When the pandemic caused the cancellation of in-person programs, Diocesan parishes became creative in continuing the church’s mission. Here’s how one parish approached the crisis.
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Like many parishes of the Eastern Diocese, Holy Trinity Church in Cheltenham, PA, began canceling programs and events in March of 2020 in response to the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Among the programmatic “casualties” was the church’s annual six-week Lenten series.
However, Cheltenham’s Adult Christian Education ministry group (locally known as ACE) wasn’t going to let a pandemic halt its outreach activity. So in May of last year, the group launched a series of online initiatives to help promote biblical literacy, knowledge of the church, and deeper individual faith formation.
Under the leadership of pastor Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan and pastoral intern Dn. Armen Terjimanian, ACE sponsored a line-up of hour-long events, using the now-familiar Zoom video conference platform. Topics included Armenian Church theology, sacred art, personal prayer, and hymns of the Liturgy, among others. A roster of speakers–from Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel to clergy from across the Diocese, and as far away as Armenia–led the discussions and bible study sessions.
Fr. Gevorgyan, who was actively engaged in every online gathering, expressed his joy in seeing the faces of his beloved parishioners and being able to pray with them. “This has been a challenging time for our parish,” he said, “so it was uplifting for me, as a pastor, to be able to interact with my flock in this way.”
An unexpected result of the online meetings was the creation of the “Holy Trinity Book Club,” which grew out of the success of two very different book discussions: one concerning a “spiritual journal,” and another on a book by Armenian feminist author Srpouhi Dussapand, titled Mayda. The club attracted a previously undiscovered population of enthusiastic book lovers, and is going forward with discussions of texts about the Armenian Genocide and contemporary issues like racial justice, guided by facilitators from the local parish and beyond.
The circle of “attendees” has also broadened to include people from across the Eastern Diocese, and everyone is welcome to join. Those interested in Holy Trinity’s Zoom initiatives should contact Nancy Basmajian at email@example.com.
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