Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), visited the our parish on this milestone, and presided over Saturday’s banquet in the church’s Acopian Hall.
The evening included a program of remarks, recitations, and musical interludes. The church’s bell choir, under the direction of Scott Rauschenberg, performed a selection of Armenian hymns. Musical performances were also given by Vardges Vardanyan, Lexi Arbajian, and Daniel Zalinov.
Anni Kastorian recited a poem by Baruyr Sevag, and the entire community took part in a sing-along of popular Armenian songs. The banquet culminated in a special cake-cutting ceremony led by parish council chair Hagop Sarkissian.
More than 100 people attended the gathering, including local ecumenical leaders representing the Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and United Methodist churches.
“It was a festive and joyful atmosphere,” Mr. Sarkissian said.
On Sunday, Archbishop Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy and performed a blessing of Madagh service.
In his sermon, the Primate spoke about St. Sarkis the Warrior—the saint after whom the Charlotte church is named and whose feast day was observed on February 19.
St. Sarkis was a Roman soldier who embraced Christianity, and facing persecution for his faith, found refuge in Armenia with his son, Mardiros. Sarkis and Mardiros were later martyred in Persia, and their relics were recovered and brought to Armenia by Mesrob Mashdots.
“This church should symbolize everything that St. Sarkis found, when he came as a refugee to Armenia,” Archbishop Barsamian said. “For he found in our sacred land a welcoming home. A sanctuary of safety and acceptance. A place where he and his child could live in peace—and where their good works would always be remembered.”
The Primate also had a message for the parish’s young generation: “To God looking down on you, each of you is a knight in shining armor: defending the good, fighting against evil, protecting the weak and helpless,” he said. “Wearing the armor of God—and above all, having Christ in your heart—makes you a hero.”
A requiem service was held in memory of the deceased benefactor and parishioners of St. Sarkis Church. A blessing of madagh followed the Divine Liturgy. The madagh was donated by Sergey Mouradkhanian.
Later in the afternoon, parishioners had the opportunity to speak with Archbishop Barsamian during an informal fellowship hour.
“It was a very successful visit by the Primate,” Mr. Sarkissian said. “Everyone was happy to see him.”
The Armenian community of Charlotte began to form in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Lena Kupelian Neau, the current parish council secretary, was instrumental in bringing together Armenian families in the region, and helping organize a community that eventually became a mission parish of the Eastern Diocese.
Others active in the parish’s early efforts include Roland Telfayan; Arthur, Puzant, and Paul Yessayan; and Hagop and Zaven Touloukian. Many other individuals and families also stepped forward to volunteer their time and resources.
In March 2000, the parish purchased a property in Charlotte and began planning the construction of a new house of worship. The late Sarkis Acopian of Easton, Pa., and his wife, Bobbye Acopian, generously pledged more than $2 million to the building project in memory of Mr. Acopian’s mother, Dr. Arax Acopian.
Four years later, a cornerstone-blessing was held, and in July 2005, Archbishop Barsamian traveled to Charlotte to consecrate the newly-built St. Sarkis Church.
In addition to the bell choir, the parish has a number of active organizations including ACYOA Juniors and Seniors chapters, a Women’s Guild chapter, and Sunday and Armenian Schools.
Hagop Sarkissian says the community is now focusing on bringing a permanent pastor to St. Sarkis Church. A stewardship campaign is underway as part of this effort.
Committee members organizing last weekend’s celebration include: Lena Kupelian Neau, Pierre Arbajian, Donna Loutigian, Anni Kastorian, Charles Diman, Hagop Sarkissian, Astghik Vardanian Hensley, and Diane Gulkasian Tudor.