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His Holiness Catholicos Aram I blessed the National Representative Assembly that convenes on May 16-18 in Dearborn, Michigan, calling on delegates to focus their attention on the parishes as the “core” of the Eastern Prelacy’s mission.

“In assessing the activities and achievements of the Prelacy, I propose that you give a focal attention to the parishes, which in fact constitute the core of the Prelacy’s reflection and action, and the center of our community life,” His Holiness said in his pre-recorded message.

On Thursday, May 16, lay and clergy delegates from all parishes converged in St. Sarkis Church (Dearborn, Michigan) for the opening session of the 2024 National Representative Assembly of the Eastern Prelacy. It was preceded by the Clergy Assembly held the day before.

The delegates started the proceedings electing the authorities of the Assembly after the opening prayer of Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, Vicar, on behalf of Archbishop Anoushavan, who could not attend due to health reasons, and welcoming words by Rev. Fr. Hrant Kevorkian, Pastor of St. Sarkis Church, and Michael Crane, Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees. Following the listening of His Holiness՛ message, the assembly listened to the message of the Prelate, read by the Vicar. Messages were read by representatives of the Eastern Diocese, the Hairenik Association, and the Eastern Regional of the Armenian Relief Society. Col. Aram Sarafian, chairman of the Executive Council, presented the Executive Council report. The plenary meeting began afterwards.

“Revitalization of the parish”

In his address, the Catholicos outlined his vision for re-engaging the parishes and turning them into the center of the community’s spiritual life.

“One, the reorganization and revitalization of the parish, in its liturgical, administrative, programmatic, and relational aspects is imperative.”

This engagement should be a top priority on the agenda of the policy and parish-related committees, His Holiness said.

“Two, within the parish, the nature and the scope of working relationship between clergy, Board of Trustees, and sister organizations need to be clearly defined and properly articulated and organized, having the invigoration and renewal of the community life as a basic and common goal.”

“Three; I consider the relationship of the parish church with parishioners of pivotal importance,” the Catholicos stressed. “We must ensure, through pastoral visits of the clergy and what I call Community Oriented Action programs, the active participation of parishioners in the total life of the church.”

That brought him to his last point.

“I always remind our clergy and people that the church is not the physical building; it is essentially the community of faith,” His Holiness said. “Therefore, the challenge is, how can we make the church a living reality in the life of the community, on the one hand, and how can the community make the church their common spiritual home, on the other hand?”

In other words, “how can we transform the church attendance into the identification of the parishioners with the church?”

These and similar concerns and challenges must be seriously addressed, both at the Prelacy and parish levels, according to the Catholicos.

His Holiness ended his message extolling the Prelate and the members of the greater Prelacy family.

“I take this opportunity to express my high appreciation to His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan for his dedicated service to our church; to the clergy, for the continuous efforts to take the church to the people as a serving community; to the Executive Council, for the active work to make the Prelacy-Parish relations more effective, as well as my deep appreciation to the National Representative Assembly for your commitment to reorganize the Prelacy in all its aspects and manifestations.”

The Catholicos added his wish to meet everyone in October, in the second part of his pontifical visit to the Eastern United States, which delegates will also address during their meetings in Dearborn.

The National Representative Assembly will also discuss strategic planning, by-laws amendments and finances, including the Prelacy’s budget for 2024-25, in addition to other agenda items, such as election of members for the Religious and Lay Councils.

Updates and full coverage will be provided in the coming issues of Crossroads as well as through the Prelacy’s social media channels.