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Armenian Clergy Meet in Florida for Annual Conference

LUTZ, FL – The 115th Diocesan Assembly was preceded by the annual clergy conference, held May 1 to 3, at the Bethany Center in Lutz, FL. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), presided at the event where members of the clergy gathered for prayer, services, and a series of presentations on various aspects of the ministry.

Two visiting priests from Holy Etchmiadzin—the Rev. Fr. Arsen Mirzoyan and Rev. Fr. Sahak Sahakian—spoke about the church’s activities in Armenia. Fr. Mirzoyan spoke about Holy Etchmiadzin’s chancellery office, including its work to organize meetings of the Supreme Spiritual Council and the Ecclesiastical Representative Assembly. Fr. Sahakian spoke about the introduction of master’s and Ph.D. programs at the Gevorkian Theological Seminary.

Fr. Sahakian also read the message of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. His Holiness reminded the clergy that they play a crucial role in strengthening the bond between young generations of Armenian Christians and the Armenian Church. He also encouraged clergy to continue making parish pilgrimages to Armenia and helping their local communities form bonds with the homeland.

The Rev. Fr. Hovhan Koja-Eynatyan reported on the activities of the Sacred Music Council, mentioning its publications, youth choir programs, fundraising efforts, and parish workshops. Fr. Gomidas Zohrabian reported on the Junior Choir subcommittee’s activities, highlighting the development of a Junior Choir Handbook, a calendar for parish visitations and workshops, and a promotional video.

The Very. Rev. Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan made a presentation called “Heart to Heart” on how clergy find peace and unity through their common worship experience. All the clergy discussed the topic further in small groups.

The Rev. Canon Michael and Mrs. Bonnie Jean Durning of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida gave a talk titled “Creation of Policies for Prevention of Abuse and the Use of Social Media.” They covered the concept of creating and maintaining spaces free from harassment, abuse, and exploitation. They also gave advice on when and how clergy should respond to evidence of abuse in a parish or other church-sponsored settings.

Jay Einspanier of Villanova University gave a presentation on marketing strategies for parish use.

Dn. Artur Petrosyan of the Diocese spoke about the new Creative Ministries project. He encouraged parishes to get involved by promoting the videos and resources in their communities, providing suggestions, and offering financial assistance.

Rev. Fr. Tavit Boyajian and Rev. Fr. Kapriel Mouradjian spoke about the work of the Clergy Benefits Committee, focusing on health and life insurance and other matters. The Rev. Fr. Yeprem Kelegian made a presentation about the Fund for Armenian Relief and encouraged parishes to visit FAR sites when they travel to Armenia.

The Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan gave a talk on the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Church and presented some recent developments in liturgical scholarship.

In his message to clergy, Archbishop Barsamian gave an overview of the Supreme Spiritual Council meeting held at the Diocesan Center in November 2016, the opening of the new campus of St. Nersess Seminary, and plans for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral next year. He also reminded the clergy to tend to their physical and spiritual health, two important facets that can be overlooked amid the everyday stresses of modern life.

The Clergy Conference was chaired by the Very Rev. Fr. Oshagan Gulgulian. The Rev. Fr. Kapriel Mouradjian served as vice chair; and the Rev. Fr. Sevak Gabrielyan and Rev. Fr. Avedis Kalayjian served as the Armenian and English secretaries, respectively.  A total of 48 priests from across the Diocese took part in the annual gathering.

The clergy conference was hosted by the St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, FL, under the guidance of its pastor, the Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, the local parish council, and organizing committee.

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Mallory Maslar Named ACYOA Chair for 2016-2017

Florida Armenians is proud to announce that Ms. Mallory Maslar of St. Petersburg, FL has been elected Chairwoman of the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (ACYOA) for 2016-2017.

Maslar, ACYOA-2016

Mallory has been a part of the St. Hagop Armenian Church (Pinellas Park, FL) family since she was a young girl. She has served as Sunday School Superintendent, St. Hagop ACYOA Chapter Chair, and is currently the Parish Council Vice Chair. She attended Florida State University where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Currently, she works for an insurance company handling worker’s compensation claims.

This summer Mallory participated in the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

She is also currently training for her 4th half-marathon.

“The opportunity to give back is something that means a lot to me. Out of the five circles of the cross, service holds a special place in my heart,” Maslar said in a Facebook post announcing the news of her chairmanship.

Florida Armenians congratulates Ms. Mallory Maslar and wishes her the best in her new endeavor!

St. Hagop Armenian Church Opens New Hall

SHAC Hall Opening-2016

PINELLAS PARK, FL – Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), visited St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park last weekend, as the community celebrated the Feast of the Nativity and Theophany of Our Lord and the opening of its newly built church hall.

On Sunday, January 10, Archbishop Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy and performed the Blessing of Water service. He was assisted on the altar by the Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian, parish pastor. Dr. Michael Shahnasarian, parish council chair and the main benefactor of the new hall, served as the godfather of the cross.

“The gift of Jesus Christ has inspired the Armenian people to great achievements, and has sustained us through every trial,” Archbishop Barsamian said, as he reflected on the legacy of the Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.

“The faithful legacy of our martyrs is meant to inspire us,” he added. “To guide our steps, and help us press forward.”

SHAC Hall Badarak-2016

The Primate also recalled the humble beginnings of the St. Hagop parish in the decades preceding the church’s consecration eight years ago. He noted that it was through the faith, dedication, and hard work of the community that the dream of building a church was realized in St. Petersburg.

“Today I am overjoyed to witness yet another accomplishment of this community-the beautiful new hall you have built to nourish our Armenian heritage and culture,” he said. “May God continue to guide you in your ministry and inspire you in all your endeavors as you enter this new chapter in the history of St. Hagop Church.”

At the conclusion of the service, Archbishop Barsamian distributed Bibles to children of the parish. He then led a procession of altar servers, choir members, and the more than 200 parishioners to the new Michael and Jean Shahnasarian Hall, where a blessing service and ribbon-cutting ceremony were performed. A banquet prepared by the Women’s Guild and served by young adults followed.

An incredible community effort

The parish recognized the need for a multi-purpose facility when St. Hagop Church was consecrated in 2007, but during that period other concerns drew on its time and funds. It was not until three years ago that the community launched a capital campaign to raise funds for the hall project. More than $1 million was raised with the help of 175 donors.

“It was an incredible community effort,” Dr. Shahnasarian said, adding that the new facility “gives us a good venue for our ministry.”

On Saturday evening, January 9, the Shahnasarian family hosted a “thank-you” dinner in their home for major supporters of the project. Also taking part in the weekend’s activities was Diocesan Council member Thomas Ashbahian.

SHAC Hall Ribbon Cutting-2016

In addition to a large space for gatherings, the new building includes a kitchen, Sunday School classrooms, and offices.

“I think a lot of people felt this makes our community complete,” Fr. Demerjian said. “It is a great blessing.”

Stepan Serpekian, chair of the building committee, said the parish looks forward to using the hall to enhance its cultural programming.

“The ribbon-cutting joyfully opened the gates to the future of the children where they can sing, dance, cook, and speak the language that our ancestors gave their lives for,” he said. “Now that this major project has been accomplished, we look forward to developing more cultural events, from dance instructions to cooking instructions to historical presentations.”

SHAC Hall Reception-2016

Dr. Shahnasarian added that the St. Hagop parish plans to use the new space for Diocesan-level functions as well, including the annual ACYOA Chapter Workshop the parish hosts each winter and the 2017 Diocesan Assembly, which will be held in St. Petersburg. The hall was already put to good use on New Year’s Eve, when the entire community gathered to welcome the new year and celebrate their accomplishment as a parish.

That same spirit filled Sunday’s official opening. “The mood was one of great joy, celebration, pride, and happiness shared by all,” said Charles Sarkisian, building fund chair. “Everyone in our community pulled together to make the event a huge success.”

Click here to view more photos.