During the 111th Diocesan Assembly, hosted by the St. David Church of Boca Raton, Fla., from May 2 to 4, delegates heard reports from the Diocesan organizations, including the Diocesan Council, Legate’s Committee, Fund for Armenian Relief, Armenian Church Endowment Fund, Ararat Center, and St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided over the meeting of clergy and lay delegates, representing parishes from across the Eastern Diocese.
St. David Church Hosts 111th Diocesan Assembly
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: (212) 779-3558
May 10, 2013
During the 111th Diocesan Assembly, hosted by the St. David Church of Boca Raton, Fla., from May 2 to 4, delegates heard reports from the Diocesan organizations, including the Diocesan Council, Legate’s Committee, Fund for Armenian Relief, Armenian Church Endowment Fund, Ararat Center, and St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided over the meeting of clergy and lay delegates, representing parishes from across the Eastern Diocese.
The Assembly opened on Thursday, May 2, with a reading of the message of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The message was read by the Very Rev. Fr. Narek Avagyan, a visiting priest from Holy Etchmiadzin.
“It gives us great joy to see that under the shadow of the all-powerful arm of the Lord, the children of our nation in the diaspora keep Armenian life strong,” His Holiness wrote. “With God-pleasing undertakings, they strengthen the Diocese that is under the Lord’s care, and reinforce national institutions, as a testimonial to the splendor of their faith and for the preservation of their identity.”
The Assembly was chaired by Raffi Balian, of St. Mary Church of Washington, D.C., with Michael Yapchaian, of St. James Church of Watertown, Mass., serving as vice chair. Terry Peterson, of St. Mesrob Church of Racine, Wis., served as the English secretary, and Rev. Fr. Hratch Sargsyan, pastor of St. Gregory of Narek Church of Cleveland, Ohio, served as Armenian secretary.
Outgoing Diocesan Council chair Oscar Tatosian gave the Diocesan Council report. Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, outlined the activities of the Armenian Studies, Christian Education, and Youth Outreach sections, as well as the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center and Communications Department. Each of the departments shared resources currently available to parishes.
Dr. Sam Mikaelian, coordinator of development at the Diocese, spoke about the success of the 2012 Annual Appeal: the Diocese raised $726, 577. He also noted that the 2013 Diocesan calendar, “The Stones Cry Out,” was a particularly successful fundraiser.
Rev. Fr. Tateos Abdalian, director of the Diocese’s Mission Parish program, shared updates from the mission parish of Jacksonville, Fla., which completed the renovation of its new parish hall. Fr. Abdalian also highlighted the mission parishes in Atlanta and elsewhere.
Karen Derderian, ACYOA Central Council vice chair, said the organization is continuing its work to increase the number of chapters across the Diocese. Later the entire ACYOA Central Council addressed the Assembly, thanking delegates for their continued support of ACYOA programs.
Dn. Rubik Malian, chair of the Sacred Music Council, noted that the council will continue its parish workshops for choir members throughout 2013, and host the Boyajian Youth Choir Directors Program for young participants in August 2013. The organization also offers scholarships for deacons training and music study programs.
The Women’s Guild Central Council looks forward to supporting the Fund for Armenian Relief’s Vanadzor Old Age Home in Armenia, said Central Council chair Charlotte Sevazlian. The Women’s Guild also will continue its successful Children of Armenia Sponsorship Program, and plan retreats for parish chapters to explore the Diocese’s new theme, “Living the Gospel of Christ.”
Outgoing Diocesan Council treasurer Papken Megerian and the Diocese’s director of Finance and Administration Bill Casey presented the 2013 revised budget and the 2014 proposed budget. Both budgets, which were approved by the Assembly, reflect efforts to minimize expenses. The Diocese will continue to seek new sources of revenue through its facilities rentals, bookstore, and other avenues. The Assembly was introduced to the new Development Director Lou Ann Matossian, who will start later in the year.
Antranig Garibian, a member of the Legate’s Committee, presented the activities of 2012. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Diocese’s Ecumenical Director, continued to meet with officials of the U.S. government at the State Department, and in the Senate and House, to discuss the status of Christian minorities in the Middle East, including the Christian community in Syria.
Archbishop Aykazian has also worked to bring attention to issues concerning Armenians in Jerusalem, Georgia, and the Middle East. In January 2013, he was elected president of Christian Churches Together. Mr. Garibian encouraged parishes to follow the Legate’s activities, and to engage in ecumenical efforts on a local level.
The Fund for Armenian Relief saw a successful year in 2012, when it exceeded projected revenue by 54 percent, said FAR Board of Directors chair Randy Sapah-Gulian. He went on to describe some of FAR’s existing projects, such as the Homeless Children’s Center in Yerevan, the Octet Music School and Information Technology Center in Gyumri, and several soup kitchens throughout Armenia.
Thanks to a generous donation from Edward and Janet Mardigian—who were honored as “Armenian Church Members of the Year” at the Diocesan Assembly banquet—FAR will launch a new initiative aimed at reducing poverty in the Tavush region. Called “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, Developing Thriving Communities,” the project will be implemented over a five-year period.
The Armenian Church Endowment Fund reported that its portfolio saw a return of 11.3 percent in 2012, and a total of $3.5 million was distributed to beneficiaries in March 2013. ACEF Board of Directors chair Bruce Ballard said the endowment fund has helped diverse Diocesan and parish programs, from St. Vartan and Hye camps to St. Nersess Armenian Seminary and FAR’s Vanadzor Old Age Home in Armenia. He asked parishes to consider taking advantage of the opportunity to invest with ACEF.
Jay Kapur, a member of the Ararat Center Board of Directors, gave an overview of the history of the 65-acre camping, retreat, and conference facility, and encouraged parishes to make use of the center for retreats and meetings.
Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, and Stephen Mekenian, seminary board member, spoke about plans to relocate the seminary to a new campus in Armonk, N.Y. The seminary is also working to increase enrollment and strengthen its relationship with the hierarchical sees of the Armenian Church. They stressed that the community’s support would be critical for the success of the seminary’s mission in North America.
Diocesan Council member Paul Mardoian gave a presentation on parish membership. He noted that in 2012, close to 20 parishes were able to attract new members, but added that more parishes need to continue to increase dues-paid membership. St. James Church of Watertown, Mass., was cited as a model in this endeavor, and the parish was invited to share the steps it took to reach out to potential members. These included building personal relationships with community members and developing marketing materials to highlight the benefits of membership.
Diocesan Council member Lisa Esayian and Richard Norsigian presented the results of a sub-committee appointed by the Diocesan Council to review the “Guidelines for Diocesan Bylaws of the Armenian Church”—a proposed constitutional framework for all Armenian Church dioceses, worked out during meetings of a five-member committee at Holy Etchmiadzin. Delegates voted to amend the existing Diocesan bylaws to incorporate changes to two of its provisions (a second vote at next year’s Assembly is needed to ratify these into Diocesan bylaws).
Additional proposals approved by the Assembly include a recommendation to reduce annual parish member dues for parishioners between the ages of 18 and 24, and a clarification on what constitutes a quorum at Parish Assemblies.
The Assembly also voted in favor of establishing guidelines by which parishes can move, alter, or discard gifts made for capital improvement, and called on the Diocesan Council, Primate, and Legate to work together to establish a Diocesan plan to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015.
On Saturday morning, a requiem service was held for His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the late 96th Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, and long-serving former Primate of the Eastern Diocese. Rev. Fr. Aved Terzian, a former student of Archbishop Manoogian, gave a touching reminiscence of Archbishop Manoogian’s ministry. “As an honorable prince of the Armenian Church, he carried himself with grace and dignity, always,” Fr. Terzian recalled. “He was a leader, a teacher, an inspiration.”
Before adjourning, Archbishop Barsamian thanked the Assembly officers and expressed his appreciation to the Boca Raton parish for hosting the Assembly. He expressed special gratitude to the host parish’s pastor, the Very Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian, and its organizing committee chair Carol Norigian.
Next year, the Diocesan Assembly will be hosted at the Diocesan Center in New York City.
2013 DIOCESAN ASSEMBLY ELECTION RESULTS
Below are the names of individuals elected to Diocesan boards and positions during the 111th Diocesan Assembly.
Board of Trustees
Dr. Raffy Hovanessian
Very Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian
Rev. Fr. Aved Terzian
Rev. Fr. Tadeos Barseghyan
Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian
Dn. Ara Jeknavorian
Dr. Gary Zamanigian
Photo 2: Outgoing Diocesan Council chair Oscar Tatosian gives the Diocesan Council report.
Photo 3: Carol Norigian, chair of the St. David Church organizing committee for the Assembly, and Very Rev. Fr. Nareg Berberian, pastor of St. David Church.
Photo 4: Delegates vote on a proposal during the Assembly.
Photo 1: Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Primate, addresses delegates.