A festive start to the 175th anniversary of the Armenian Evangelical Church
By Reverend L. Nishan Bakalian
Young and old Armenian evangelicals from around the world gathered inside the Aram Khachaturyan Concert Hall in Yerevan on July 1 to mark the celebration of the once postponed 175th anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Evangelical Church. The animated encounters in front of the concert hall clearly showed that this audience was not a random gathering of spectators, but a close-knit community, in direct contact with each other, as well as with the celebrated history.
Opening the program, Master of Ceremonies Andranik Mardoyan, Armenian Press Secretary of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA), highlighted not only the importance of the celebration, but also the crises facing the Armenian nation. today, as he asked the public to stand in honor of those who sacrificed their lives to defend the homeland in the 44-day war in 2020. Subsequently, in his capacity as 175e President of the anniversary, AMAA Executive Director Zaven Khanjian offered words of welcome and a call to continue the work of the Armenian Evangelical Church for the sake of the Gospel within the Armenian nation “If there’s one thing you take away from tonight’s event, let it be our theme: ‘Let us hold fast… our faith’ (Hebrews 10:23).
The leaders of the five Armenian Evangelical Unions also each gave short video greetings on the occasion of this event. It should be noted that in addition to the letters of congratulations printed in the program booklet, there were also letters of blessing from the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II (read by Abbot Nathan Hovhannisyan) and the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Sahag Mashalian (excerpts read by Mardoyan). The two leaders stressed the importance of mutual respect and mutual support in the service of the Armenian nation and people.
Reviewing the birth and growth of the church, the first of three film presentations attempted to chart the scope of the first three quarters of a century of the Armenian Evangelical Church, depicting the church’s initial establishment and progress. , up to the great losses suffered during the Armenian Genocide. It was a hopeful yet sobering performance, reminding us that although the Armenian people today are much larger than they were in 1915, our church has yet to recover from these wounds and still has a lot of work to do.
Armenia State Chamber Orchestra and Yerevan State Chamber Choir and “Komitas” Choir waited patiently throughout this opening section. On stage, conductor Dr. Vartan Agopian, formerly of Beirut and currently of Prague, led the musicians in a series of pieces arranged by him for the occasion, a few played in each section of the program. These included hymns: a heartfelt rendition of “The Church’s One Foundation,” a lighthearted, almost whimsical “Faith of Our Fathers,” and a contrapuntal staging of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The program also included Armenian popular and folk songs, ranging from classic Gomidas (“Karoun a” and “Vagharshabad Dance”), to an Armenian folk-flavored Babajanian (“Azk Parabandz”) and a sensitive and dramatic offering of a popular song by Smbatyan (“Hayastan”).
It is amazing to consider the amount and range of contributions that the Armenian Evangelical Church has made to the progress and welfare of the Armenian nation. The second presentation of the film touched on the key ways the church has been a blessing despite its small numbers, whether in the areas of Bible literacy, education, publishing, social service and more. . So much commendable work has been done in so many countries, and the recipients of this dedicated service, or their descendants, were actually those who sat in the concert hall that very evening!
The third presentation of the film focused mainly on the Evangelical Church of Armenia and the work of AMAA-Armenia over the past three decades in Armenia and Artsakh. It was a good reminder to see on screen the many social and spiritual work initiatives that have been done over the years, and how the Evangelical Church of Armenia has an important role to play in the welfare of Armenia, with God leads.
At the end of the evening, Maestro Agopian asked the audience to stand as he led the choir in a a cappella interpretation of the “Lord’s Prayer (Hayr Mer)” by A. Missirian. On behalf of the Armenian Evangelical World Council (AEWC), which organized the jubilee celebration, AEWC President Rev. Joel Mikaelian gave a closing instruction to the audience: bring their faith to those around them. , working alongside their Armenian Apostolic and Armenian Catholic communities. brethren, for the propagation of the Gospel. Afterwards, he offered a blessing.
And so, as it was before the event, as well as after, the attendees, anxious to greet each other, lingered long after the lights had gone out in the hall and continued their fellowship with the promise of more interactions in the days to come.
Reverend L. Nishan Bakalian is the Church Relations Coordinator of the Union of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East.