Looking Toward The Future
Archbishop Oshagan is now in his third term as Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy, having been re-elected in 2002 and 2006. He is always looking forward toward the future. “Our past, of course, is important,” he says. “We must know it, study it, learn from it. But, the past is not our capital. We must always focus on the future, with emphasis on the education of our children, encouraging them to reach their greatest potential, but never forgetting their roots.
“When I assumed office in 1998, I remembered the Prelacy of the 1970s, and I saw the enormous progress that had been made. For this I credit the former Prelate, Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, who served as Prelate for 20 years. Administratively the Prelacy was better organized and the programs offered were better implemented. On the one hand, I visited parishes where I was happy to see that children of active parishioners in the 1970s were now in leadership positions. On the other hand, I became concerned about the absence of many people who were quite active and who had disappeared from the scene. I kept wondering: Where are they? I do not want to lose a single person; everyone is important.
“Since the 1970s there has been a great influx of newcomers. Coming from other countries, diverse backgrounds, they have different ways of doing things. In many ways we benefited from this influx, but we also lost. And because our parishes are generally filled with the faithful we do not realize that we have lost many people—especially the first and second Armenian American generations. This was something I wanted to work on right away: to be more understanding and tolerant of each other. Each of our diasporan communities must adapt to local conditions, and we have to acknowledge that we can learn from each other. This was the message I tried to give to my parishes during those early years of my service in the United States.”
Clergy recruitment and training and parish development became a top priority for Archbishop Oshagan, as described earlier. He pledges to continue this effort. “Our clergy must be well-educated, not just in the Sacraments, but in all areas so that they will be prepared for the challenges of the ministry. They must be able to provide answers to modern social problems.”
Christian education is also foremost on his mind and agenda. “We need to build a strong foundation of Christian education. We have to use technology to reach the homes of our faithful. That is why we are continually increasing our email list, so that we can keep in touch on a weekly basis through our e-newsletter, Crossroads. Also, we can reach people quickly with important news and updates. Modern technology is an important tool in communicating with our faithful, especially our younger generations.”
Archbishop Oshagan acknowledges that some reforms must come to the Armenian Church. “We need to embark on a study of self-evaluation and begin a process of renewal. We need to explore issues like the language of the liturgy, the length of the liturgy, and ethical and moral issues that are so much a part of modern life. I am pleased that His Holiness Aram I is beginning this process,” he says.
Noting that 2017 is the 60th anniversary of the Prelacy, His Eminence says, “The creation of the Prelacy in 1958 was one of necessity. I shudder to think of the great losses we would have experienced without the leadership of the Prelacy. For the 50th anniversary we will be celebrating what this Prelacy has accomplished in 50 years—and it is an impressive story of keeping and transmitting our faith, safeguarding our traditions, keeping the youth attached to the church, and keeping our community strong and active. Unity is a noble and lofty goal. I can even say it is imperative. I know very well the difficulties faced by both the Diocese and the Prelacy. However, unity is a process and we must follow that process if unity is to become reality. Imposing unity will not work. We have to prepare the groundwork. We must learn to love, understand, and respect one another. If we can do this, then unity will surely follow.”
For the present, His Eminence reemphasizes his long-standing motto, “With each other, for each other,” and his message to everyone is this: “Do not just stand on the sidelines. Come into the arena, be active, be a participant, always with the goal of building the Church and making it stronger for the glory of God.”