Assembly of the Eastern Diocese meets in Springfield, Mass.
Published: Tuesday May 22, 2012
Springfield, Mass. - The 110th Diocesan Assembly, hosted by the St. Mark Church of Springfield, Mass., from May 3 to 5, continued the Eastern Diocese's focus on lay ministry and highlighted parish efforts to encourage lay participation in the life of the Armenian Church.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided over the meeting of 143 clergy and lay delegates, representing parishes from across the Eastern Diocese.
The Assembly opened on Thursday, May 3, with a reading of the message of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.
"As spiritual and lay servants working in our communities, you have, with consistent dedication, seen many accomplishments in your parish and diocesan life," His Holiness wrote.
The Assembly was chaired by Raffi Balian, of St. Mary Church of Washington, D.C., with Thomas Garabedian, of Holy Translators Church of Framingham, Mass., serving as vice chair.
Delegates heard reports from the Diocesan organizations, including the Legate's Committee, Armenian Church Endowment Fund, Fund for Armenian Relief, Ararat Center, St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, and the Diocesan Council. They also held elections for various Diocesan boards.
A far-reaching mission
Diocesan Legate Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Director of Ecumenical Relations at the Eastern Diocese, and Legate's Committee member Antranig Garibian spoke about efforts to raise awareness about the Armenian Church among ecumenical and interfaith groups and to advocate for the Armenian community at various levels of government.
In the past year, Archbishop Aykazian met with officials in President Obama's administration, as well as Senate and House leaders to discuss the situation of Christians in the Middle East. The region continues to be a concern, Archbishop Aykazian said, as the Christian population declines in the face of ongoing threats.
In addition to extensive global travel, he visited parishes across the Diocese throughout the year to inform them about the Diocese's ecumenical efforts, and to encourage them to participate in ecumenical activities on a local level.
ACEF Board members Bruce Ballard, Tom Garabedian, and Roseann Manoogian Attar presented the report of the Armenian Church Endowment Fund. They stressed that despite economic difficulties, ACEF returns have outperformed the market and the organization's own benchmark since 2000.
ACEF had $74.4 million in assets, with a total of 1,745 endowed funds at the end of 2011. A total of $3.1 million was distributed to beneficiaries in March 2011.
Randy Sapah-Gulian, chair of the Board of Directors of the Fund for Armenian Relief, spoke about the organization's accomplishments in its three areas of focus: protecting Armenia's vulnerable population, supporting education and research, and promoting business development.
In the past two decades, FAR has allocated $290 million in humanitarian assistance and developed more than 220 programs in Armenia, including the Children's Center in Yerevan, Vanadzor Old Age Home, Gyumri IT Center, Continuing Medical Education program, scholarships, and soup kitchens, among other initiatives. Last year, the organization was able to raise $3.5 million to fund its programs.
Mr. Sapah-Gulian also spoke about the success of the tribute held in honor of Charles Aznavour last year, where more than 600 guests gathered in New York City. This year, a banquet at the Diocesan Center in New York on May 18 benefitted the FAR Children's Center in Yerevan.
Ararat Center board member Aram Hintian gave a presentation highlighting the eight-year history of the 65-acre camping, retreat, and conference facility, and encouraging parishes to make use of the Ararat Center for retreats and meetings.
He noted that the Ararat Center plans to renovate its pool in 2012, and hopes to raise funds for the project in the coming months.
A report from St. Nersess Armenian Seminary was given by its dean, the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, and board member Michael Haratunian. Fr. Findikyan spoke about the seminary's rich online resources, including its Music Lab and online lectures.
Mr. Haratunian gave an overview of plans to relocate the seminary to a new location on Armonk, N.Y. The new complex would include dormitories, a chapel, library, classrooms, offices, and other facilities.
He stressed that the new complex would broaden the reach of the seminary while preserving its popular youth and deacon training programs.
Thursday evening's session concluded with small-group discussions on ministries for parish revitalization. Delegates attended presentations on personal prayer, vocations, generational mentoring, and the use of social media in the Armenian Church. The presentations encouraged delegates to think about their role in parish life, and prepared them for Friday's focus on the Diocesan theme of "Vocations: The Call to Serve-Ministry of the Faithful."
On Friday, following the theme session on lay ministry, delegates heard from James Kalustian and Lisa Esayian, who presented an update on the "Guidelines for Diocesan Bylaws of the Armenian Church"-a proposed constitutional framework for all Armenian Church dioceses, worked out during meetings of a five-member committee at Holy Etchmiadzin.
Mr. Kalustian served on the five-member committee and offered a comparison of the guidelines to the bylaws of the Eastern Diocese, which was completed by a second committee appointed by the Diocesan Council and Primate four years ago at the request of the Diocesan Assembly.
Following a discussion, delegates voted to approve a statement asserting the conviction of the Diocesan Assembly that the existing Diocesan Bylaws conform to the spirit of the proposed Guidelines and enumerating several provisions which might require further study.