The annual Clergy Conference of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America convened April 30 to May 2, 2018, at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel in West Harrison, NY, hosted by the St. Gregory the Enlightener Church in White Plains.
Several dozen clergymen active as parish pastors and in other capacities throughout the Eastern Diocese came together for the three-day gathering to pray and plan for the future.
Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian presided. He opened the meeting with a prayer for God’s guidance over the Diocesan Assembly’s upcoming deliberations, which would include a decision on the election of a successor to the office of Primate.
Elected chairman of the conference was Fr. Diran Bohajian (of Fair Lawn, NJ), with Fr. Ghevond Ajamian (Dalas, TX) as co-chairman, Fr. Hovhan Khoja-Eynatyan (Evanston, IL) as Armenian secretary, and Fr. Hovnan Demerjian (St. Petersburg, FL) as English secretary.
Fr. Mesrob Hovespyan, of the host parish in White Plains, gave a message of welcome.
A message from the Catholicos of all Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II, was read to the conference. Visiting representatives from the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin—Fr. Daniel Tumanyan and Fr. Arnak Harutyunyan—spoke about the work of the Department of Social Doctrine at the Holy See and about aspects of church life and ministry in Armenia.
In his last address to the clergy as Diocesan Primate, Archbishop Barsamian reflected on the work of the Diocese, manifested in the building of St. Vartan Cathedral, which would celebrate its 50th anniversary later in the week. He stressed the unifying significance of the cathedral, which represents the Diocese in its entirety, from its local parishes to the ministries undertaken at the Diocesan Center in New York.
At the conclusion of his remarks, several clergy with long experience serving in the Diocese under Archbishop Barsamian’s leadership expressed their gratitude for his long, dedicated service to the Eastern Diocese, and for his fatherly love of all the clergy.
A presentation by Fr. Hovhan Khoja-Eynatyan and Fr. Gomidas Zohrabian (Hartford, CT) of the Sacred Music Council (SMC) revealed their ongoing work on a website, mobile app, Divine Liturgy e-reader, development of parish Junior Choirs, and new print editions of the rubrics for Holy Week and wedding services and The Sacred Music of the Armenian Church.
Fr. Yeprem Kelegian spoke on his work with the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), and made a plea for more clergy and parishes to support FAR’s many initiatives.
Dr. Roberta Ervine gave an inspirational talk to encourage the common work of grace which unites and inspires all clergy and people of our church.
Diocesan Director of Ministries Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan spoke on the workings of the Diocesan Ministry departments and the effort to increase cooperation among the ministries and local parishes. He introduced the staff members Elise Antreassian, Kathryn Ashbahian, Gilda Buchakjian Kupelian, Arpi Nakashian, and Dn. Eric Vozzy.
Dn. Artur Petrosyan and Dn. Eric Vozzy presented a new tool for clergy, based on feedback from the clergy from last year’s assembly, called Kavazan: a phone app which is a private communication tool for clergy of the Eastern Diocese.
Fr. Daniel Findikyan gave a presentation titled “Life and Death in the Holy Badarak,” giving clergy an inspired new lens through which to view the life-giving heart of our worship and faith.
Fr. Kapriel Mouradjian (New Britain, CT) introduced returning guest speaker Dr. Richard Bedrosian, who spoke on the issue of addiction and suggested practical steps and resources for pastors to play a role in addiction awareness, treatment, and recovery.
Fr. Tadeos Abdalian introduced Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant John Yunk, who addressed the clergy on how to be prepared and protected in the event of active shooter situations in church and other public places.
Diocesan Council member Paul Mardoian and Fr. Hovnan Demerjian presented the positive early results of a test program for parishes to adopt pledge stewardship in place of dues membership.
Diocesan Council chair James Kalustian spoke to the clergy conference about the leadership transition the Diocese was about to embark upon. As a result of the clergy’s deliberations, a full slate of candidates for the office of Primate was presented to the Diocesan Assembly later in the week. During the conference, the clergy of the Diocese voted unanimously to endorse all three of the candidates.
In the course of the conference, the clergy prayed the Peace Service of the Hours. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian (Watervliet, NY) offered a personal meditation during one of the evening prayers. A special prayer was offered by Fr. Hratch Sargsyan (Cleveland, OH) for peace and God’s protection on all of Armenia’s citizens in a fraught time of transition for the homeland.
The conference concluded on the morning of May 3 with the Divine Liturgy at the St. Gregory the Enlightener Church, celebrated by Fr. Avedis Kalayjian (Racine, WI).