The 115th Diocesan Assembly was preceded by the annual clergy conference, held May 1 to 3, at the Bethany Center in Lutz, FL. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided at the event where members of the clergy gathered for prayer, services, and a series of presentations on various aspects of the ministry.
Two visiting priests from Holy Etchmiadzin—the Rev. Fr. Arsen Mirzoyan and Rev. Fr. Sahak Sahakian—spoke about the church’s activities in Armenia. Fr. Mirzoyan spoke about Holy Etchmiadzin’s chancellery office, including its work to organize meetings of the Supreme Spiritual Council and the Ecclesiastical Representative Assembly. Fr. Sahakian spoke about the introduction of master’s and Ph.D. programs at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary.
Fr. Sahakian also read the message of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. His Holiness reminded the clergy that they play a crucial role in strengthening the bond between young generations of Armenian Christians and the Armenian Church. He also encouraged clergy to continue making parish pilgrimages to Armenia and helping their local communities form bonds with the homeland.
The Rev. Fr. Hovhan Koja-Eynatyan reported on the activities of the Sacred Music Council, mentioning its publications, youth choir programs, fundraising efforts, and parish workshops. Fr. Gomidas Zohrabian reported on the Junior Choir subcommittee’s activities, highlighting the development of a Junior Choir Handbook, a calendar for parish visitations and workshops, and a promotional video.
The Very. Rev. Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan made a presentation called “Heart to Heart” on how clergy find peace and unity through their common worship experience. All the clergy discussed the topic further in small groups.
The Rev. Canon Michael and Mrs. Bonnie Jean Durning of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida gave a talk titled “Creation of Policies for Prevention of Abuse and the Use of Social Media.” They covered the concept of creating and maintaining spaces free from harassment, abuse, and exploitation. They also gave advice on when and how clergy should respond to evidence of abuse in a parish or other church-sponsored settings.
Jay Einspanier of Villanova University gave a presentation on marketing strategies for parish use.
Dn. Artur Petrosyan of the Diocese spoke about the new Creative Ministries initiative. He encouraged parishes to get involved by promoting the videos and resources in their communities, providing suggestions, and offering financial assistance.
Rev. Fr. Tavit Boyajian and Rev. Fr. Kapriel Mouradjian spoke about the work of the Clergy Benefits Committee, focusing on health and life insurance and other matters. The Rev. Fr. Yeprem Kelegian made a presentation about the Fund for Armenian Relief and encouraged parishes to visit FAR sites when they travel to Armenia.
The Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan gave a talk on the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church and presented some recent developments in liturgical scholarship.
In his message to clergy, Archbishop Barsamian gave an overview of the Supreme Spiritual Council meeting held at the Diocesan Center in November 2016, the opening of the new campus of St. Nersess Seminary, and plans for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral next year. He also reminded the clergy to tend to their physical and spiritual health, two important facets that can be overlooked amid the everyday stresses of modern life.
The Clergy Conference was chaired by the Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian. The Rev. Fr. Kapriel Mouradjian served as vice chair; and the Rev. Fr. Sevak Gabrielyan and Rev. Fr. Avedis Kalayjian served as the Armenian and English secretaries, respectively. A total of 48 priests from across the Diocese took part in the annual gathering.
The clergy conference was hosted by the St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, FL, under the guidance of its pastor, the Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, the local parish council, and organizing committee.