all of these roles he has proven himself zinvor Hayotz yev Asdoodzo. That is, a servant of God and the people.
Archbishop Anoushavan has been well known to our community in his role as Vicar General of the Prelacy. He provided invaluable moral support following the death of our beloved pastor, Father Vartan Kassabian. We were a community in shock and mourning. He saw to it that a visiting priest came to Saint Gregory’s every Sunday. With Der Vartan’s passing coming just before the Lenten season leading up to Holy Week, the good shepherd that he is personally officiated and steered us through the rigors of Holy Week and helped us all to heal.
We rejoice and are glad as we celebrate the founding of our church. Today we are 49 years strong. St. Gregory’s is the northeastern-most outpost of all the Prelacy churches. And while we are small in numbers we are true to the mission of keeping our faith alive. This we owe to the dedication and hard work of all the members of our community.
While we are not officially honoring an outstanding member of our church today, there is a particular group that I would like to recognize. We’re living in an age of intense secular competition to Sunday morning worship. I applaud all the parents of our Sunday school students who instill in their children the notion that going to church every Sunday is a good thing. In fact it’s a cool thing, especially when a youngster standing next to a deacon on the altar with a little prodding starts chanting along with us. That is so gratifying. Also, many times I have contacted parents to ask if their son or daughter could help us on Sunday. Invariably they respond positively. And I would like to say thank you for their encouragement and commitment in bringing their children to church regularly.
So it was for Srpazan, whose family, particularly his mother, instilled in him devotion to the church from a very early age. When he reached the age of 12, a young priest visited his school in Beirut. When he asked if any of the boys would like to become a priest, only one boy shyly raised his hand. That boy was our very own Prelate. Ironically, the visiting priest was Fr. Mesrob Ashjian, later Prelate of the Eastern United States.
Dear Srpazan Hayr, today you ordained 3 of our students as acolytes, the first rank in service to the Holy Church. The hope is that they will find the inspiration in you to make an enduring commitment and contribution to our beloved church.
Dear Srpazan Hayr, we wish you long and splendorous years. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant you strength and capability, so that you may continue your fruitful activities as Prelate, for the aid of our people and especially for the radiance of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Dear Srpazan Hayr, congratulations on your recent election and elevation to the rank of Archbishop. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant you strength and wisdom to continue your episcopal ministry and leadership. Thank you.
Deacon Arek Kalaydjian
January 27, 2019