TAMPA, FL – On January 30, 2019, Lt. Col Armen Zakaryan, Armenian Armed Forces Senior Representative for US Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, organized a reception on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Armenia’s Armed Forces.
LTC Zakaryan delivered opening remarks and a presentation on the history of the Armenian Army, followed by remarks from Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, Pastor of St. Hagop Armenian Church in neighboring Pinellas Park, FL. The reception featured Armenian dishes, catered by Surbuhi Zakaryan, which were greatly enjoyed by all the participants. “May this fellowship of countries [U.S. and Armenia] be blessed by God for peace,” stated Fr. Demerjian.
By Suren Oganessian
FLArmenians Tampa/St. Petersburg Contributor
Sunday, August 13, 2017 was a day of two celebrations at St. Hagop Armenian Church in Pinellas Park, Florida. Not only was it the day of the annual Blessing of the Grapes, but it was also the date chosen to celebrate Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian’s tenth anniversary of being ordained into priesthood. Local Florida Armenians traveled from as far as Sarasota to be a part of this special event, which was not only an important anniversary for Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, but for the Armenian community of Tampa Bay itself.
Fr. Hovnan has accomplished much in the U.S. and in Armenia, having taught there with the U.S. Peace Corps from 1996 to 1998, and then helping to establish the Armenian Volunteer Corps in 2000. He joined the Diocese of the Armenian Church in 2003, and in June 2007 he was ordained and assigned to be a pastor at St. Hagop. Before the establishment of St. Hagop Armenian Church, Armenians of the Tampa Bay area had no place else to conjugate, not without a long drive to Orlando or Boca Raton. In the last decade, the church has become a beacon for the local Armenian community, which though small is finally beginning to establish itself in the area. “The Armenian community here is very welcoming,” Fr. Hovnan told FLArmenians.com. “People here are from everywhere, making it very diverse. The community is always looking forward,” he said.
The day began with the Divine Liturgy, moving on to the Blessing of Grapes and a celebratory luncheon for Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian. Presiding over the ceremony was Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, who traveled all the way from New York City. It was one of many visits he has made to St. Hagop Armenian Church over the last ten years. He has watched the local parish grow from 23 members in 2007 to over 150 today. “With God, things become possible,” said Archbishop Barsamian at the accompanying luncheon. “To have an Armenian Church in St. Petersburg 50 years ago would have been seen as a dream. But it is good to dream.” Thanks in part to the excellent spiritual leadership Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, he went on to say, that dream has come to fruition.
Fr. Hovnan Demerjian accepted the praise of his peers with humbleness and optimism for the future. While Fr. Hovnan’s immediate mission in coming to Tampa Bay – to build the church and the accompanying Shahnasarian Hall – has been completed, he notes that the long-term mission to “bring people together in a family of God” is ongoing. Over the next ten years, Fr. Hovnan has even bigger plans. “The work of building the Armenian community we all want has just begun. In the next ten years, we hope to have an improved Sunday school and even more faith and heritage programs,” Fr. Hovnan said.