The National Representative Assembly of the Eastern Prelacy was held last Saturday, May 22, in a virtual meeting via videoconference for second time in a row as the world is slowly emerging from an unprecedented pandemic.
With 65 out of 77 eligible delegates in attendance, a quorum was achieved. Simone Topouzian, Chairperson, called the meeting to order. Janet Haroian served as secretary.
His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate, offered the opening prayer, following which he invited His Holiness Catholicos Aram I to address the virtual assembly.
“We are at a critical juncture in human history,” His Holiness said, in reference to the upheavals, driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, that have radically changed our life as we knew it.
In his address streamed live from Antelias, His Holiness praised “the spirit of dedication of our parishes, under the supervision and leadership of Srpazan and the Prelacy.” The NRA, he said, is “an important occasion, first, for sharing our experiences, perspectives, and expectations; second, for reviewing and assess with a critical spirit the work of the Prelacy; and third, for highlighting and identifying the priority areas of the period forward.”
The Catholicos underscored the role of “witness” the Prelacy and the parishes play in the community. “What the Prelacy does, what the parish does is essentially being a witness… witness in the profound sense of the word, with a strong dedication and commitment.”
His Holiness had words of praise for Archbishop Anoushavan as “a good and dedicated pastor… at the service of his flock.” He also expressed his appreciation for the clergy and Executive Council members, “who did their utmost under these difficult circumstances.” The Catholicos also conveyed his gratitude and blessings to all committees, donors, friends, and supporters, who in one way or another have done their best.
The Catholicos also offered the broad outlines of a roadmap, calling on the Prelacy and parishes to:
- Reorganize efforts. He urged “to try to be more selective by identifying programs, concerns, areas of involvement” that “are relevant,” making a more efficient use of resources.
- Think, “how can we transform the programs we have into outreach?” A program should not become self-centered and self-contained, His Holiness said. Programs should be people-oriented and community-transforming.
- Expand the scope of relations. The pandemic was detrimental to relationships, His Holiness said. “I very much admire that Srpazan has been very active establishing relations with the parishes.” This mattered because, the Catholicos said, “the most important relation of the Prelacy is with the parishes.”
In his closing remarks, His Holiness quoted from the final pages of his book, “Turning to God:”
“In this chaotic world, we have little time to be with ourselves, with our families, even with God. Often, we leave God alone. God always approaches us. Are we disposed to approach Him? God always turns to us. Are we ready to turn to him? Indeed, without God our life is empty and meaningless.”
His Holiness explained:
“Turning to God means turning to the Creator of Creation, to the source of Times, to our Heavenly Father… Turning to God in chaos, turning to ourselves, created in the image of God…”
Following the Catholicos’ message, His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan vowed to continue his mission at the Prelacy, reaching out to every member of the community under its jurisdiction.
The Prelate highlighted the resilience of the church and the community in these daunting times. “While it is true that we were surrounded, attacked, and exposed to multiple threats during the past year, nevertheless we did not surrender, we were not crushed, and we did not lose our ability to deal with these deadly pressures, anxieties, and worries,” Archbishop Anoushavan said. “Yes, this pandemic has separated us physically, yet at the same time, whether driven by fear or by a dormant authentic need to re-establish our relationship with our heavenly Father, it has rekindled in us our Faith and genuine love.”
The remarks by the Prelate were followed by the roll call made by Ms. Haroian, the secretary of the meeting. The Executive Council report and budget, as well as the financial report, were approved as submitted by unanimous consent, after which delegates voted for five new Lay and three Religious Councils members. The outcome of the election saw Houry Daghlian reelected for a new term at the Lay Council, joined by new members Tamar Kanarian, Raffi Ourlian, Hrant Jamgochian, and Hagop Khatchadourian. Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian and Rev. Fr. Kapriel Nazarian were reelected to the Religious Council, joined by new member Rev. Fr. Mikael Der Kosrofian. Earlier this week, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I gave his blessing and ratification to the elections.
Upon the invitation of NRA Chairperson Topouzian, outgoing Lay Council member Karen Jehanian addressed the assembly, evoking her life-enriching experience as the first woman elected to the Council 23 years ago. Ms. Topouzian also thanked outgoing Lay Council members Chris Parnagian and André Markarian for their service.
Archpriest Fr. Antranig Baljian led the closing prayer, following which the meeting ended on a high note with a stirring rendition of “Giligia” by Rev. Fr. Torkom Chorbajian and Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian.