ST. SARKIS CHURCH OF CHARLOTTE CONSECRATED BY ARCHBISHOP BARSAMIAN
By Jake Goshert
It was the birth of a new community as more than 300 people gathered on Sunday, July 31, 2005, for the consecration of the newest Armenian Church in the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern): St. Sarkis Church of Charlotte, NC.
It was the birth of a new community as more than 300 people gathered on Sunday, July 31, 2005….
The community has built itself up from just a handful of families, and a few years after buying its property was blessed by the generosity of a benefactor from Easton, PA: Mr. Sarkis Acopian.
“I look around today and I see so many people from so many backgrounds and life experiences,” said Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese, during the consecration service. “And yet you have all come together — in unity — in the name of our Lord, under the shield of His church, in the cause of the Armenian Christian heritage. And you have done this, even though you are remote from the larger concentrations of our people in this country. Today you begin a new life together, united, as an Armenian Christian church.”
As he consecrated the new St. Sarkis Church, the Primate reflected on the humble origins of the community. The Armenians in the Charlotte area first began to be called together when Lena Kupelian Neau arrived in the area in 1988. At that time there was no Armenian organization in the area.
She pulled out the phone book and started making phone calls to all the Armenians she could find. Pulling others into an organization, she was joined by people like Roland Telfayan; Arthur, Puzant, and Paul Yessayan; and Zaven Touloukian.
“My profound appreciation goes out to those who had the vision to establish a parish in this area,” the Primate said. “And also to those who took up that vision, built upon it, and expanded it.”
Dozens of these local community leaders, who gave so much of their time, energy, and financial resources to enliven the community, served as “godfamilies” of the church during its consecration.
The road to building the new church took some unexpected turns, causing the consecration to be postponed from two earlier dates. But now, at last, the community finally have a proper Armenian spiritual home of their own.
“We feel finally have a home we can gather in. Since we’ve been using the sanctuary attendance has quadrupled,” said Mrs. Kupelian Neau, the present parish council chair, who added that the parish now gets between 60 and 120 people at services. “The feeling in our former location — a rented church — was different; people would be talking during the services. But here you can hear a pin drop. The new church is having a totally different effect on the parishioners. I think because we’re going from an American church to a totally Armenian church.”
Standing on a main street in Charlotte, and being constructed in the style of traditional Armenian Church architecture, also means the parish is helping educate the locals about the Armenian people.
“It has put the Armenians on the map of Charlotte. Nobody questions what an Armenian is anymore. Everybody knows now. Everybody in Charlotte is talking about it,” Ms. Kupelian Neau said.
The community was boosted last year when Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis and Bobbye Acopian, from Easton, PA, pledged $2.25 million to build the new church in honor of Sarkis’ mother, Arax.
Arax was born in Kars, Turkey, in 1898, and grew up in Georgia and Iran, where she was a respected dentist. With her husband Grigor, she shared her devotion to the Armenian church and Armenian people with three children.
Mr. and Mrs. Acopian were on hand to attend the consecration and cut the ribbon on the adjoining church hall, named in their honor, where the celebratory banquet was held.