The Liberator Savior “And he named him Jesus.*” (Mt 1:25)
During these days of remembrance of the birth of Christ, our thoughts go back twenty centuries ago to the miraculous event of the birth of Jesus, and I envision the joy of his parents Joseph and Mary. It is a time of parental emotions and family happiness ahead, especially when we consider God’s intervention on future events—the annunciation of the angel and Mary’s pregnancy, her visit to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, and finally the birth of the heavenly king in a simple manger. Mother of God Mary praised God by alluding that the one conceived in her will bring salvation to humankind by dethroning the powerful and elevating the meek. (Magnificat) And Mary gave birth to her child and in keeping with the message of the angel, named him Jesus—Savior, the liberator of the faithful. As children of the Armenian Church, we accepted Christ into our faith believing in the salvation of humankind as well as salvation of individuals. For centuries we prayed to Him, turning His sermons and commandments into the strength and purpose of our everyday lives and we forged the principles of Christianity on our national character. As individuals we beseeched and prayed for our own salvation filled with the hope of eternal life. But at the same time individual salvation in our faith also became collective—the hope of salvation for our entire nation. Eternal life and the survival of our nation and our martyrdom had no other power but the love of Christ and the hope to find the salvation of our nation with Him and by Him. Our dedication and fidelity to our faith became the supreme expression of our spirit of freedom, and by necessity living in freedom with Christ became our faith and our national “Creed” and our collective course. This is how we lived. This is how we preached. This is how we survived. Our motto became, “For the sake of faith and for the sake of fatherland,” just as the Vartanank proclaimed and embraced national freedom through their martyrdom. With the freedom of the soul our faith became our devotion, martyrdom, and victory. During these inaugural days of the New Year, the date 2018 takes us back 100 years ago to another sacrifice, struggle, and victory. Our nation’s uprising on May 28, 1918, was nothing else if not the wings of freedom after the genocide, our resurrection and victory after our national crucifixion. For centuries our national life was enriched and strengthened with the love of Christ, and our heroes and people proclaimed their love of the fatherland. For the sake of faith and fatherland the unsilencable call compelled them to the supreme sacrifice and salvation. Is not our faith in Christ the road to salvation? Yes, that same faith, sanctified by martyrdom, pressed our people to go toward the field of struggle with emotions of faithful witness and victory. The freedom of the soul hovered over the blood and sweat consecrated on our ancestral soil for which martyrdom for the soldier and the peasant earned honor and in defense of that honor—glory. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary, with its glorious and eternal message, it is necessary to be dedicated as a nation to our Christian faith that formed our concept of freedom, and gave life and image of our spirit of national freedom. That freedom is immortal, and like the God of our faith, is eternal. And we the faithful children of this truth are today called upon to remain in the same faithfulness, to turn the salvation given to us by Christ’s birth into an oath for our national salvation that we won with the victory in May. And just as unfaithfulness to Christ is faced by God’s judgment, so also indifference to the fatherland is faced by our nation’s judgment. Therefore, during these days of remembrance of the birth of Jesus, our message is that we, as a nation, must be dedicated to the truths of our faith, and live with Jesus our Savior, and as a nation be dedicated to the strength and immortality of our fatherland. And then, may the New Year and Holy Nativity be joyful for all of us.
ARCHBISHOP OSHAGAN Prelate Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern Prelacy) January 1, 2018
*Jesus, in Hebrew Yeshua, means “the Lord saves” or “the Lord is salvation.”
Photos courtesy of Diane Movsessian Our Sunday School presented its annual Christmas pageant on Sunday, December 17, 2017, for our parishioners. This was followed by a fun-filled Christmas party in Jaffarian Hall for all in attendance. There was delicious food, Christmas carols and even a visit from Gaghant Baba! Be sure to come to church for our Christmas Eve vigil service and Divine Liturgy on Friday, January 5, 2018, beginning at 6 PM. Students from our Sunday/Armenian School will take part in the reading of holy scripture. Until then, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Once again this year, the parishes of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America participated in the annual Artsakh Telethon hosted by Armenia Fund USA. This telethon takes place every year on Thanksgiving Day and the entire proceeds go to aid some aspect of life in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabagh (or Artsakh, as we know it in Armenian). For many years now, the parishes of the Eastern Prelacy, by order of our Prelate His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, have been holding special collections on designated Sundays and have aided the Prelacy in donating one grand sum -- on behalf of all of us -- toward the telethon. This year, we are pleased to announce that thanks to the generosity of our parishioners, we were able to collect $750. These proceeds were forwarded to the Prelacy right away. Congratulations to Saint Gregory's parishioners and to all the faithful of the Eastern Prelacy for helping our brothers and sisters in need in the fledgling Armenian republic of Artsakh. Please take a moment to read the acknowledgement letter we received from the Prelacy for our contribution.
On October 29 of this year, our Prelacy community celebrated with joy the 50th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of our Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan. The Divine Liturgy and commemorative banquet took place in New York City under His Eminence's presidency. His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General, chaired the steering committee for the event. On this occasion, a commemorative booklet was prepared and donations were requested for the Prelacy's clergy training fund and for its newly formed youth ministry department. Responding to the committee's request, our parish joined many others in donating toward this worthy cause, in the amount of $1,000 in celebration of the inspiring career of the chief priest and shepherd of our greater Armenian community here in the Eastern United States. A full news story complete with photographs is being prepared for the Prelacy's Outreach magazine, which we will reprint here. For now, we would like to present to you both the congratulatory letter we sent to His Eminence on this happy occasion, as well as his response to us.
Town Hall Style Meeting Guages Work of the Board of Trustees & NRA 2018 Steering Committee
Board of Trustees' Chairman Greg Afarian updates the Members of Saint Gregory on the yearly progress of the Board's work
On Sunday, November 19, following the Divine Liturgy and Requiem service, the Board of Trustees convened an unofficial membership meeting, conducted town hall style, for the benefit of the members of Saint Gregory Church. During the meeting, both our pastor Fr. Stephan Baljian and Board of Trustees' Chairman Greg Afarian had a chance to address the membership, highlighting the important successes and challenges of the year so far. Members were also given a rough estimate of where the church stands financially, vis a vis this year's annual budget, which was approved at the Annual General Membership Meeting in March of this year. Those in attendance also had the opportunity to voice their concerns in several different areas. During the meeting also, the membership heard an info. presentation from Christine Kourkounian, who has been selected to chair the steering committee for the 2018 National Representative Assembly of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, which is scheduled to be hosted by our parish here in North Andover, May 9-12, 2018. After presenting the basic details about what the NRA is and what it accomplishes, Ms. Kourkounian listed the members of the steering committee, which consists of our parish's representatives to the NRA, members of the Board of Trustees and other key members of the community selected for their expertise and experience, all under the leadership of our Der Stephan. She then gave a detailed schedule of the Assembly's events and highlighted the preliminary work done to organize the event thus far, appealing to each and every member to volunteer his or her help when the time comes. Following the presentation, Der Hayr closed the meeting by thanking Greg Afarian and Christine Kourkounian for their respective efforts and wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving.
Students from Grades 3-6 Sunday School class (from left to right): Callie Kienle, Garen Tokatlian, Michael Bulbulian, Narineh Boloian, Mariam Poladian, Armen Kourkounian, Aram Ozoonian
Students from our 3rd-6th grade class learned a lesson about the Nicene Creed during their Sunday School class. Composed in the year 325 A.D., the Creed is a profession of the Orthodox Christian faith that was generated by the first Ecumenical Council, which took place in Nicaea with the participation of 318 bishops from around the world. (Historical records show the Armenian Apostolic Church was represented at the council by Catholicos St. Arisdages, the son of St. Gregory the Illuminator. The Nicene Creed is an expansion on older creeds, including the much shorter Apostles' Creed, which traditionally traces its origins back to the first century. In its current form as used in the Divine Liturgy every Sunday, it is an expansion of an older, shorter version of itself. Some of this expansion (including the anathematization of those who deny the eternity of the Son and the Holy Spirit) was accomplished in subsequent decades. The Creed took its final form at the subsequent Ecumenical Council of Constantinople, which took place in 381. Its content is notable in that it is a clear refutation of the prevalent teaching of one Bishop Arius, who was preaching heretically that God the Son was a created being (however exalted), and therefore not sharing in divinity with God the Father. It is also the first dogmatic statement of the early church to assert that the Son and the Father are of the same "essence" (substance) and "nature." This means, rightly so, that "Sonship" or being begotten (born) of the Father is tantamount to being God, as that which is born of the Divine, must be of that very divine nature or substance himself, and therefore -- God.
The 2017-2018 AVAK Luncheon season is underway with fellowship and education being offered for our senior members in a friendly and laid back environment. AVAK Luncheon takes place beginning at noon on the first Thursday of every month from October through May (the exception is for the month of January, when it takes place on the day of Armenian Christmas, January 6). Following a delicious luncheon, prepared by crews on a monthly rotation, an innovative speakers' program invites interesting Armenian-American lecturers from different professions and backgrounds of expertise to share their presentations on a wide array of topics. For the month of October, our very Greg Afarian (Chairman of our Board of Trustees) spoke about his father, the late Katcher Afarian's legacy as an expert on and merchant of oriental carpets, also sharing several samples of rare, exquisite Armenian orientals. In November we viewed the newly released, powerful documentary Architects of Denial, detailing the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and the effects the Turkish denial of the genocide continues to have on Armenia and Artsakh today. Following the film, a lively discussion took place, facilitated by Der Stephan. Plans are underway for the next AVAK luncheon, which will take place on Thursday, December 7, 2017, and will feature our annual Christmas Carol and holiday sing-a-long under the capable leadership of Mary Barooshian at the piano!
Richard Berberian is a self-proclaimed music enthusiast who spent the first part of his professional life teaching music in public schools and later at Boston University. As much as this career fulfilled his creative side, it didn’t do much for the entrepreneurial itch within him, and he eventually left teaching to start his own business in the commercial entertainment industry. Berberian was one of the first commercial producers in the country to record and produce talking books on audio cassette, specializing in books for the blind and physically handicapped. He loved being an entrepreneur, but his business was lacking an important component, the ability to feed his creative juices like music had once done. So, in 1999 at the height of the audio and video cassette market, he sold his business and retired at the ripe old age of 44. Retirement didn’t suit Berberian either and his soul yearned for a creative component to augment a new entrepreneurial endeavor. Richard Berberian is the President and personality behind world-renowned, celebrity endorsed, Elyse Fine Jewelers. Since the mid 1700s, the Balian family (from his mother’s side) have been creative designers and craftsmen with large scale business operations in Ottoman Turkey. Emigrating to the United States in 1915 to escape religious and cultural persecution, the business was reestablished in Massachusetts and successfully operating when a family member approached him to come out of retirement to assist with developing the business further. Once again, Richard Berberian had the opportunity to feed his need to build a business and combined a unique talent for generating profit with an ability to create beauty and art. This entrepreneur saw an opportunity to establish Elyse Fine Jewelers at a whole new level. More importantly, he found a catalyst that would feed his creative and entrepreneurial soul. I recently sat down with Richard to find out what it takes to dream big and shine bright. Be Rare - Berberian says that the value of a diamond is a byproduct of its rarity. He says, the same is true in business, as entrepreneurs must find a way to differentiate themselves from the competition; the more rare they become, the easier it will be to grow a successful endeavor. Berberian says that when he first started working with his family, he became obsessed with finding a way to differentiate his jewelry store from the millions of others. He found his niche when he partnered with insurance companies who needed a jewelry partner to replace the lost or stolen jewelry of their clients. These pieces were often unique and sentimental to their owners, requiring special skills to replicate. Berberian, so confident that this would be his opportunity to become rare, exited the traditional retail jewelry business and created a new model that attracted high end clients through insurance claims, and then kept those clients for life through the quality of his hand-made jewelry. Shine Bright Like a Diamond - Berberian began his new trade as an employee working for his family and before long, had grown the insurance business so it was grossing more than the retail business. He soon bought the business from his family and began focusing on the creative side of building a jewelry empire. He wanted to be an architect of his own fine pieces and so he went back to school to establish his credentials at the renowned Gemological Institute of America. Berberian says that much of his time today is spent designing a combination of engagement rings and bridal jewelry, along with unique fashion pieces for celebrity clients from around the world. During our visit, he shared some of his rare pieces, including a beautiful blue necklace which reminded me of The Heart of the Ocean Necklace from The Titanic. Berberian explained that he travels the world to find the most unique and finest gem stones. He brings these stones back and stores them in his vaults where they await his next design inspiration. Berberian says that Elyse Fine Jewelers has the ability to obtain any jewelry piece from the big-name designers, like most jewelry stores do, but he says that most of his clients seek him out for one-of-a-kind pieces that the client will never see on someone else. Many of Berberian’s creations have been featured on celebrity clients and in the styling suite at the Academy Awards. He says that when you shine bright like a diamond, your work will speak for itself and the business will flourish. Create Your Business Personality - Berberian says that every business has its own personality, and it is the responsibility of the owner or CEO to create that personality. With this goal from the beginning, Berberian’s mission was to make sure the personality of his business was distinguishable from other jewelers. To do this, he moved his jewelry store to a commercial office complex in Reading, Massachusetts, not a retail location like most others. As well, he created a “by appointment” model for customers to visit the store. This enabled Berberian and his team to spend quality time with each client, making sure they have an unhurried experience to casually browse their showcases, while getting a complete education on diamonds and jewelry in the process. Berberian says that the personality of the business is part of what attracts his clients, and he has worked hard at building a personality that attracts individuals ranging from local soccer moms, to corporate execs, to professional athletes and celebrities alike. Make a Difference - Berberian says that happiness for him is when he’s in his shop doing gemological work and creating new designs. He says that many of his pieces take months or years to build, because he will not settle for a gem that is not perfect for the piece he is designing. He says that he feels blessed that he found an opportunity to reinvent himself in his mid-forties, and to show gratitude for his happiness, he makes it a point to give back to charities that benefit women and children. His mother and the mother of his wife, Christine, both passed away from cancer, so he finds ways to give back to charities that are seeking a cure for this deadly disease. One way in which he does this is through his art, by generously donating rare gems to raise money at charity auctions. He then designs a custom piece using that gem for the lucky bidder. Berberian says that when you are lucky enough to have found your calling in life, you should find ways to share it for the greater good.
Saint Gregory's annual picnic-festival will take place this coming Sunday, September 10, 2017, from 12:00 to 5:30 P.M! The weather will be great and the company enjoyable... so come on out and join us for a good time. Don't forget to come early and participate in the Sunday Divine Liturgy, which begins at 9:30 A.M. Also, during the picnic-festival, the annual Great Procession of the Holy Cross will take place. See you on Sunday!
North Andover, Mass. -- Archbishop Oshagan, Prelate, and Fr. Stephan Baljian, pastor, pose with Nancy Vartabedian, widow of the late Tom Vartabedian, and the Vartabedian family in the newly compiled Thomas M. Vartabedian Memorial Library.
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass.-- Archbishop Oshagan was on hand at Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley on Sunday, May 21. His Eminence the Archbishop, Prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern United States, traveled from New York to preside over the parish's 47th Anniversary Celebrations and to dedicate a new library in memory of parishioner extraordinaire and friend of the Armenian community, the late Tom Vartabedian, whose untimely passing last November was a cause of great sorrow and reflection for the entire community. Unstable weather, particularly a passing snowstorm that it seemed specifically targeted his travel plans, prevented Srpazan Hayr from travelling to North Andover on February 12 of this year, and despite his busy travel schedule and the long week he and Der Stephan Baljian (pastor of Saint Gregory Church) had just endured at the National Representative Assembly in Illinois, he was gracious enough to adjust his travel schedule in order to be with his flock on this joyous occasion. Srpazan Hayr celebrated the Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon. During his fatherly message, he emphasized the words of Jesus Christ taken from the Gospel reading of the day (from John, Chapter 10), "Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep... Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture." "Perhaps we can take a lesson from the ranchers of the old American West, or the shepherds from ancient times," he said, "but just as the cowboys or the shepherds would carefully round up and herd their livestock into the pen or stable -- even sometimes leaving the others to go in search of the lost sheep or steer -- in the same way our loving, heavenly Father, gathers us together into the safety of His Church, and the very gate by which we enter is Jesus himself." He encouraged the faithful to remain in the safety of God's sheepfold, where they might truly find green pastures and the spiritual nourishment human beings so desperately seek throughout their lives. Following the Divine Liturgy and Requiem service for the deceased Pastors, Deacons, Godfathers, Benefactors, Trustees and N.R.A. delegates, Srpazan Hayr descended the Holy Altar and took his seat in the nave of the church. Der Stephan, in the meantime, made a brief presentation outlining the new youth library, conceived by and almost brought to completion by the late Tom Vartabedian in cooperation with the students and staff of Saint Gregory's joint Sunday/Armenian School. As part of the observance of 2016's "Year of Service," the idea to have a working library geared toward the youth of the parish and placed at it's disposal sprang out of a Sunday School wide "Forum on Service" conducted in February of 2016. Tom immediately formed a Student Service Committee from among the older Sunday School students and got to work. While everyone involved has some notion that the library, once brought to completion, would eventually be named by him, in the wake of Mr. Vartabedian's illness and subsequent death, everyone involved at every level agreed that it would be fitting to name it the "Thomas M. Vartabedian Library" and dedicate it in his memory. The library, currently housed in one of the Sunday School's classrooms, will contain religious, cultural and literary books in both Armenian and English, geared toward the youth. It is already off to a modest start, thanks to generous donations by Archbishop Oshagan, Mr. Gregory Arabian and many others, and its capacity will also be greatly expandable in the future. During his remarks Der Stephan unveiled the new plaque that will hang in the library. Following this, the Sunday School commencement ceremony began. The students, under the direction of Principal Sossy Jeknavorian and their teachers, had a chance to share prayers, recitations and insightful reflections about the faith, theology, morality and liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Srpazan Hayr presented the yearly promotion certificates to all of the students. This year's three graduating students, Armen Almasian, Armen Hovsepian and Michael Mahlebjian also had a chance to address the parishioners, their parents and their fellow Sunday School students. In his closing remarks, the Prelate commended the students and congratulated the graduates, encouraging them to remain in the faith they were brought up on and reminding them that their service to our Lord's Church has just begun. He stated that in almost twenty years as Prelate, this was the first time he was presiding over a Sunday School commencement. He praised the parents and teaching staff and stated his satisfaction with the progress the children and community had made.
Archbishop Oshagan with the three 2017 graduates of Saint Gregory Sunday/Armenian School (left to right): Michael Mahlebjian, Armen Hovsepian, Armen Almasian, flanked by Sossy Jeknavorian, Principal and Fr. Stephan Baljian, Pastor
Nancy Vartabedian, widow of the late Tom Vartabedian, addresses the crowd, with son Raffi Vartabedian to her right and Saint Gregory Board of Trustees Chair Greg Afarian to the left
While parishioners gradually made their way to Jaffarian Hall for the Anniversary banquet, Srpazan Hayr and Der Hayr joined the school children and the Vartabedian Family downstairs in the Vartabedian Library. After some explanatory remarks by Der Hayr, a short dedication service was offered, after which the Prelate once again offered his congratulations as well as his condolences to the Vartabedian family. Once in Jaffarian Hall, the 47th Anniversary banquet commenced with a capacity crowd of almost 140 people. Board of Trustees Chairman, Greg Afarian, who also served as Master of Ceremonies for the day, offered some opening remarks. After welcoming Srpazan Hayr to the community, he highlighted some of the achievements and setbacks of the parish over the last year. He also invited Nancy Vartabedian, widow of Tom Vartabedian, along with her two sons Ara and Raffi, daughter Sonya and son-in-law Pat Sico up to say a few words and light the candle on the annual anniversary cake. Seizing upon the opportunity, Der Stephan informed the crowd in just two short weeks, Archbishop Oshagan would celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood... a spontaneous rendition of "Happy Anniversary" broke out followed by cheers, applause and good wishes for Srpazan Hayr. Following dinner, the Armenian School hantes began, which consisted of songs dances, poems and recitations performed by Saint Gregory Armenian School students.
Students of Saint Gregory Armenian School perform in the annual year end hantes
Der Stephan presents each of the three graduating students with a copy of "Commentary on the Nicene Creed" by Archbishop Zareh Aznavourian, as a graduation gift
At the conclusion of the hantes, Der Stephan was next to address the crowd. He too welcomed Srpazan Hayr to North Andover, noting his difficult travel schedule and prior rigorous week at the National Representative Assembly in Chicago. He congratulated the parish on its 47th anniversary and noted that the beautiful testimony to the hard work and vision of the founders was evident today in seeing almost all of the 40 students of the Sunday/Armenian School students front and center, enthusiastic about their faith and culture and excited to be demonstrating what they have learned. He also took a moment to thank each and every person who serves the church in any capacity, and also to remember those dedicated parishioners who had done their work and had passed on to the next life. He also presented each of the Sunday/Armenian School graduates with a present. In his remarks, Srpazan Hayr thanked the North Andover community for all its hard work in preserving this young but integral parish of the Prelacy. He noted his pleasure at seeing so many parishioners present and active in the life of the community, and especially the youth of the parish. He then took the opportunity to announce -- to the great joy and surprise of the congregation -- that along with the Prelacy's Executive Council he had accepted the parish's invitation to convene the 2018 National Representative Assembly in North Andover, and expressed confidence that the future host parish would engage such a task thoroughly lovingly. He exhorted all present to remain faithful to our Lord and to the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian Nation, always carrying out the mission of the Gospel for the glory of God and for the betterment of our people. Following the final blessing and singing of Giligia, all who were present returned to their homes renewed and encouraged about the future.
The Annual General Membership Meeting of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley convened on March 5, 2017, on the Second Sunday of Great Lent. We would like to congratulate Kelly Janian, Susan Parigian, and Sylvia Mahlebjian who were elected to serve on the Board of Trustees. Greg Afarian was re-elected to a second term. Sharke' Der Apkarian was elected as delegate to the National Representative Assembly, and she represented our parish at the 2017 National Representative Assembly that took place in Glenview, Illinois, May 18-20. Our heartfelt thanks go to outgoing Trustees Richard Shahtanian, Joe Almasian & Melanie Tokatlian for their years of faithful service to our church on the Board of Trustees. Following approval of the minutes and reports of the General Meeting by the Prelacy's Executive Council, the new Board of Trustees met on May 1, 2017 and elected it's new Executive (Tivan) as follows:
Greg Afarian, Chair Rob Kochakian, Vice Chair Armen Kourkounian, Recording Secretary Kelly Janian, Corresponding Secretary Susan Parigian, Treasurer
We congratulate the new elected Executive of our Board of Trustees & NRA Delegate and wish our entire congregation many blessings and successful undertakings throughout the coming year.
Left to Right: Armen Kourkounian, Recording Secretary, Susan Parigian, Treasurer, Greg Afarian, Chair, Archbishop Oshagan, Prelate, Fr. Stephan Baljian, Pastor, Rob Kochakian, Vice-Chair, Kelly Janian, Corresponding Secretary, Jim Kochakian. Missing from photo: Sylvia Mahlebjian, John Boloian, Jeff Sarkisian
Eastern Prelacy Embraces “Year of Renewal” with Assignment of Youth Ministry Coordinator
By Sossi Essajanian
NEW YORK, NY—In his yearly message, Catholicos Aram I announced 2017 as the Year of Renewal, highlighting renewal as one of the goals of the Bible and a foundational idea in the church’s mission. He also poses both a Christian and national view on the topic, turning to the youth as key players in this renewal. The Catholicos notes, “The standard-bearers of this very important task of renewal must be the Armenian youth, because they are intimately knowledgeable of the current conditions, concerns, and challenges of the world. And, therefore, they feel the actual need for renewal and they can also bring important help to the collective effort of renewal with their expertise and new ideas.” The Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church recently focused their efforts on these words, creating new structures and platforms through which the youth can engage. At the 2016 National Representative Assembly delegates passed a resolution initiating the creation of a new Youth Ministry Coordinator. Aimed at engaging youth to be active parish members, the new coordinator will be working toward establishing youth ministers within each parish and coordinating with other church and community leaders to address the needs of the youth. Efforts will be aimed toward maximizing opportunities so that the ministry grows in participants, Armenian Apostolic Church faith, and spiritual leadership within each parish. With the task and parameters set, the Prelacy began a search for a candidate to fulfill this mission. They found the motivation and qualities needed in Annie Ovanessian. In a recent interview, she shared what excites her about the position. “As Armenian Christians we all have been blessed with having a legacy of faith and perseverance from which we continue to benefit,” she says. For Ovanessian, those who served faithfully in the church are living examples of being Christian and particularly Armenian Christians. From these foundations, she says, “I am excited to lay the next stones down to help honor the efforts of all those that came before me and hopefully help ensure that by doing so the legacy not only lasts but thrives in the generations to come.” Her new role will allow her the opportunity to do just that by working with others to plan and carry out ministry by, with, and for the youth in programs that include worship, study, fellowship, service and retreats. Archbishop Oshagan, the Prelate, warmly welcomed the new initiative and Ovanessian who will lead the effort to establish youth ministers in Prelacy parishes. “We envision this to be, at the least, a four-year plan to serve Christian education for the youth,” the Prelate says and then adds, “When we say ‘youth’ it is not necessarily just a matter of age. It could include anyone who does not know about Christianity and the faith and history of the Armenian Church.” Ovanessian’s inspiration for working as a youth minister comes from her personal faith journey as a young middle school student growing up in New Jersey. She notes that it was in her Sts. Vartanantz Sunday School class where she explored what faith meant to her personally. Her teachers, she notes, “…helped guide me to want to learn more about the Armenian Apostolic Church and how I could take ownership of the faith it professed.” Thus, the church and community played a vital role in her life growing up and being a young adult, says Ovanessian. She later went on to teach Sunday School to middle and high school students. Her passion took her all the way to graduating from the Nareg Saturday School, Siamanto Academy, and St. Gregory of Datev Summer Institute and later becoming an advisory board member of the Armenian Religious Education Council (AREC). As an engaged youth herself, Ovanessian hopes to inspire youth ministers to “…model what it means to be followers of Christ in the context of our faith expression.” It is her hope that youth ministers will encourage youth to engage with their faith, church, and community. Engaged youth bring renewed energy and inspiration to the life of the church. Ovanessian sees engaged youth as contributing willingly and whole-headedly. She notes, “Youth within our church will participate and collaborate most effectively when we provide opportunities for them to explore how the church, its doctrine and teachings pertain to their daily lives; that our faith is a way of life not just something we do once a week.” Youth ministers, Ovanessian says, are in a prime position to inspire others. Her hope for youth ministers revolves the satisfaction of “…empowering adolescents in our churches to grow in the knowledge of what it means to be followers of Christ through the expression of the Armenian Apostolic Church tradition.” Youth ministers, says Ovanessian, bring a special kind of service, one in which they can “…help shape lives and the further success of our churches.” These are some of the qualities of youth that Ovanessian says inspires her to work with them as youth ministers. For her, the youth contribute a unique outlook, one characterized by “energy, drive and unencumbered perspective….” Through mentoring and guidance, Ovanessian notes, one can inspire innovative thinking in the youth. Her work with the youth will also connect to other Prelacy departments. Specifically, Ovanessian is enthusiastic to work with the director of AREC, Deacon Shant Kazanjian, and collaborate to support initiatives. This will also give her the opportunity to understand the early religious development of children, as the target group for the youth ministry will be middle and high school students. Ovanessian hopes that as the program grows, “… we may want to expand the ministry to include college age young adults as well.” Her background in sociology primed her for this role in understanding social structures. She notes that for her, “Sociology provided the language and explanations for so many of the informal observations I had made as a young adult in regards to culture and why certain peoples do what they do.” Her later work in sales and customer service for Fortune 500 and direct sales companies also provided platforms and models for communication that Ovanessian can utilize in her new role. As Ovanessian embraces her new role in the Prelacy, she strives to provide to her three children the kind of family and community experience she had. She and her husband Simon make space in their “on the move” lives to take the children to Nareg Saturday Armenian School in New Jersey. On Sundays, her husband serves as a deacon while she co-teaches the 9th and 10th grade Sunday School class. The Ovanessian children attend Sunday School, serve on the altar, and participate in junior choir and other youth-related activities at their parish, St. Gregory the Enlightener Church in White Plains, New York. The fact that they live in Brookfield, Connecticut, does not stop the Ovanessians from making sure they and their children have the opportunity to foster a strong relation with their faith and the Armenian Church. As the Year of Renewal continues, Ovanessian feels prepared to begin building bridges between the concerns, hopes, and needs of the youth and the congregation and community. She will work to help the youth explore an understanding of God’s call for all Armenian Apostolic Christians while empowering them to be active members of their church and community. This will prepare the youth to answer Catholicos Aram’s call for them to be leaders of this renewal.
Victory in Christ “But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:57, KJV)
Something that I realize many of you do not know about me is that I am a musician by training. Believe it or not, there was a time in my life where my whole world was classical music, listening to it, performing it, even composing it. Yes, at one time my name was almost synonymous with music, and anyone who knew me would be hard pressed to be able to imagine one without the other. Obviously, for my life’s work I chose a different path, led by God’s calling. I do not regret that choice at all. However, over the years, somewhere in between the clergy seminars, committee meetings, office work, sermon preparation and visitation schedules, what was once a presumptive career pursuit of mine has gradually taken a back seat to the rest of my clerical responsibilities and has become an avid – albeit passionate – but nonetheless amateur hobby. From my formative years as a music lover, I amassed a large collection of sheet music – all the greatest classical works from masters like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Wagner. Whether scored for piano, orchestra, voice or any instruments you can think of, I am in possession of dozens of such musical scores, which I like to pull out and study – in alphabetical order by composer or publisher – when I finally get a little time to myself. If there is a great classical masterwork to be had, you can bet I have it. Well, it just so happened that at the beginning of last week I had arrived at a perennial favorite sitting on the shelf in my dedicated musical bookcase. It was the oratorio “Messiah” by George Frederick Handel. One of the best-known, most beloved musical works in all western literature, Messiah, which takes as its subject Jesus Christ, the prophecy of his incarnation, the saving work he accomplished on earth and the promise of his second coming and the Kingdom of God with him, occupies a special place in the hearts of countless music lovers and people of faith throughout the whole world down through the generations. In my experience, even those who are relatively musically unversed will have had some exposure to or familiarity with Handel’s Messiah, either as a whole or at the very least, its most famous section, the Hallelujah Chorus. When you think of it, really, there is probably scarcely a person alive who is not familiar with that infamous four-note theme at its opening! And so there I found myself one night last week, curled up with my trusty full score of Handel’s Messiah, listening and following along with one of my favorite pieces of music. As I listened to Part III of the oratorio, I marveled at how Handel (with the help of librettist Charles Jennens) magnificently captured the wonder and amazement of Christ’s resurrection and the hope of all mankind to one day be raised with him in glory and immortality. His text is drawn from the 15th chapter of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians; he goes through all the important lines and concepts: Christ is risen from the dead (verse 20), death through Adam and life through Christ (verse 22), the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised (verse52), death and the grave have no victory over us (verse 55) and, finally, the victory we have over death through Jesus Christ (verse 57). Sadly, this is not a very popular selection, comparatively speaking, as some of the more well-known ones, and is often omitted in performance (during my career as a choral singer I had the privilege of singing “Messiah” twice and never once got to sing this particular section). Yet, as I was listening to the penultimate chorus with the singers repeating the words “But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” it suddenly dawned on me that what I was listening to was the central message of Christ’s resurrection: God gave Jesus victory over death so that we too would have victory over death! What a simple and beautiful gift! Is it any wonder why Paul the Apostle (and Handel!) makes sure to thank him for it? Indeed, the resurrection of Christ should be seen as God’s greatest gift to humanity, because it not only showed the power and grace of God, but also gave mankind a new hope of finally living to see the life it has yearned for ever since being expelled from the presence of God in the paradise of Eden – that is, a life free from the corruption of sin and evil… a blessed life, a real life in which we are restored to a continuous, meaningful relationship with God and one which does not end with death but extends into eternity. Now, like any other gift, right or privilege we have, we should remember that those things must be secured and their preservation fought for. Make no mistake, the word “victory” is in its truest sense applicable here, considering Christ’s resurrection was truly a victory of life over death, good over evil, God over Satan, renewal over decay. And it was fought for ferociously, by a single man waging uncompromised battle, obedient to the will of his heavenly Father, stopping at nothing to make his way up to the cross and ultimately sacrificing his life in order that this victory might be secured for us mortals, who because of our sin faced very bleak prospects of ever being saved from eternal condemnation. We have a lot to be thankful for. The resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promised resurrection of all mankind serve as reminders of God’s faithfulness and his unsurpassed love and compassion toward his creation. St. Paul’s expression follows along the lines of a well-documented biblical rhetorical device, one that is both straightforward and exists in a myriad examples in both the Old and New Testaments. It exists in two steps: 1) identify what great thing God has done for us, and 2) thank him for it. God has given us victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ; thanks be to him. Amen. Christ is risen from among the dead. Blessed is the resurrection of Christ.
Holy Resurrection-- New Life “Where, O death, is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) As we welcome spring, we joyfully greet the Feast of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not a remembrance of an ordinary event, but rather it is the foundation and raison d’être of Christian life. It was the most momentous event given to all Humankind forming the Christian faith’s strongest rock – twenty centuries ago, today and in the future. It is the Christian faith, because, “without the faith of the Resurrection our preaching has been in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Christ’s resurrection is the assurance given to Humankind, to all of us without discrimination, of a new life—a resurrected life that awaits all of us when we depart from this world. That time is not death, but new life because, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Christ’s resurrection is also our resurrection, providing the life we live in this world genuinely reflects His commandments.
And we contemplate. . .
Death is an inevitable reality that comes later or sooner to every living being. If the life given to us is devoid of Christian faith, then death becomes a loss. If we follow the direction given to us by our Savior, with Christ’s resurrection as a model, instead of loss we find salvation. This salvation, given by Christ’s resurrection, is a reward—even a right—that is grace freely given, whose price our Lord Jesus paid with his passion and crucifixion. The victory is the promise that Jesus gave us through His resurrection, with the condition that we remain on the road of truth, following and fulfilling biblical principles and teachings. It is with this faith and assurance that the Apostle Paul declares, “Where, O death, is your victory?” because he knows full well that the true and lasting victory belongs to Christ, and in our case this victory is gained by following Christ and implementing His commandments.
As Christians, we cannot ignore the resurrection’s non-negotiable demands that are obligatory by our faith. If universal or family values are ignored, then loss is waiting for us; a resurrected life faces us if we firmly protect those values. Jesus very clearly stated human values saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and adds, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39). This is the Godly law that becomes viable when we heartily accept our Lord’s other commandment, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Denying ourselves and loving our fellow human beings, the needy, the weak, the helpless, is the purpose of Christian doctrine.
We must live with a new life; with renewed life we must look beyond our own self, to the world around us, to our fellow humans, and the entirety of God’s creation.
His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, proclaimed 2017 as “The Year of Renewal.” Renewal by honoring the biblical truths, keeping alive our Armenian Church’s true faith bequeathed to us—our holy heritage, our pure and clean national identity that has been carved in our souls by the sacrifice and martyrdom of our forefathers. Christ’s resurrection is the source of this national renewal, the value and meaning of loyal and faithful lives of our martyrs, whose inspiring last message is: “Through Christ, with Christ to the resurrection of our nation.”
The Feast of the Holy Resurrection is the best opportunity to arm ourselves with the weapons of Christian principles, live our days with the biblical messages, become spiritually cleansed and be model examples for our community, strengthened with Christ’s love and with a tranquil and clean conscience wait for our reunion with Him. Our just reward.
And when this faith becomes an unshakeable rock, our worthy children of the Armenian Church will see the inevitable miracle of our nation’s survival and will say, “Where, O death, is your victory?”
“Christ is risen from death; with his death he destroyed death” (Book of Hours).
ARCHBISHOP OSHAGAN Prelate Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Eastern Prelacy) Easter 2017
On Sunday, March 5, 2017, the members of Saint Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of Merrimack Valley came together for our annual General Membership Meeting, which was held after Sunday service in Jaffarian Hall, on the Second Sunday of Great Lent. This meeting, convened annually, is mandated by the By-Laws of our Prelacy and usually takes place in February or early March. It's purpose is to review the pastoral and administrative activities of the parish for the previous year, hear reports of the activities and finances of the church's organizations, review the annual operating budget and adopt a new proposed budget for the current fiscal year (2017). In addition, elections are held for positions on the Board of Trustees and delegates to the National Representative Assembly of the Prelacy. It also affords our members the opportunity to ask questions, make suggestions or express concerns about certain aspects of the church's life and ministry for consideration by the pastor, membership and Board of Trustees.
We are pleased to announce that this year's meeting went smoothly and many concerns were addressed, such as a lag in attendance at church services and Sunday School. By the grace of God, the 2016 fiscal year ended "in the black," and the number of members went up. We look forward to another successful year of faith and ministry. Congratulations are also in order for the following individuals who were elected to the Board of Trustees: Chairman Greg Afarian (re-elected), Kelly Janian, Sylvia Mahlebjian, Susan Parigian and Nancy Vartabedian, who was elected as alternate. Representing our parish as our newest National Representative (Yerespokhan) will be Sharke' Der Apkarian. Approval of the precedings of our General Membership Meeting by the Prelacy's Executive Council is pending, after which time we will be able to seat the new Board of Trustees and elect an Executive for the next year.
This year's celebrations of the feast of the Vartanants Saints, which took place on Thursday, February 23, received special importance. Our Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan arranged for regional celebrations in New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions. Archbishop Oshagan was on hand at Sts. Vartanants Armenian Apostolic Church in Ridgefield, New Jersey, while Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General, travelled to Watertown where he celebrated the festal Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon that evening. The clergy of the New England parishes were all in attendance. Additionally, Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian, pastor of St. James Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as the pastors of the local Armenian Catholic and Protestant congregations were on hand for the commemoration. The congregation was full of parishioners of St. Stephen's and other New England parishes, fortified by students of St. Stephen's Saturday, Sunday and Elementary Schools and their families. During his sermon, Anoushavan Srpazan emphasized the importance of commemorating the Vartanants saints, a legion of 1,036 warriors who led an army of more 60,000 knights into battle against the invading Persian overlords at the Battle of Avarayr in 451 A.D. He acknowledged that despite their physical defeat (although the Armenians would ultimately prevail and preserve their Christian faith and identity), the victory was a moral one, showing the courage and bravery of martyrdom over indifference to spiritual and cultural threats. He emphasized that, as with any commemoration of saints, it is not only a time to look back to a historical event, but also to take stock of the present-- to see where we are in our spiritual walk with Jesus Christ, and if we are ready to sacrifice our lives and our comfort for his name. Addressing the young specifically, he admonished them to remember the brave example and legacy of the Vartanants Saints, and to fight the present day spiritual battle in order to ensure the preservation of their own faith and identity as well as that of the future generations. Following the service, the students of the Saturday School presented a program of songs and poems dedicated to the St. Vartan and his companions. The local Knights of Vartan Ararat Lodge #1 prepared and hosted a traditional herissah dinner for all present.
NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. (Armenian Weekly)—More than 150 people packed the Jaffarian Hall of the St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church of North Andover on March 4, to celebrate the 122nd anniversary of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Lowell Aharonian committee and to pay tribute to longtime Armenian Weekly columnist, an award-winning Haverhill Gazette writer-photographer, and dedicated Armenian community activist Tom Vartabedian.
Aharonian gomideh chair and the evening’s Master of Ceremonies Aram Jeknavorian opened the evening’s program by inviting Rev. Father Stephan Baljian, Pastor of the St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church, to lead the attendees in prayer. After blessing the tables, Rev. Baljian said a prayer in Vartabedian’s memory. Following the invocation, attendees sang the National Anthems of the United States and Armenia. Welcoming remarks were then delivered by Jeknavorian, during which he gave a brief history of the Aharonian committee—the first ARF committee in North America. “In a letter dated Sept. 24, 1895, the [ARF] Bureau gave a group [in Lowell] the authority to start their activities,” explained Jeknavorian. “Two other letters, dated Oct. 8 and 18, 1895, informed [ARF party organ] Droshak the formation of units in Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Providence, and Fall River… Shortly thereafter, one year late, the ARF had its first Convention in Lowell… In his letters to Droshak, Garabed [Avedissian, unger in Secretary in the U.S.] wrote, ‘The Armenian people opened their eyes, looked around, and saw an incorruptible organization true to its beliefs, accepting responsibility for the sake of freedom and for the joyous day of justice and popular democracy that is to come in Hayastan.” Jevnavorian then went on to explain how the Aharonian committee got its name after the death of prominent Armenian political leader, writer, and activist Avetis Aharonian. Jeknavorian then made a toast to the late Tom Vartabedian on behalf of the Aharonian gomideh, the area’s Armenian organizations, as well as Tom’s family and friends “To Tommy’s 50 years of service. A loyal unger, who asked for no rewards; who maintained a high level of service within the community; promoted unity, reconciliation, high moral values, and most importantly friendship. Everything you would want in an unger, a friend, and a buddy. To Tom,” Jeknavorian said, as the crowd held their drinks high. After dinner was served and enjoyed by those in attendance, Dr. Ara Jeknavorian of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee of the Merrimack Valley delivered a presentation entitled “Tom’s Mission for Genocide Education,” during which he explained Vartabedian’s dedication to educating both Armenian and non-Armenian youth about the Armenian Genocide. Through photos and slides, Dr. Jeknavorian detailed the work Vartabedian and others have done over the years within the public school system in the Merrimack Valley. “The group was formed about seven years ago by Tommy, the late Albert Movsesian, and Dro Ganayan. They observed that even though we have a State Law that says that you shall teach the Armenian Genocide in schools, they found that in reality, the Armenian Genocide was truly a forgotten Genocide… I feel very honored that three years ago, when I retired, Tommy asked me to be a part of the group,” Jeknavorian explained. He went on to detail how the group has visited over 30 schools and taught several hundreds students about the Armenian Genocide. The crowd was then invited to read aloud Vartabedian’s “Pledge to Make a Difference”—something that he would have students do, after they learned about the Armenian Genocide: “I pledge to try to make a difference in the lives of others. I pledge to stand against intolerance, prejudice, discrimination, and hate, and to promote greater understanding and acceptance. I recognize that even small acts of kindness can have a big impact on others. I pledge to be the change.” Armenian National Committee of America – Eastern Region (ANCA-ER) Board member and associate director of Project SAVE Armenian Photograph Archives Tsoleen Sarian then delivered remarks on behalf of the ANCA-ER. “I am thankful for Tommy’s enthusiasm, constant encouragement, and positive attitude. In his role as an outspoken leader, he elevated all those around him, especially the youth. He shined light onto other people’s projects and activism. He built coalitions and brought people together, because unified, our voice is stronger. I admire him for his hard work. He was participating in so many organizations, and always made teaching the Armenian Genocide in local schools and colleges a priority. Our community is stronger, thanks to Tom Vartabedian.” Sarian said. She then provided a detailed update of the ANCA-ER’s activities and outlined ways the community can get involved in the organization’s activities. Following Sarian’s remarks, Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Bedford chapter member Datev Gevorkian performed a musical selection of three songs on the oud, dazzling members of the audience. ARF Eastern U.S. Central Committee member Antranig Kasbarian then delivered remarks on behalf of the Central Committee. “Many of us Dashnaktsakans (ARF members), we wear our nationalism on our sleeves, and sometimes we’ll clobber you with our nationalist ideology. Tom also was an ardent patriot. But his nationalist ideology actually wove its way through discussions and wove its way through his writings and his columns. He often tied our cause to larger issues of human dignity, of cultural awareness, or just reflections on the human condition and the absurdity of life. Always, that nationalist ideology was a part of a wider humanism that really represents the love of life, and for that I am really proud to have known him as a friend and as an unger,” Kasbarian said.
Following Kasbarian’s remarks, deputy director of the Armenia Tree Project (ATP) and former Armenian Weekly editor Jason Sohigian shared his reflections about Vartabedian’s life and legacy. “My strongest memory while working with Tom Vartabedian at the Armenian Weekly was him telling us and reminding me to focus on the local, on telling people’s stories and about our local community. And while many of us were often with our head in the clouds, dealing with politics, Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh), and the genocide issue—day in and day out—Tom reminded us to remember to keep the Armenian-American community alive. It’s not that he didn’t have the political or historical awareness—he really understood the times… But he really understood the importance of the local and telling the stories of the people. And of course, he had great storytelling skills,” Sohigian said, noting that Vartabedian wrote in the simple, light, enjoyable, and everyday style of a William Saroyan. “Publically, Tom referred to me as his editor, which was humbling, but somehow could never sit right with me and I never could correct him. It felt very overstated to me, because Tom was such a seasoned pro and such an accomplished columnist,” Sohigian said. Rupen Janbazian, the current editor of the Armenian Weekly, then spoke about Vartabedian’s legacy as a longtime Armenian Weekly columnist and activist in the Armenian community. “The ARF was an integral part of Tom’s life—a pillar, through which he advocated for justice for the Armenian people,” Janbazian noted, before reading his editorial for the Armenian Weekly, written the day after Vartabedian’s passing. “On behalf of everyone at the Armenian Weekly and the Hairenik Weekly, including the editors and the staff, I would like to thank you for being here to honor a man, who will be greatly missed not only by this community, but by Armenian communities around the world,” Janbazian concluded.
Following Janbazian’s remarks, Vartabedian’s widow Nancy and daughter Sonya thanked those in attendance on behalf of the Vartabedian family. “I’m sure Tom has been listening today and has a smile from ear to ear on his face,” Nancy said. “I know many of you here had known him well before I had—either through church, the AYF, the ARF, and the Armenian Weekly. He was a very happy person when he was associated with Armenians,” she then remarked.
“On behalf of my mother, my brothers, my entire family, we cannot thank this community of the Merrimack Valley and Greater Boston enough. You have to know that everybody in this room, my father adored. You brought as much joy to him as he hopefully brought to you in his life,” Vartabedian’s daughter Sonya noted. “He loved this community, this church, everything to do with the Armenians,” she added.
Following Sonya’s remarks, Aram Jeknavorian invited Father Stephan, who addressed the crowd on behalf of the St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church and offered his benediction. Those in attendance were then invited to conclude the event with the singing of the ARF anthem, Mshak Banvor. All of the proceeds from the event celebrating the 122nd anniversary of the ARF Aharonian committee and honoring Tom Vartabedian’s legacy will be donated to the Armenian Weekly and the Armenian National Committee of the Merrimack Valley—two institutions that were near and dear to unger Vartabedian’s heart.
Armenian Weekly Staff, Reprinted from The Armenian Weekly
Archbishop Oshagan surrounded by the Prelacy clergy of the New England region. Front row (left to right): Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian (Worcester), Achpriest Gomidas Baghsarian (retired), Archbishop Oshagan, Archpriest Aram Stepanian (New Britain). Back row: Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian (Providence), Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Khosrofian (Whitinsville), Rev. Fr. Stephan Baljian (North Andover), Archpriest Antranig Baljian (Watertown), Rev. Fr. Bedros Shetilian (Indian Orchard)
His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern United States, recently initiated a unique opportunity for professional development of the Prelacy Clergy. In cooperation with the Prelacy's Religious Council, a self-evaluation survey was developed and prepared and distributed to each clergyman at the beginning of the year. After filling it out, each clergyman was invited by Archbishop Oshagan for a brief one-on-one meeting to discuss ways in which to try to improve and develop ministerial skills and practices. The meetings took place at St. Stephen's Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown. His Eminence travelled from New York specifically for this occasion. Following the meetings, Srpazan Hayr arranged for a fellowship meal at the Armenian-American Social Club nearby the church. There the clergy had a wonderful opportunity to break bread together and celebrate their ministry as priests of the Armenian Apostolic Church, as it was the eve of the Feast of Sts. Ghevontyants, a group of priests who were martyred during the Vartanants battles of 451 A.D. St. Ghevont the Priest and his companions, commemorated annually on the Tuesday before the start of Great Lent, served as spiritual advisors to the Vartanants Warriors and were martyred alongside them in their defense of the homeland and spiritual identity of the Armenian People. The clergy of the Eastern Prelacy would normally gather during these few days for a conference partially devoted to fellowship and partially to professional development. This year, since the clergy of all three North American Prelacies (Eastern United States, Western United States & Canada) will meet together in Montreal in October (for reasons of convenience and accessibility), the usual February conference did not take place. This gathering brought the New England clergy together with their spiritual father in its stead.