Inland Armenian services scheduled

Press-Enterprise, CA
April 30 2004

Inland Armenian services scheduled

By BETTYE WELLS MILLER / The Press-Enterprise
Armenian Apostolic Church
What: Church service
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: All Saints Episcopal Church, 3847 Terracina Drive, Riverside

It’s been 60 years since Norma Cosby worshipped in an Armenian
Apostolic Church, a lifetime since she heard the language of her

Now the 67-year-old Catholic is eager to attend an Armenian service
Sunday in Riverside, the first of what Inland Armenians intend to
become monthly events in a parish created in February.

“I’m a practicing Catholic, but this is a culturally intimate thing
with the Armenian church. Your culture is a part of your religion,”
the San Bernardino resident said in a telephone interview.

Inland Armenians who want to attend services of the Eastern Orthodox
Church must drive to Los Angeles or Orange counties, or the Coachella
Valley, said Betty Kalpakian Bown of Riverside. An Armenian
congregation in Palm Desert is completing a building this year.
Services there have been held monthly. Riverside services were held
once each in 1998, 2000 and 2002.

“If we want to go to church, we drive,” Bown said by phone. “We don’t
go every Sunday. It’s too far. This has been my dream from the

As a mission parish of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of
North America, there will be monthly services in May and June, and
again in the fall, said the Rev. Stepanos Dingilian, who will conduct
the Divine Liturgy, or Badarak, as it is known in Armenian.

“The service we have goes back 1,700 years,” Dingilian said in a
phone interview. The hymns and much of the service will be in
Armenian, with English translations, the priest said.

Cosby said Armenian services are long, ornate, and full of ritual and

“It’s going to bring back a lot of nice memories of going with my
grandparents,” said Cosby, who is president of the Inland Empire
Armenian Club. The club has more than 60 families on its mailing
list, with members from Banning, Beaumont, Blythe, Corona, Hemet,
Loma Linda, Redlands, Riverside, Temecula and Yucaipa. There are
about 4,150 people of Armenian ancestry living in the Inland area,
according to the 2000 census.

More than 90 percent of the approximately 10 million Armenians
worldwide belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, Dingilian said.

There are about 1.4 million Armenians in the United States, most of
them residing in Southern California.

With Sunday’s service coming a week before Mother’s Day, the priest
said his sermon will emphasize the importance of womanhood. In June,
when many students graduate from high school and college, the service
will focus on education, a central element of the Armenian church.

“The church itself embodies respecting the value of the individual
person, and the importance of the family and the community,” he said.

Dingilian said that as visiting priest he will conduct seminars and
discussions regularly. He already has met with Armenian students at
UC Riverside.

In 301, Armenia became the first nation to declare Christianity the
state religion.

The head of the church, the Catholicos of All Armenians, lives in
Etchmiadzin, Armenia, and is elected by the National Ecclesiastical
Assembly, composed of lay leaders and clergy around the world.

The other three members of the church hierarchy are: the Armenian
Church Catholicos of Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon; the Patriarch of
Jerusalem, and the Patriarch of Constantinople, in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Council of Bishops is the highest religious authority in the
church. Some priests are celibate, and some are married.

The Armenian Church of America was created in 1898. The Western
Diocese, which includes California, Washington, Arizona and Nevada,
was established in 1928.

The church is central to the lives of many Armenians in a way that
differs from many denominations, Dingilian said.

“It brings all of the edification of the Bible, the meaning of
Armenian civilization and history,” he said. “They find a sense of
empowerment, fulfillment and growth.”

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS