Annual Diocesan Assembly Held in Cleveland

At the 114th Diocesan Assembly in Cleveland, OH, the Diocese introduced a new theme for the coming year, which encouraged reflection on the legacy bequeathed by the generation of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Titled “Legacy of Our Martyrs: A Gift to Carry Forward,” this year’s theme will be explored through a social media campaign, parish resources, and local events.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided over the meeting of more than 125 clergy and lay delegates, representing parishes from across the Eastern Diocese. The assembly was held in downtown Cleveland, from April 28 to 30, and hosted by the St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church of Richmond Heights, OH.

In his message to delegates on Friday morning, April 29, Archbishop Barsamian reflected on the commemoration of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide and encouraged the delegates to consider how the sacrifices of the generation of 1915 continue to inspire the Armenian people a century later.

“As Armenians, we would not be here today if it were not the legacy and commitment of our martyrs and survivors,” he said. “For it was the survivors who arose from the ashes of destruction, migrated to a new world, and planted the seeds of the community we would inherit.”

He shared the personal story of his grandmother, a Genocide survivor who kept the Armenian Christian faith alive in the home and taught her grandchildren the sacred ways of the Armenian Church.

“With the Holy Martyrs so vividly present in our consciousness, we will try to strengthen the vital connection we all share with the great gift we have inherited,” Archbishop Barsamian said. “It is a legacy that answered death with life. That responded to destruction with creativity. It is a legacy that endured suffering, but never brought suffering upon anyone else. This great legacy now rests in our hands. It is a gift to carry with us throughout our days, to guide and complete the journey through life.”

At the conclusion of the Primate’s address, a video titled “Living Legacies” was screened to the delegates. The video launched a social media campaign the Diocese will implement in the coming months, in which local parishioners will be able to share the legacies they’ve inherited from the survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

Very Rev. Fr. Garegin Hambardzumyan, dean of Gevorkian Theological Seminary at Holy Etchmiadzin, read the message of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. Fr. Hambardzumyan and Very Rev. Fr. Shahe Ananian, director of Interchurch Relations at Holy Etchmiadzin, both attended the Diocesan Assembly as representatives of Holy Etchmiadzin.

“The legacy of our holy martyrs is love and faithfulness to Christ, which requires us to love our Armenian people and the homeland,” His Holiness wrote. “Our fathers were martyred believing that our people would rise up again, would become strong and defend their just rights. Our obligation before their inextinguishable memory is to empower our nation with multiple efforts, for the good welfare of all our people, and for the splendor of our national and spiritual life.”

The Rev. Fr. Daron Stepanian offered good wishes on behalf of the Armenian Prelacy.

Diocesan Council chair James Kalustian highlighted some of the programs of the past year, including the many events organized across the Diocese in commemoration of the centennial year of the Armenian Genocide. He also gave an update on the strategic plan, which was developed a few years ago by the Diocesan Council and Diocesan staff to provide support to parishes as they continue to explore the theme in their communities.

The strategic plan focuses on six key areas: enhancing worship, offering continuing education opportunities for clergy, strengthening youth ministry, developing Christian and Armenian education programs, creating outreach initiatives to welcome prospective church members, and cultivating stewards.

Each area is further broken down into concrete programs and resources the Diocese hopes to offer parishes to help realize the various components of the plan. For the coming year, the council suggested focusing on forgiveness and death and eternal life.

The Diocese’s new video series, “Bread and Salt: Stories from the Armenian Church,” was introduced, and two episodes were screened for the delegates.

Mr. Kalustian introduced the Diocese’s new Director of Administration, Dr. Armen Baibourtian. Dr. Baibourtian stressed that the Diocese’s programs have an impact on all of its parishes, and noted that the Diocese welcomes feedback in an effort to better serve its communities.

Diocesan Council member Paul Mardoian spoke about a new outreach initiative that aims to help parishes welcome new parishioners. He noted that efforts are underway to distrubute a “welcome packet” to parishes, as well as a manual for Sunday greeters and display materials for the narthex and parish halls.

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director, made a presentation about developments in the ecumenical arena. He noted that thanks to the efforts of church leaders, the State Department has officially acknowledged the systematic killing of Christians in the Middle East as genocide.

Archbishop Aykazian and the Armenian Assembly recently met with House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabagh and the Armenian Church of Dikranagerd, which was seized by the Turkish government earlier this spring.

Archbishop Aykazian encouraged all parishioners to get involved in local ecumenical activities. “It is important for everyone to meet with local religious leaders, to advocate, and to make our voices heard on issues facing Armenians and other Christians across the world,” he said.

The Rev. Fr. Vart Gyozalyan, pastor of the Armenian Church at Hye Pointe, made a presentation on the parish’s progress toward erecting a new house of worship. The new church brings together the historic Lawrence and Haverhill parishes in Massachusetts-one of the first such unification efforts in the Diocese.

On Friday morning, April 30, delegates took part in small group sessions, during which they heard annual reports from the Diocesan ministries, including Armenian Studies, Christian Education, Communications, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Development, Mission Parishes and the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center.

Presentations were also made by representatives of the Armenian Church Endowment Fund, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, Fund for Armenian Relief, Ararat Center, Sacred Music Council, ACYOA, and the Women’s Guild.

Dean Shahinian, Ara Araz, and Michelle Ouzounian gave the report of the Auditing Committee. Among their suggestions, was for the Diocese to draft an annual capital budget in addition to the operating budget, to address capital improvements at the Diocesan Center in New York.

Delegates approved a $4.8 million budget for 2016, and a proposed budget for 2017. Diocesan Council treasurer Rose Ann Manoogian Attar noted that the Diocese’s Haik and Alice Kavookjian Auditorium has been renovated, and that facility rentals are expected to generate more revenue. Delegates thanked Ms. Manoogian Attar for overseeing the Diocese’s accounting department in the absence of a Director of Administration.

Diocesan Council member Zaven Tachdjian, who represented the Eastern Diocese at the Ecclesiastical Representative Assembly in September 2014, made a presentation on the universal bylaws for the global Armenian Church. Delegates at the 114th Diocesan Assembly adopted a motion to establish a standing committee consisting of two clergy and three lay members to report regularly on the Ecclesiastical Representative Assembly and the National Ecclesiastical Assembly, and these respective assemblies’ efforts regarding with the bylaws for the global Armenian Church.

Under new business, delegates approved a proposal that will add annual allocations of $250 each for the ACYOA and the Sacred Music Council to the annual parish assessments issued by the Diocese. They also passed a proposal calling on all parishes to observe the National Day of Prayer each year.

In closing the meeting on Saturday, April 30, Archbishop Barsamian expressed his gratitude to clergy and delegates for their commitment to the Armenian Church. He also thanked the officers of the assembly and the host committee for their hard work in organizing the weekend’s events.

The 114th Diocesan Assembly was chaired by Diran Jebejian of St. Leon Church of Fair Lawn, NJ, with Thomas Garabedian, of Holy Translators Church of Framingham, Mass., serving as vice chair. Lorig Chorluyan served as the secretary.

The assembly host committee was led by the Rev. Fr. Hratch Sargsyan, pastor of St. Gregory of Narek Church; Mona Karoghlanian, committee chair; and Cindy Russell, vice chair.

The 115th Diocesan Assembly will be hosted by St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, FL.

Below are the names of individuals elected to Diocesan boards and positions during the 114th Diocesan Assembly.

Board of Trustees
Charles Guleserian

Auditing Committee
Ara Araz

Nominating Committee
Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian
Rev. Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan
Mona Karoghlanian
Danny Mantis
Gregory Saraydaryan

Proposal Committee
Rev. Fr. Tavit Boyajian
Rev. Fr. Garabed Kochakian
Bruce Ashbahian
Dr. Sylvie Bastajian Yessayan
Lynn Beylerian

Five-Member Special Committee
Very Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian
Rev. Fr. Garabed Kochakian
Thomas Ashbahian
Ara Araz
Dean Shahinian

National Ecclesiastical Assembly Representatives
Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian
Dn. Levon Altiparmakian
Dn. Sarkis Altunian
John Amboian
Patricia Apelian
Ara Araz
Tom Ashbahian
Howard Atesian
Dr. Sylvie Bastajian
Dr. Lynn Cetin
Rev. Fr. Dajad Davidian
Lisa Esayian
Rev. Fr. Vart Gyozalyan
Dr. Raffy Hovanessian
V. Rev. Fr. Aren Jebejian
Dn. Diran Jebejian
Mona Karoghlanian
Rev. Fr. Yeprem Kelegian
Rev. Fr. Garabed Kochakian
Rev. Fr. Mampre Kouzouian
Janet Mardigian
Paul Mardoian
Jaqueline Melkonian-Elchemmas
Rev. Fr. Krikor Sabounjian
Dean Shahinian

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