The National Representative Assembly of the Eastern Prelacy elected the new Executive and Religious Council, in its first meeting of this kind convened entirely on a virtual platform by videoconference. Following an opening prayer by His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, the Prelate invited Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian of St. Sarkis, Douglaston, NY, to first say a prayer in memory of the lives lost 19 years ago on September 11, 2001.
With 70 out of 76 eligible delegates in attendance, a quorum was achieved. Simone Topouzian, Chairperson, called the meeting to order, with delegates credentials, the Executive Council’s report, the Financial Report, and the budget draft approved by the Assembly with no objections. Janet Haroian served as secretary. The reports and the draft had been previously circulated and questions from the delegates answered by the Executive Council in due time.
Archbishop Anoushavan then introduced the virtual assembly to the message of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I streamed live from Antelias. “In spite of tremendous difficulties of different nature and scope, the Prelacy, under the leadership of Surpazan, with religious and lay councils thanks to God, they have made significant achievements,” Aram I said. “They all deserve—in fact, you—my warm thanks and deep appreciation.”
We are living, His Holiness said, “in unusual times… humanity is still under the constant and fearful threat of the coronavirus pandemic, and it seems that the challenges, concerns, problems generated by this pandemic will be around us for the foreseeable future.” Hence, he urged the faithful “to be realistic in planning and organizing the activities and the agenda priorities of the Prelacy as well as of our parishes.”
In his address to the Assembly, the Catholicos mentioned his directive encouraging parishes to entrust women and youth with leadership positions in our churches and communities. He also expressed his happiness over the theme of “learning and growing together,” as learning is an endless process in the life of a person, organization and community. We should all become a source of learning including learning from the pandemic, he said.
In his closing remarks, the Catholicos called on strengthening our national unity.
“We need to deepen the sense of togetherness: we are one nation, we are one people, we are one community, we are one Church,” Aram I said. “That sense of togetherness brings us together: we need to strengthen this bond.”
Upon the request of Mrs. Topouzian, Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian of St. Sarkis, Dearborn, Mi., reviewed the voting procedures and conducted a “test” vote on behalf of the Nominating Committee. As the test run was being conducted, Mrs. Topouzian invited Anoushavan Surpazan to deliver his message to the Assembly (see the full text below).
In his address to the delegates, His Eminence outlined the challenges the Prelacy had faced in this unprecedented year and how it had responded to them.
“At first, when the lockdown was imposed, many people were frightened and others were uncertain,” Archbishop Anoushavan said. “Yet we managed to learn a new way to thrive.”
He acknowledged the toll the Covid-19 pandemic had taken and that the difficulties are not over yet.
“There is no doubt that we have paid a high price in the loss of precious lives and the downturn of the economy,” he said, adding that “there is a long way to go before the journey is finished.”
Still, “the fact that we were challenged but not defeated is the solid reality that the loss was not in vain but laid the foundation of a new era.”
The Prelate then summed up his thoughts in three major concepts:
Divine Guidance: Thank God that even though we were deprived of the opportunity to celebrate together Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter, and all the following feasts together, God continues to lead us by hope in the resurrection “to discover a new dimension of the power of faith over fear and in the face of uncertainty.”
Collaboration: “It is often the case that disasters, rather than prosperity, will bring people closer to one another,” His Eminence said. “The pandemic was not an exception to this phenomenon… collaboration stands as one of the major keys for our common success,” he said, highlighting the heroic sacrifices of the medical community, officials, and the public during the pandemic.
Innovation: This concept, which has a become a byword for our experience in the era of the pandemic, “Necessity is the mother of invention” has become the byword in our experience in the era of the pandemic. “innovation has become the driving force for plans and activities throughout the Prelacy.”
To finalize, His Eminence invoked “the magnificent Badarak chant, ‘Heavenly King, keep unshaken our Church and keep in peace the worshipers of your holy name.’ God works in mysterious ways through each of us and for each of us. May God bless and protect from visible and invisible viruses, enemies, and powers. May He keep the world, Christendom, the Armenian Apostolic Church, unshaken, and the worshipers of His Holy Name in peace.”
After the voting for Executive and Religious Councils was finished and the minutes were ratified, following one minor correction, Chairwoman Topouzian invited the Prelate to offer his closing remarks. After thanking the delegates for their participation in a historic session of the Assembly, Archbishop Anoushavan again urged everybody to have “faith over fear,” with the certainty that we will emerge stronger from the pandemic.
Crossroads will report on the result of the Executive and Religious Council elections following ratification by Catholicos Aram I.