a few words from der tateos . . .
So I'm waiting in the dentist's office reading an old issue of Money Magazine trying
to figure where to invest my millions when I came upon an interesting article.
Annually the magazine rates the 300 best places in America to live. The ratings are
based on climate, affordability, amenities, crime rate, public transportation, medical
care, and other factors. Some of the cities and towns were well known, some not so much and one was the town
next to where I live.
Coincidently, a few weeks later, USA Today, took a similar approach with churches. Apparently, several major
metropolitan newspapers regularly review churches. A religion writer makes an unannounced Sunday visit to
various churches and analyzes everything from the sign on the outside to the sermon on the inside. Like
restaurant and theater reviewers, some writers even use ratings, from one star (poor) to five stars (excellent).
In his preface, the reviewer had made a basic observation and comment that most people rate church
atmosphere within the first 15 minutes of their first visit. They may not be able to fully explain how they
reached their conclusions, but there are certain things that they are looking for.
Having visited a number of parishes in our Diocese and elsewhre, I do understand and agree with most of the
writer's assessments. So if I needed a place to worship, what qualities would I look for in a parish church? My
list is as follows.
1. Do I sense the presence of God within the sanctuary?
Sure, a priest would say this. But I believe very strongly that people expect God to come to the church they are
attending. At least, I would imagine those good folks who come to church to pray to him and to seek his
presence in their lives would do so.
Just as people can sense the presence of evil, they can also sense the presence of God. For some who have never
before experienced God, this single characteristic may determine whether they ever come again and whether
their lives will take a turn for the better. Experiencing the supernatural is a high priority, that its importance
dwarfs everything else in rating a church's atmosphere.
is a publication of
The Diocese of the Armenian Church (Eastern)
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate
Department of Mission Parishes
Rev. Fr. Tateos R. Abdalian
Diocesan Office: 212.686.0710
Contributing factors to this are the manner in which the Badarak is celebrated and offered by the priest, deacons
and choir. Does each convey that sense of being in the presence of the sacred while standing before the Holy
Altar upon which rests the Holy Chalice and Christ himself?
How do the altar servers present themselves? As singers to be heard and praised, or servers who humbly
songs as prayer, worship as they sing, know that they represent the angles in heaven? If those who are the main
participants of the service are not "into it" shall we say how can one expect those in the pews to be inspired?
2. Do I sense that the new attendee is welcomed and genuinely and joyfully admitted into the
Some of our parishes are
One parish that I served, St. George, Hartford, CT, was and probably still is an "others" parish. If a newcomer
were to enter the sanctuary, within a few minutes, one or more of the parishioners would go and sit next to the
person, welcome them, assist them with a pew book. Then after services they would accompany them to the
fellowship hour. Introductions would be made to the priest and to other community members with the
concluding genuine invitation to please come again.
Conversely, once while covering for a vacationing pastor of xyz parish, I walked into the hall for coffee hour
after Badarak. The people were talking and laughing and having a good time. They apparently liked their
church, but they didn't take the time to notice me. After a few minutes of uncomfortable invisibility, I was
finally asked by a Parish Council member to bless the table so people could begin eating. Only one other
person approached to say hello.
help. Such parishes have a customized approach that changes with every person. A
think you understand the difference.
On a few of occasions I have published the following in the Sunday Bulletin of our Mission Parishes:
Have you ever been a newcomer to an Armenian Church? If so, . . .
How you greet and treat newcomers to your community may determine whether they will ever
Coming into an Orthodox Church, Armenian or otherwise, can be a very nerve racking experience for someone
who is "not of the tribe". You can observe that as soon as one enters they look around to see where it is that
they can find a similarity – in the way we/they are dressed, look, talk. Their level of comfort can be high or low
depending on how quickly they find someone else similar to themselves.
In a gathering where everyone is young and casually dressed, the older person in a business suit feels out of
place. When everyone is speaking Armenian and one does not, they not only will feel left out of the
conversation but also wonder if others are talking about them. If everyone in the parish church is old, younger
people are less likely to come.
It is amazing how even the smallest symbols can make an impact. Seeing one person who looks and dresses
"like me" ushering or pictured in church publicity can communicate an open and inviting atmosphere.
3. Are problems handled in a healthy way?
You can often tell more about a parish church by the way it handles problems than by the way it handles
success. This makes for an easy measure because every parish has problems.
What happens when the sound system emits a squeal or drops into embarrassing silence during services? How
does the priest or Parish Council or the 80-year-old
How do you find a teacher willing to teach Sunday School when everyone else says they are too busy? What
makes a healthy church is not the absence of problems. It's how problems are handled.
In one church where a clergy friend of mine serves, every attendee is invited to complete an information card at
every service. There are blocks to check areas of interest. Each week many people write questions, comments,
and criticisms on the back of their cards. By Monday morning all of the cards are sorted and assigned for
personalized follow-up. It is part of their commitment to be accessible in every possible way and to handle
concerns before they become problems.
Of course you realize that this not an Armenian church of which I speak. For if it were, as it is written in the
last sentence of John's Gospel,
books that would be written.
4. Are all aspects of the "church" accessible?
The article stated that every Saturday the Minneapolis Star Tribune reviews a local church and every review
evaluates whether the church building is handicapped accessible and whether there is adequate parking.
However, wheelchair ramps and parking stalls are only the beginning of accessibility. Is there clear and easy
access to getting questions answered, meeting new people, talking to church leaders, joining the membership,
discovering opportunities for spiritual growth, becoming part of a small group, resolving complaints, and an
openness to serve? High ratings go to churches that are "barrier free" in every sense of the term.
5. What can I expect for the future?
Listen to Parish Council members or long time parishioner conversations about the parish, and you can decide if
the primary verb tense is past, present, or future.
Most healthy parishes are hopeful churches. They are permeated with high expectations of God's blessing for
the future. Too many of our parishes though are stuck in the past. Conversations revolve around
way we like it here."
parishes have little or no desire of welcoming new parishioners for fear that they may somehow "rock the boat".
Something along the lines of how the Pharisees viewed and treated Jesus Christ or St. Paul. And boy, did they
rock the boat!
That attitude will stifle and kill any prospect of new growth, new ideas, and progress. I have seen it happen and
experienced it first-hand. Like a fruit tree that every once in a while needs trimming and pruning for the new
growth to be allowed to flourish and produce fruit, so do parishes need new ideas and fresh approaches.
Otherwise, the tree and the parish will eventually die.
6. Would God come to visit this parish and would he be welcomed to attend and participate?
The majority of people who come to church and who feel beaten up Monday through Saturday are not looking
for another beating on Sunday. They come to church for healing and hope. They want to hear the good news of
Jesus Christ. They want to be told that God is there, God has not forgotten them, and God will bless them in the
future. The church that truly believes and says, "because of Jesus Christ the best is yet to come" that is the
church that breathes spiritually healthy air.
The following story has been published in our
well. It pretty well sums up the intent of this article.
Crossing the Generation Gap
Bill is wild haired; his wardrobe for college is jeans and a T-shirt with holes in it. He recently
became a believer while attending a campus Bible study.
Across from campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. One Sunday Bill decides to go
there. He walks in late and shoeless. The sanctuary is packed. Bill heads down the aisle looking
for a seat. Having nearly reached the pulpit, he realizes there are no empty seats, so he squats
down on the carpet. The congregation is feeling uncomfortable.
Then from the back of the church, a gray-haired elder in a three-piece suit starts walking
toward Bill with a cane. The worshipers don't expect a man in his 80s to understand some college
kid on the floor. With all eyes focused on the developing drama, the minister waits to begin his
sermon until the elder does what he has to do.
The elderly man drops his cane on the floor and with great difficulty lowers himself to sit next
"What I'm about to preach,"
you'll never forget.
That is the kind of church and parish that I would want to be a member of.
Fr. Haigazoun Najarian to Assume New Post in Central Europe
By Taleen Babayan
More than 150 guests—among them former parishioners, fellow clergy, and friends— gathered in Haik and
Alice Kavookjian Auditorium of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America on Tuesday evening,
May 18, to bid a fond farewell to the Diocesan Vicar, the Very Rev. Fr. Haigazoun Najarian.
Fr. Najarian will travel to Europe next month to assume the office of Pontifical
Legate of Central Europe and Sweden. Based in Vienna, Austria, he will tend to
the spiritual needs of the Armenian communities in more than a dozen countries.
His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians,
had proposed the prestigious move earlier this year, and Fr. Najarian accepted in a
spirit of humility and great responsibility.
During the May 18 farewell gathering, friends and colleagues shared their
memories of their time with Fr. Najarian in the relaxed atmosphere, and wished
him the best of luck in his new position.
Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian, former Primate of the United Kingdom, Executive Director of the Fund for
Armenian Relief, Garnik Nanagoulian, Diocesan communications director Chris Zakian as well as others all
spoke of their friendship and relation with Fr. Haigazoun.
In his benediction, Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian congratulated Fr. Najarian on his new
appointment saying “Our doors and our hearts are always open to Fr. Haigazoun.”
Excerpts extracted from the Diocesan website.
The A.C.Y.O.A. Central Council is proud to announce
the 2011 publication of...
The First-Ever Commemorative Memory Book!
The Memory Book Committee's regional liaisons are looking for
photos, stories, and other A.C.Y.O.A. memories.
We encourage all Mission Parishes and generations to share!
If you would like to contribute, please email:
You can also call:
443. 622. 4742
401. 486. 8495
Just as a matter of information –
You can get the latest videos on the Armenian Church from Armenia and as well
as our Diocese. Simply go to
Especially for our faithful who are far removed from Armenian parishes or
communities, this site can provide a sense of connection to what is happening in
the Armenian Church around the world. Spread the word, get and stay connected.
And Finally . . .
To Be 6 Again...
A man was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching his wife, who was looking at herself in the
mirror. Since her birthday was not far off he asked what she'd like to have for her birthday.
'I'd like to be six again', she replied, still looking in the mirror.
On the morning of her Birthday, he arose early, made her a nice big bowl of Lucky Charms, and
then took her to Six Flags theme park. What a day! He put her on every ride in the park; the
Death Slide, the Wall of Fear, the Screaming Roller Coaster, everything there was.
Five hours later they staggered out of the theme park. Her head was reeling and her stomach
felt upside down. He then took her to a McDonald's where he ordered her a Happy Meal with
extra fries and a chocolate shake.
Then it was off to a movie, popcorn, a soda pop, and her favorite candy, M&M's.
What a fabulous adventure!
Finally she wobbled home with her husband and collapsed into bed
He leaned over his wife with a big smile and lovingly asked, 'Well Dear,
what was it like being six again?'
Her eyes slowly opened and her expression suddenly changed.
'I meant my dress size, you nut!!!!'
The moral of the story: Even when a man is listening, he's gonna get it wrong.
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