With generous benefactor gift Charlotte mission parish moves forward

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Jake Goshert, Coordinator of Information Services
Tel: (212) 686-0710 Ext. 60; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]

April 5, 2004


By Jake Goshert

On a bright Sunday, March 28, 2004, 300 people watched and deacons and choir
members sang psalms, honored stewards washed each stone with wine and water,
then wrapped them in clean cloth. The people gathered listened to Bible
readings in English, Armenian, and Russian. They felt their spirits soar.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church
of America (Eastern), led the Armenian community of Charlotte, NC, that day
as they blessed the cornerstones of what will soon be a new Armenian
Church — the first ever to go up in North Carolina.

“This historic day for our community is filled with mixed emotions,” said
Lena Kupelian Neau, parish council chairman and a driving force behind the
mission parish in Charlotte. “There are emotions of joy, happiness,
excitement, tears, and even disbelief that this groundbreaking event is
actually taking place.”

The new sanctuary — blessed cornerstones and all — is scheduled to be
completed early in 2005 and consecrated in January 2005, on the Feast of St.

“We celebrate the mystery of God’s miraculous activity in our Armenian
community in Charlotte,” said Fr. Daniel Findikyan, visiting pastor for the
mission parish. “We have much to be thankful for: a diverse and growing
family of Armenians who are unified in their love for one another and for
their love of God; and for the spirit of self-sacrifice on the part of so
many people who have given of their time, talent, and treasure to realize
the great dream of a sanctuary.”


Countless parishioners and supporters have helped the church become a
reality. The community is made up of a large number of new immigrants, who
followed the example of parish leaders and gave generously.

But one individual was recognized during the cornerstone blessing ceremony
as playing a major role in the realization of the dream. Sarkis Acopian, a
devout, successful businessman from Philadelphia, pledged $1.7 million to
build the new Armenian Church in honor of his mother, Arax.

He chose to support the parish because its members valued the church, hoped
to raise their children in the church family, and found strength in their
Christian faith.

“For years we kept praying that God would answer our prayers and enable us
to build a spiritual home. We never gave up. We kept our faith and God
answered our prayers,” Kupelian Neau said. “I don’t know why he chose
Charlotte. I was praying so hard for it to happen; maybe my mother in
heaven talked to his mother.”

Mr. Acopian was joined at the standing-room only reception after the
blessing by his wife, Bobbye, his son Gregory, granddaughter Shea, and
daughter-in-law Helen, wife of Jeffrey Acopian, and his executive assistant
Georgia Harinton.

“All these efforts reached their fulfillment through the generosity of Mr.
Sarkis Acopian,” Archbishop Khajag Barsamian said. “The Acopian family has
been so very generous to our church, here in America and in our homeland.
The Acopians are a wonderful, close, Armenian family, and I’m so happy that
they’ve now become a part of this family, of Armenians in North Carolina.”


The entire parish learned of the generous gift on February 8, 2004, during
the Feast of St. Sarksi. Fr. Findikyan noted that the construction was
announced and will be completed on the St. Sarkis name day; that the major
donor’s name was Sarkis; and that Sarkis was also the name of the father of
two brothers — Zaven and Hagop Touloukian — whose initial matching
donations and support allowed the parish to purchase the land for the church
four years ago.

“With so many connections to the name Sarkis, it shows that this is truly
God’s doing,” Fr. Findikyan said. “It is because of God, who sent us an
angel, a man who does not live in Charlotte. God guided him to help the
Charlotte community. He was inspired to build the church and use some of
the gifts God has given him to give glory to God. God can do everything.”

Like St. Sarkis, a warrior who was strengthened by his faith in God, the
Charlotte community has been fighting to build a solid Armenian Christian
foundation for their children, Fr. Findikyan said.

“The Armenians of Charlotte, for eight years, have been waging a battle,
fighting together to realize a dream,” he said. “We have been spiritual
soldiers. We have fought a battle for our Armenian Christian traditions.
We have fought to build our Armenian church. Nine years ago, just a handful
of Armenians were in Charlotte, and they didn’t know each other, but there
was faith, like the faith of St. Sarkis. That group believed God would keep
us together. And because you had faith, God helped you grow as a family.”


While the donation by Mr. Acopian will allow the Charlotte church to be
built, the work of the local community is far from over. Community leaders
are energetically working to raise a $1-million endowment, to provide a
solid financial base for the ongoing operation of the parish.

Seeing Mr. Acopian give so generously — building on the examples set by
Mrs. Kupelian Neau, the Touloukian brothers, and many others — will help
encourage the community to donate.

“Mr. Acopian is building this church in memory of his mother. Let us
consider this church as our ‘mayrig’. Children, cherish her and care for
her with love,” Mrs. Kupelian Neau said. “Mr. Acopian, I hope the members
and children of this community also follow your example of not only giving
generously to the immediate community, but to the Armenian community at
large, and especially to our motherland Armenia.”

The leaders of the mission parish must continue to strengthen their programs
and activities in their new facility, in an effort to engage every Armenian
family in the Charlotte area. Currently, about 100 families are regulars
during the monthly badarak and social events hosted by the parish. But Mrs.
Kupelian Neau said there are easily another 100 Armenian families in
Charlotte that she would like to see more involved. Building this church,
having regular services, and offering Sunday and Armenian schools will be a
major attraction.

“My profound appreciation goes out to those who had the vision to establish
a parish in this area,” the Primate said. “And to those who have taken up
that vision, built upon it, and expanded it. I am proud of the work
accomplished by your parish leaders, your church members, and benefactors
from all walks of life.”

— 4/05/04

E-mail photos available on request. Photos also viewable on the Eastern
Diocese’s website,

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Sarkis Acopian, left, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian,
Primate of the Diocese, and Fr. Daniel Findikyan, visiting pastor for the
mission parish in Charlotte, NC, bless a cornerstone for the future church
building on March 28, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): Hundreds of people turned out for the cornerstone
blessing ceremony in Charlotte, NC, on March 28, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (3): A model of the new church building to be completed by
early 2005 in Charlotte, NC.

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