Assembly focuses on stewardship plans

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]

May 12, 2004


By Jake Goshert

>>From April 29 to May 2, 2004, close to 150 delegates from local parishes
throughout the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern),
gathered for the 102nd Diocesan Assembly. Hosted by the St. Gregory the
Enlightener Church of White Plains, NY, assembly sessions took place at
the Rye, NY, Hilton hotel.

During the work sessions, delegates passed the 2005 budget. Throughout
the weekend, they also focused on ways to promote stewardship.


“It was Christ, through His parables and life-example, who really
exalted the idea of ‘stewardship,’ and deepened its meaning as a
vocation for man,” said Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the
Eastern Diocese, as he introduced stewardship as the theme of the
Diocesan programs for 2004-2005. “It was Jesus who unforgettably taught
us that everything we have was given to us by God. Our talents, our
riches, our very lives ultimately belong to Him — and will eventually
return to Him. As God’s stewards, we have a blessed opportunity to
return those gifts back to God: brighter, more beautiful, more
productive than when they were given to us.”

During his remarks and a Bible study discussion on The Parable of the
Talents, the Primate stressed that stewardship is not about having or
giving but about being. He told the delegates that stewardship is not
about what you have, but it is about using the gifts and resources God
has entrusted to you.

“Stewardship is about making your life count. That is an astonishing
claim to make, I know. But the world is filled with countless talented,
wealthy people, who waste their days on this earth by devoting all their
energies to themselves. One might as well bury one’s talents in the
ground. It is sad to say, but such people cast themselves into outer
darkness, and end up alone and miserable,” the Primate said.

“That is not what God wants for you! That is not why Jesus Christ
sacrificed Himself on our behalf! We have been given all our gifts so
we can make them flourish, and benefit others around us. And we are
assured by our Lord that He has no greater joy, than to be able to one
day greet us with the words: ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant!
Enter into the joy of your Master!'”

The overall theme of the 2004 Diocesan Assembly was “stewardship”: the
giving of one’s time, talent, and treasure to build a stronger future
for the church community.

“Conferences with universal themes such as stewardship are intended to
spark the imagination and encourage us to think broadly and thoughtfully
while engaging us in an exchange of ideas followed by action,” said they
keynote speaker Barbara Tellalian, a member of the Board of Directors of
the Armenian Church Endowment Fund (ACEF) and a principal at the firm of
Tellalian Consultants for Development and Fund raising. “And that, I am
sure, is happening.”

People give to institutions like the Armenian Church for a variety of
reasons, she said. One is being told that their support will bring
about positive outcomes that they can personally benefit from. It is
also important that donors see Christian charity from role models, such
as parents, clergy, or parish lay leaders.

“Each of us has been influenced by a parent, grandparent, clergy, or
friend whose dedication and commitment as stewards of the Armenian
Church has inspired us to be stewards, giving greater meaning to our
lives and our reason for being,” she said.

Giving to the church and supporting its programs is important not just
for today’s needs, but for the next generation, Tellalian told the

“Together, our work will provide this legacy of stewardship, one
generation to the next,” she said. “Stewardship is grounded in the fact
that all of human life and experience is a gift — a gift from God —
that requires a response of faithful service.’


During one session of the Assembly, the delegates broke out into small
groups to discuss various aspects of stewardship with the help of expert
moderators. The small groups were clustered around topics such as
building year-round stewardship programs, crafting and using strategic
plans, and establishing endowments.

One way to ensure that stewardship efforts succeed is to engage children
in the life of the church. One of the workshops focused on ways
parishes can get children to play a role in the church, such as keeping
them in the sanctuary during most of the Divine Liturgy and asking them
to serve as altar servers or greeters.

“We are trying to make sure whenever they’re in the church, they’re
doing something appropriate,” said delegate Dn. Ara Jeknavorian, from
Sts. Vartanantz Church, of Chelmsford, MA.

When it comes to building and strengthening a parish, plans can be honed
to perfection, covering endowments, strategic plans, and year-round
stewardship programs. But they still might not be enough to be

“If you have a friendly church, where people love the Lord and love one
another, the money comes in. All you have to do is send out an envelope
and ask them to send it back,” Diocesan Council member Fr. Yeprem
Kelegian told participants in a workshop on creating a welcoming church.
“This is where it starts. You can have the best planned, strategic,
glossy brochures, but unless there’s love and friendliness, that isn’t
going to get you anywhere.”

The Diocesan Council will work with the parishes to organize regional
follow-up workshops to implement the goals and ideas discussed at the

“What we’re trying to do is empower you to go back to your parish and do
the things that have to be done,” said Diocesan Council Chairperson Haig
Dadourian. “I cannot over emphasize that you here in this room are the
ones who are empowered to get things done in the parishes. It’s up to
you to really see to it that stewardship is happening in your parish.”


The Assembly delegates also discussed the 2003 budget and passed a
budget for 2005. In terms of finances, 2003 was a significant year for
the Diocese, which despite a challenging economy had satisfactory
financial results.

The Diocesan budget was reduced by $400,000 in 2003 to a figure of $4.37
million. There was still a year-end deficit of $93,000, mostly related
to assisting clergy in need and spiritual outreach.

“The Diocese operated within its means in a prudent and responsible
manner, while satisfying the needs and requests of our parish
community,” said Oscar Tatosian, treasurer of the Diocesan Council.

When dealing with the upcoming 2005 budget, the delegates saw numbers
similar to the 2004 budget. Again next year, more than a third of the
budget is focused on youth and education. Next year’s budget was
accepted as presented.

The officers at this year’s Assembly were: chairman — Thomas Ashbahian,
from the St. Leon Church of Fair Lawn, NJ; vice chairman — Van
Krikorian, St. Gregory the Enlightener Church of White Plains, NY;
English-language secretary — Anna Marie Norehad, St. James Church of
Evanston, IL; and Armenian-language secretary — Fr. Simeon Odabashian,
Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church of Providence, RI.


The Assembly was skillfully planned by a group of volunteers from the
host parish, St. Gregory the Enlightener Church of White Plains, NY.
Headed by the pastor, Fr. Karekin Kasparian, and chair Lisa Kouzoujian,
the other committee members were: Alice Basmajian, Dawn Kasparian, Betty
Salbashian, Ruth Sanossian, Berdj Stepanian, Zaven Tachdjian, and Setta

Along with organizing the meeting space and banquet in the Rye Town
Hilton, the parish also welcomed the delegates as guests to their parish
for a special dinner and musical night on Friday, April 30, 2004.

— 5/12/04

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

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Diocesan Council Chairman Haig Dadourian addresses
the 2004 Diocesan Assembly, which took place from April 29 to May 2 in
Rye, NY.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): Keynote speaker Barbara Tellalian, a fund-raising
professional from Boston, MA, details the importance of stewardship to
the delegates at the Diocesan Assembly on Friday, April 30, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (3): Delegates discuss an aspect of stewardship during a
small-group breakout session at the Diocesan Assembly on Friday, April
30, 2004.

PHOTO CAPTION (4): Dr. Sam Mikaelian, executive director of the Eastern
Diocese, delivers his remarks on the state of the Diocesan programs to
the 2004 Diocesan Assembly meeting in Rye, NY.

PHOTO CAPTION (5): The Diocesan program staff is introduced to the
delegates of the 2004 Diocesan Assembly.

PHOTO CAPTION (6): The Diocesan Assembly is a chance for delegates to
ask questions and discuss a variety of issues.

PHOTO CAPTION (7): Assembly delegates ask questions on the budget
during the Diocesan Assembly, held in Rye, NY, from April 29 to May 2,

PHOTO CAPTION (8): Legions of volunteers from the St. Gregory the
Enlightener Church of White Plains, NY, worked to make the 2004 Diocesan
Assembly happen. They were led by (from left) parish council chairman
Zaven Tachdjian, organizing committee chair Lisa Kouzoujian, and parish
pastor Fr. Karekin Kasparian.

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