Randy Sapah-Gulian, chair of the Board of Directors of the Fund for Armenian Relief, spoke about the organization’s accomplishments since its founding 20 years ago, and the promise of its newest initiatives, including the FAR-ACYOA partnership and the Young Professionals Trip to Armenia, which will include a tour of historic Armenian lands in eastern Turkey for the first time in the program’s history.
In the past two decades, FAR has allocated $290 million in humanitarian assistance and developed more than 220 programs in Armenia, including efforts to bolster education, infrastructure, social services, and medicine.
Mr. Sapah-Gulian also highlighted the upcoming tribute in honor of Charles Aznavour. Scheduled for Friday, May 20, in New York City, the evening will mark the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence and honor this great artist, humanitarian, diplomat, and visionary.
ACEF Board members Haig Ariyan and Tom Garabedian presented the report of the Armenian Church Endowment Fund. They stressed that despite economic difficulties, ACEF returns have outperformed the market and the organization’s own benchmark since 2000.
ACEF had $78 million in assets, with a total of 1,400 endowed funds at the end of 2010. A total of $3.5 million was distributed to beneficiaries in March 2010, and $3.1 million in March of 2011.
Mr. Ariyan, who chairs ACEF’s investment committee, also noted that ACEF represents a diverse class of investments to ensure income, appreciation and safety. He added that the organization launched a new website and accompanying marketing materials to help familiarize current and potential beneficiaries with its work.
Ararat Center Board vice chair Rose Najarian Kedeshian gave an animated PowerPoint presentation highlighting the different organizations within and outside the Armenian community that have made use of the Ararat Center.
She said the 65-acre camping, retreat, and conference center serves diverse needs, and encouraged delegates to consider the center when planning parish retreats and other activities. “This is a place where we come together to connect and to make a difference for other generations,” she said.
She also shared information about this year’s Ararat Center Festival scheduled for Saturday, July 23, which will be dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence.
Diocesan Legate Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Director of Ecumenical Relations at the Eastern Diocese, and Legate’s Committee members Lisa Esayian and Antranig Garibian spoke about efforts to raise awareness about the Armenian Church among ecumenical and interfaith groups and to advocate for the Armenian community at various levels of government.
In the past year, Archbishop Aykazian met with members of President Obama’s administration to discuss the status of Christians in the Middle East, attended a meeting of religious leaders in Canada, and accompanied His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, on a trip to Baku for a World Summit of Religious Leaders. He has also begun serving as the chair of the fundraising committee for the World Council of Churches.
Archbishop Aykazian has continued efforts to support the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Armenian community in the Holy Land, and to seek action on the Armenian situation in the Republic of Georgia. In addition, he has called for increased outreach to Christians in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.
He visited parishes across the Diocese throughout the year to inform them about the Diocese’s ecumenical efforts, and to encourage them to participate in ecumenical and interfaith activities on a local level.
The Very Rev. Fr. Papken Salbiyan, vicar of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Javakh, spoke about the importance of supporting Armenian churches and villages in the region. He described his own experiences of ministering to Armenians in Javakh, and underlined the need for continued spiritual, financial, and political action to ensure the future of the community.
Another guest speaker, Kathryn M. Lohre, president-elect of the National Council of Churches, addressed the Assembly on the message of the Easter story. Drawing on her own research of the Armenian Genocide, Mr. Lohre acknowledged this year’s rare coincidence of Armenian Martyrs Day and Easter Sunday, and placed it in the context of Christ’s powerful victory over death.
“Our faith in the risen Christ is a faith in defiance,” she said. “We must continue to ask ourselves how we can live this faith together.”
Turning to the Diocese’s theme of lay ministry, Ms. Lohre said, “The church, as a body of Christ, must galvanize all of its members.” She went on, “What is your call to serve? And what is our call to serve together?”
Assembly presentations continued on Thursday evening with a report from St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, given by its dean, the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan and board member Raffi Balian.
Now in its 50th year, the seminary plans to expand its programs to offer special training for priests traveling to the Eastern Diocese from Armenia, boost engagement with parish clergy, and increase exchange programs with seminaries in Armenia and Jerusalem.
During the current academic year, four seminarians have been preparing for ordination at St. Nersess. In the 2011-12 year, the seminary expects to enroll eight full-time students, plus three part-time students who are interested in learning more about the Armenian Church without becoming ordained as priests. In the summer, the seminary will continue its popular conferences for high school and college students, with a total of five sessions planned for the coming months.
Mr. Balian said the seminary has improved its financial standing and welcomed new board members who have helped strengthen its efforts to educate future clergy and reach out to the larger Armenian community. He added that the board will continue to investigate options for relocating the seminary to a well-suited location for future growth.
Delegates heard from James Kalustian, treasurer of the Diocesan Council, about the Diocese’s financials, and approved revisions to the 2011 budget and a new 2012 budget.
Echoing last year’s message, Mr. Kalustian emphasized that the Diocese would continue a very disciplined financial course, noting that operating expenses declined in 2010 from the previous year. The revised 2011 budget and the new 2012 budget have outlined further reductions.
Outgoing Diocesan Council member Sandra Shahinian Leitner spoke about the Diocese’s development initiatives. In 2010, the Diocese raised $720,929-nearly $74,000 more than the previous year-and attracted new donors through its Matching and Challenge Grant initiatives. She also noted that clergy, delegates, and others in leadership position participated in the Annual Appeal at a greater percentage in 2010.
Dr. Sam Mikaelian, coordinator of development at the Diocese, announced that in 2011 the Annual Appeal would be dedicated to the 40th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian.
He launched the drive during the Assembly proceedings in Boston, where he was able to raise more than $20,000 last week. The sum will be matched by an anonymous donor, giving the Diocese a “head start” in its Annual Appeal.
At the Second General session on Friday, April 29, James Kalustian presented an update on the “Guidelines for Diocesan Bylaws of the Armenian Church”-a constitutional framework for all Armenian Church dioceses, worked out during meetings of a five-member committee at Holy Etchmiadzin.
Mr. Kalustian served on the five-member committee and offered a comparison of the guidelines to the bylaws of the Eastern Diocese, which was completed by a second committee appointed by the Diocesan Council and Primate three years ago at the request of the Diocesan Assembly.
Following a discussion of the document, delegates voted on the following statement, which the Diocesan Council will communicate to Holy Etchmiadzin: “The Diocesan Assembly appreciates and encourages the initiative of His Holiness and the Supreme Spiritual Council in continuing the process of providing guidelines to govern the Armenian Church.”
Lydia Kurkjian, chair of the ACYOA Central Council, and Danny Mantis, the council’s vice-chair, spoke about plans to offer more leadership workshops and training opportunities for members of the organization.
The ACYOA also plans to spend more time developing the newly-formed FAR-ACYOA partnership-an initiative that allows young people across the Eastern Diocese to learn more about FAR’s programs and to become involved through various fundraisers, “pen-pal” type programs, and other activities.
Mr. Mantis also said the ACYOA would focus greater effort on building its 26 chapters, and encouraging the formation of new chapters where possible. He asked clergy and lay leaders to support the organization by promoting its activities and offering other forms of assistance at the local parish level.
Dn. Rubik Malian, chair of the Sacred Music Council, said the organization plans to organize regional workshops for choir members and directors in the coming year. He said the Music Council will also work to increase communication with clergy and choir members, improve its organizational structure, and develop new methods to teach the sacred music of the Armenian Church to young people across the Diocese.
The Third General session began on Saturday, April 30, with a sermon by the Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, pastor of St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, Fla.
Zita Butler, chair of the Women’s Guild Central Council, discussed activities the organization has planned for the coming year, including a symposium in New York City in the fall and a Holy Land pilgrimage next winter.
Diocesan Council chairman Oscar Tatosian opened the council’s presentation with a video reviewing the programs and activities organized in the past year. He said that the Diocese remains committed to supporting programming that will help young people become more familiar with the practices and traditions of the Armenian Church, and gain the skills they’ll need to assume leadership positions in the future.
Turning to new business items, delegates adopted proposals to install a plaque and photo of the late Rev. Fr. Paree Metjian at the Ararat Center in honor of his dedication to the St. Vartan Camp program.
They also adopted a proposal directing the Diocesan Council to invite comments from the delegates on the “Guidelines for Diocesan Bylaws of the Armenian Church” and the Bylaws of the Eastern Diocese, and to share a compilation of the comments at regular intervals. Another adopted measure calls on the Diocesan Council and the Primate to emphasize that members of the Supreme Spiritual Council should be elected by the National Ecclesiastical Assembly.
Other proposals adopted include support for the Armenian Patriarchate and the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem, and the extension of role of the Executive Secretary of the ACYOA.
Before adjourning, delegates thanked the Rev. Fr. Vasken Kouzouian, pastor of Holy Trinity Church of Cambridge, Mass., and the host parish’s Assembly Committee, which was co-chaired by Janice Dorian and Nancy D. Kasarjian. Delegates also expressed their gratitude to Assembly chair Antranig Garibian, vice chair Dn. Ara Jeknavorian, secretary Terry Peterson, and assistant secretary, the Rev. Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan.
The 110th Diocesan Assembly will be hosted by St. Mark Church of Springfield, Mass.
Below are the names of individuals elected to Diocesan boards and positions during the 109th Diocesan Assembly.
Diocesan Board of Trustees
Janet Mardigian (10-year term)
Charles Guleserian (5-year completion of term)
Fr. Yeprem Kelegian
Fr. Shnork Souin
Dn. Ara Jeknavorian
Gary Zamanigian (chair)
Anna Marie Norehad (alternate)
Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan
Dn. Serop Demirjian
Lisa Kouzoujian (chair)
Ed Korkorian (alternate)