New Cross "Crowning" Achievement of Nearly 20-Year Building Renovation Project
Sunday, September 27, 2020, was a historic day for Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley, and noteworthy in all its fifty-year history.
Our Prelate and shepherd, His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, payed a much-needed visit to a flock in need, adding to the festivities of the day with his great, spiritual presence.
Srpazan Hayr celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered a powerful sermon. Drawing first on the meaning of the Feast of the Holy Cross of Mount Varak and the miraculous apparition that took place there through our Lord Jesus Christ’s true cross, he then revealed the sad news that just that morning the people of Artsakh had been attacked unexpectedly and swiftly by Azerbaijan. He called on the faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church to pray for peace and prosperity in Armenia and Artsakh, and to stand beside the brave, heroic soldiers of the Armed Forces.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the church choir began to sing the hymn Oorakh lér Soorp Yégéghétsi (“Rejoice, O Holy Church), while under Srpazan Hayr’s leadership, and accompanied by the church’s pastor, Rev. Father Stephan Baljian, all the people went out in procession to the side yard of the church. They were about to witness the reality of the words of the above-mentioned hymn, that truly “Christ, the King of Heaven, has crowned you with his Holy Cross.” The Rite of Consecration of a New Cross was celebrated and the cross anointed. At the completion of the Rite, and after the singing of “Giligia,” then came joyful and emotion-filled moment, when the Saint Gregory Church edifice would be crowned with a gold colored Armenian-style cross.
In front of the gazing crowd, the cross blessed and anointed with the Holy Chrism was raised and secured into its place by the construction workers on hand.
We note that the “crowning” of this Holy Cross was not meant only to adorn the church’s pinnacled roofs. But also, it became the crowning achievement and pinnacle of a complete and exhaustive renovation project which has lasted nearly 20 years and has seen the renovation of the church sanctuary, the adjunct “Jaffarian Hall,” the church offices and classrooms, the youth facilities as well as other reconstruction and renovation.
We note also that the cross consecration event, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, unfortunately had to be postponed from last April. Also, the weekend of this event had originally been slated to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the church’s consecration in September of 1970, but this too has had to be postponed until next year.
That notwithstanding, the faithful children of this community greeted with great excitement and gratitude this milestone, which had been awaited for many years, was postponed just a little further, but whose day had finally arrived!
In the afternoon, on the outside patio adjacent to the church, a modest reception was held, attended by the faithful (but properly “socially distanced”). The church’s pastor acted as Master of Ceremonies for the brief program. First, Der Stephan, on behalf of the entire community, thanked Archbishop Anoushavan, the Board of Trustees and the hard-working members of the Building Committee, as well as all donors and benefactors who through their financial and moral support assisted in bringing this project to its completion.
In turn, remarks were also offered by Board of Trustees chairman, Gregory Afarian, and former chairman of the now dissolved Building Committee, Mr. P. Richard Shahtanian, Esq.
Then Der Hayr invited the Prelate to offer his concluding remarks. During his remarks Srpazan Hayr congratulated the entire community and offered high commendations to all those persons active in the project at hand. Praising the church community for being faithful and God-centered, he also noted that, despite all the obstacles and challenges brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, the North Andover church could stand as an example to other church communities in the Prelacy. “Even though you did not get to celebrate your 50th Anniversary this year,” he said, “Next year you will be able to celebrate Fifty years – Plus One! And therefore that shows how you are always looking to achieve better.” He stated any other of the Prelacy church communities who have had to postpone anniversaries or put off other plans can look to Saint Gregory Church for encouragement and will be able to accomplish those things to an even greater extent in the coming years.
Rising to their feet, the people received Srpazan Hayr’s blessing and dismissal, after which all began to depart for their homes – all the while gazing up at the newly placed and shining cross.