Last weekend, Sts. Vartanantz Church of Chelmsford, MA, celebrated the centennial of the consecration of its original sanctuary in Lowell, MA. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided over the weekend events.
On Saturday evening, October 15, some 200 people gathered at the beautifully decorated Kazanjian Memorial Ballroom for a gala banquet and program. The emotionally charged evening focused on the theme of the church’s centennial milestone-“Remembering the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Securing the Future.”
Richard Juknavorian, Jr. served as the master of ceremonies. Following a cocktail reception, where an exquisite ice sculpture of the current Sts. Vartanantz Church in Chelmsford was on display, a celebratory toast was offered by centennial committee member and longtime parishioner John Amboian. The program continued with messages by parish council chair Bruce Kayajanian, centennial committee chair Sandra Boroyan; Chelmsford Board of Selectman George Dixon; and Diocesan Council chair James Kalustian.
Deacon Dr. Ara Jeknavorian offered an illustrated reflection on the pastors who served the Sts. Vartanantz parish over the past century. A number of talented local musicians provided an entertaining cultural performance, which included a duet by Priscilla Der Ananian, violin, and Armene Karapetian, piano; Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg played a rare glass armonica; and pianist Arpine Arakelian offered several selections. Two Sunday School students, Maria Kesablyan and Sara Nakashian-Holsberg, recited Vahan Tekeyan’s poem “The Armenian Church” in English and Armenian. Maria also performed a selection on the piano.
Rev. Fr. Khachatur Kesablyan, pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Church, congratulated the parish on this anniversary, and encouraged parishioners to prepare for the years ahead. “Let us all pray that we can inspire the coming generations to be filled with even greater love and devotion to the Armenian Church, so that the Saints Vartanantz parish will forever be able to carry out fruitful works in our Lord’s vineyard,” he said.
Archbishop Barsamian expressed his joy that the legacy of the founding members, especially the 1910 Ladies Aid Society, has been successfully passed from generation to generation. “We thank God for those early pioneers who carried the torch of our faith to America, and for their descendants who tended the flame with love and dignity,” the Primate said.
On Sunday morning, October 16, Archbishop Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy. A new, state-of-the art church organ-donated by John Amboian, Jr. in honor of his parents, John and Pat Amboian-was blessed. At the conclusion of services, parishioners stepped outside to bury a 100-year time capsule prepared by Dn. Ara Jeknavorian. The capsule contained incense, votive candles, messages from parishioners, a copy of the 100th anniversary booklet, and various brochures and reports about parish life over the past 100 years.
Reflecting on the weekend activities, Sandra Boroyan said she was deeply touched and humbled to have chaired the Sts. Vartanantz centennial committee. “The responsibility for securing the future is now in our hands,” she said. “We must continue to encourage and inspire our young families and be the role models to them as our parents and grandparents were to us. I am most optimistic that the parishioners of Sts. Vartanantz will be blessed to celebrate another milestone event 100 years from now.”
During the weekend, Archbishop Barsamian also had a dinner-meeting with the parish council and diocesan delegates, met with the ACYOA Jrs. chapter, and made pastoral visits to parishioners who are ill, housebound, or reside in area nursing homes.
Earlier in the year, a number of events were held to mark the church’s historic centennial milestone. Parishioners enjoyed an “Evening of Remembrance” organized 100 years to the date of the consecration of the first sanctuary and held at the original Sts. Vartanantz Church in Lowell. The original church was consecrated in April 1916. Other events included a story-filled “Nostalgia Evening,” a yearlong photo exhibit in the church library, and a “Choir Recognition Day” that paid tribute to all the parishioners who passionately shared their talents to express our beautiful chants and sharagans.
Members of the Sts. Vartanantz centennial committee include: Rev. Fr. Khachatur Kesablyan, pastor; Sandra Boroyan, chair; Bruce Kayajanian, vice-chair; Milka Jeknavorian, recording secretary; Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg, treasurer; John Amboian, advisor; Rose Amboian, Peter Bogosian, Carolyn Howard, Ara Jeknavorian, Patty Kayajanian, Gary Koltookian, Alan Manoian, George Simonian, Kevork Tevekelian, and Bonnie Chayes Yousefian.