Sunday, September 6, marked a new chapter in the life of the St. James Church of Richmond, VA, as parishioners warmly welcomed a new pastor, in the person of the Rev. Fr. Samuel Rith-Najarian.
The joyous occasion was the first time the badarak had been celebrated in the church sanctuary since March, and the first indoor service to be shared by the parishioners, who carefully observed the local distancing guidelines for public gatherings.
Introducing Fr. Rith-Najarian to his new flock was the Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian, a former pastor in Richmond who now leads the St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Church of Wynnewood, PA. In the course of his enthusiastic remarks, he read a message from Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan to the St. James Church, which the bishop called “one of the historic parishes of our Diocese, with a proud and impressive history undergirding it.”
“I know how excited the parishioners are to have Der Samuel take up this new role in the community,” wrote the Primate. “You have good reason to be enthusiastic, for Der Samuel is a seasoned priest of our Diocese: a learned man of God, whose vibrant, inner faith is belied by a quiet, humble manner.”
In his thoughtful inaugural sermon, Fr. Rith-Najarian focused on the miraculous command uttered by Jesus to heal a deaf and mute man. “’Be opened,’ says our Lord in the gospel reading today. He has a message and purpose for each of us here. We need to be able and willing to listen for that message. By being opened, hearing the Word of God, and putting our faith into tangible fruitful action, we will build up the Body of Christ here at St. James Church.”
After the services, he said: “It was a joyous day for me to begin my ministry and service to the Lord among the St. James faithful. The kindness and welcome from the parish council and community made Yn. Danielle and me feel at home. The Lord has opened many new possibilities before us, and I have great hope for what lies ahead.”