The dawning of the spring this year, full of the promise of new life, unfortunately was darkened with an unprecedented pandemic and lockdown in our nation as well as throughout the entire world. Humanity was challenged neither by an atomic bomb nor by a third world war or by aliens, but rather by an invisible, microscopic virus, which has reshaped the course of our civilized and advanced society.
With all the terrible experiences and losses we have endured this past year, we thank the Almighty Lord that, even though we were severely attacked, yet we were not defeated. We were surrounded by numerous minor and major worries, but we did not surrender to them. Our physical, emotional, and spiritual mobilization has enabled us to manage this painful experience and to find new ways to respond and to minimize our injuries. Even though we are not yet at the end of this tunnel, we pray for a welcome, brilliant future.
The Armenian Prelacy of the Eastern United States has advanced through a process of learning and growing that has been brought on by this recent pandemic. The use of modern technology, especially in the way we use media to communicate with our faithful and others, has proven to be a most efficient means to move forward. As a humble servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, wholeheartedly and truly I can confess how fortunate I am to have co-workers who willingly and joyfully contribute their God-granted talents to navigate through the uncharted storms created by COVID-19. Let me share with you just some of the many ways in which we have adapted our Prelacy programs to meet this pandemic.
- Since the beginning of the lockdown, the Prelacy has hosted a two-hour conference with all of our pastors every Monday evening, sharing our experiences throughout this poignant journey, and always exploring new ways and means to secure both the spirit of our Church’s mission and the overall well-being of our congregations.
- Prelacy Executive Council meetings as well as Prelacy Staff meetings have been held on a regular basis through video technology to provide secure and timely responses to administrative needs.
- Our Pastors, to their credit, continue to present daily reflections; arrange for live-streaming the Holy Badarak every Sunday; encourage the lighting of candles; and offer special prayers for the sick and for the souls of our dearly departed.
- Our Pastors and members of the Boards of Trustees, in conjunction with local sister organizations, have been able to reach out those who were in need, most especially to our seniors who are living on their own.
- The Prelate’s Caring and Sharing program assisted those who are in need on different levels.
- With our schools’ Principals, we have been able to provide the essentials of our Armenian culture to our youngest generation, including collaboration with the Gulbenkian Foundation to assist us with the very important work being carried out in our Armenian schools.
- Bible Studies, Lectures, Reading of Bible stories as well as passages from Armenian literature for children, the Salt and Light gatherings, Siamanto Academy and Datev Institutes’ online courses for teens —all these programs and more have been reorganized within new parameters to meet the needs of our people.
- With the help of our domestic media and media abroad, we have been able to communicate timely advice and promote a positive spirit in confronting the pandemic.
- At the same time, we have made efforts to update the Prelacy’s website and created a vibrant new format to the weekly “Crossroads” online bulletin.
By the end of June, our Prelacy offices were able to resume normal functions. However, since then, our already wounded life was torpedoed by two major catastrophes: the tragic explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, and the war in Artsakh. With the support of our faithful, the Prelacy has been able to accomplish a meaningful vital, humanitarian response to these horrific circumstances:
- Funds in the amount of $ $382,484 were collected throughout our Prelacy and sent to aid all segments of the Armenian Community in Lebanon.
- For Artsakh aid, our parishioners have been advised to direct their donations to the “Armenia Fund” to maximize the impact of these donations.
- During this agonizing period, our Clergy have been offering daily Services in their respective communities. Since November, with Zoom, prayers for peace and safety are offered every day from 9 pm to 10 pm.
- Along with prayers and donations, our Prelacy parishes supported our homeland with demonstrations and similar activities during the Artsakh war.
Within the Eastern Prelacy:
- The National Representatives Assembly, though delayed, was conveyed by video conference on September 12, with the participation of almost all our delegates.
- Our Parishes have made valiant efforts to reorganize their annual events to conform to health guidelines. Bazaars, picnics, and other treasured community gatherings, have been adjusted to local public regulations in order to be preserved and safely enjoyed.
- The “2021 Diary” was printed and distributed in early November.
All these and more have been achieved because of the unconditional commitment of our Clergy, the NRA, our Religious and Executive Councils, Prelacy Pillars, Staff, Boards of Trustees and Auxiliary Bodies, and Sister Organizations. But mostly with the wholehearted support of our Parishioners and Friends.
I would like to quote once again the precious words of Catholicos Khoren I, of Blessed Memory, which he shared with me shortly after my ordination: “My son, in the coming years of service, through your experience, you will realize that you are serving a gold-hearted people.” Indeed, I am honored to serve a nation whose history has been defined as a history of Martyrdom; it is a testimony to the power of the victorious Cross and of the mighty Resurrection.
As we commence the Christmas season, when all of us are filled with the joyous spirit of Caring and Sharing, I humbly appeal to your hearts to support generously our sacred mission, in order to strengthen our Prelacy’s programs and our communities in this blessed country , including those Prelacy programs which help us reach out to our needy brothers and sisters at large, in Artsakh, in Armenia, across the Middle East as well as those is need within our Prelacy.
With the upcoming season of New Years and Christmas, I pray, “May the doors of hope open, and the winter of all catastrophes depart from the world, and from our homeland of Armenia and Artsakh.” May the Almighty Lord enable us to greet and embrace one another, with health and joy, and to sing with the Angels, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and on earth peace, goodwill among people.”