By Nora Derian
The St. Peter Armenian Church community of Watervliet, NY, welcomed Archbishop Khajag Barsamian for an unforgettable weekend from April 8 to 10. The Diocesan Primate spent time with as many different church groups as possible, which made everyone feel important and loved.
He spent time with young altar servers on Friday evening discussing why they enjoy serving in the church. The boys said that serving on the altar brings them closer to God, allowing them to serve with family members and to be a part of an ancient liturgical tradition. The boys aged 8 to 17-who meet twice a month with parish pastor Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian and Dn. Yervant Kutchukian to learn the responsibilities of being a deacon-rehearsed their chants with the Primate, and a few enjoyed playing tavloo with Srpazan.
On Saturday morning the Primate met with members of the Women’s Guild executive committee, who shared their vision for the women of the church. It was inspiring to hear Srpazan’s words about the value of women in the church in his sermon on Sunday.
The Diocese’s Director of Administration, Dr. Armen Baibourtian, and Diocesan Music Ministry director Maestro Khoren Mekanejian were also present throughout the weekend. They were on hand when close to one hundred Sunday and Armenian school students and ACYOA members hosted a mini “hantes” and youth rally for the Primate. Traditional Armenian poems were recited, while other youth played the piano and sang songs.
Accompanied by Fr. Doudoukjian and his son Jonah, the Primate made visits to several parishioners. A special visit was made to Yn. Zabelle Gdanian, wife of the parish’s late emeritus pastor Fr. Garen.
The parish council and Diocesan delegates met with Archbishop Barsamian over dinner. The discussion revolved around last year’s canonization of the Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. Many shared how the new saints have inspired the development of their personal faith over the past year.
At a round-table discussion with parishioners, the Primate spoke enthusiastically about the Diocesan effort to make the teachings of the Armenian Church more accessible. He showed some episodes in a new video series produced at the Diocese, which explain different matters of Armenian faith in a compact way accessible via the internet and social media.
The Primate also blessed a new dove vessel for the Holy Muron, as well as a new laced cover for the altar-items made in Armenia and donated by Hagop and Nectar Derian.
Sunday morning badarak was the culmination of the weekend. The choir, directed by Maestro Mekanejian, stood in the pews and sounded like one voice as they sang our centuries-old hymns. Maestro Khoren had visited the community several times over the past months to share his expertise with the St. Peter choir and deacons.
At the conclusion of the liturgy, Archbishop Barsamian ordained seven acolytes and blessed five young girls in the choir.
Sunday afternoon, 200 parishioners attended a banquet to honor the 20th anniversary of Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian’s ordination into the priesthood. The occasion also honored Dn. Hagop Derian and Dn. Hrant Bardakjian for their 75 years of service to the Armenian Church.
Richard Hartunian served as Master of Ceremonies, who with parish council chair Raffi Moroukian shared fond recollections of Der Stepanos and the two archdeacons. ACYOA Juniors Renee Dearstyne and Nora Derian offered musical and artistic presentations. Seta Jebejian and honoree Dn. Hrant Bardakjian also shared their talents at singing and recitation.
The archdeacons were surprised when Archbishop Barsamian presented them with the “St. Vartan Award” as a sign of appreciation for their many years of service to the church.
The Primate then thanked and praised Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian for reaching a milestone in his ministry to the Lord. He spoke of Fr. Doudoukjian’s pastoral heart, and reflected on the miracle of Christ’s calling, which inspired a 3rd-generation Armenian-American like Fr. Doudoukjian to take up the pastoral staff.
Fr. Stepanos’ children, Jonah and Gloria, both offered loving remarks about their father’s anniversary and his life as a priest.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian’s visit was both invigorating and memorable for the St. Peter Church family, whose members felt very blessed to have spent the weekend with their Primate. We pray for further opportunities to come together to show the beauty of our church family to others.