In a message to Diocesan leaders, Bishop Daniel introduced the launch of an new online educational resource.
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A Message from Bishop Daniel
“His gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:11-12)
I am very excited to write to the good people of the Eastern Diocese, to announce the first release in a major new educational initiative called Vemkar. My hope is that Vemkar will transform the way all our people grow in their Christian faith and commitment to the Armenian Church.
In Armenian the word Vemkar refers to a flat stone that is consecrated by the bishop and sent to distant communities where there is no Armenian Church sanctuary. A priest places the Vemkar on any convenient table and places the chalice upon it to be able to celebrate the Holy Badarak. In this way, the presence of Christ is delivered to people who would otherwise have no access to the blessings of the Church.
Vemkar describes both the spirit and goal of our work: an online church school accessible to anyone and everyone, filled with resources and learning activities designed to enrich you in faith and edify your appreciation of the Armenian Church’s culture and theology. More importantly, I hope, Vemkar will be a part of community life today, awakening a new spirit of active faith in our church.
I called Vemkar a “new” initiative, but in fact it’s been in the works for over a year now. Early inmy tenure as Primate, I set forth a vision for the Eastern Diocese and its parishes, “Building Up the Body of Christ.” Vemkar is the first pillar in that vision, the result of collaboration with our clergy, the Diocesan Council, Diocesan Ministries staff, and a small ad hoc working group.
The overarching imperative is to “build up” our faithful in the knowledge of God, faith, prayer, and love, in order to more faithfully constitute the church as Christ intends. The focus on education—understood as growing to be faithful children of God and children of the Armenian Church—is meant to engage everyone in our Diocese, “from font to funeral.”
A special feature of this approach is its emphasis on Christian formation within the family, in concert with the classroom and the church sanctuary. Far from being a “new” idea, I see it as an approach with deep roots in the Armenian Church’s historical experience, and its essential, God-given Christian mission.
What isnew is the method of presentation: a web-based system of educational modules each keyed to a specific topic, utilizing text, audio, video, and interactive media to instruct users in the Bible, the Badarak and the teachings of the Armenian Church. The modules are also organized to engage distinct sub-groups within our church—so you can find resources targeting toddlers, teenagers, families, teachers, deacons, and everyone in between.
Pilot Module: “Christ as Healer”
Vemkar places special emphasis on pressing matters of Christian life, with a focus on the Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion, the Christ-centered home, and a parish culture of mutual support, inclusion, and engagement with the world.
A priority that arose from our experience of the current pandemic was the desire to affirm the church—and especially the Armenian Church’s history and experience of Christian life—as a guiding example of Christian love and compassion in times of personal and societal crisis. Vemkar’s“pilot module” is a direct result of that concern. Titled “Christ as Healer,” the pilot module speaks to the Armenian understanding of our Lord as a force for healing the wounds that afflict our spirits, our bodies, and indeed our entire world.
In preparing resources and learning activities for the pilot module, we’ve drawn on the talents of our entire church community: clergy and lay, men and women from throughout the Diocese and the ministries staff of the Diocesan Center. We’ve created new resources, but also taken established materials and adapted them to contemporary use. All of the current Vemkar resources are housed on the website of Diocesan Ministries, VEMKAR.US. Please take the time to navigate through the site, click on the icons, familiarize yourself with the variety of resources, and begin your own journey to deepen your knowledge of God according to the ancient witness of the Armenian Church.
There’s one final matter, in the form of a request to our faithful. Vemkar is work in progress, and the “Christ as Healer” pilot module is in many ways a test of our approach. Feedback from users will be extremely helpful, and welcome, as we proceed with future topics. So as you use the resources on VEMKAR.US, please share your ideas for improvements, suggestions for future topics, and your thoughts about the project as a whole.
The realization of the original vision for Vemkar will not happen overnight. This is only the beginning. My prayer is that with our Lord’s help, it will mature into an inspirational and indispensible feature of life in the Armenian Church of America and beyond.
With my prayers,