St. Petersburg community gathers to support church building effort

Department of Communications
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. 160; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]

January 9, 2007


By Jake Goshert

The Armenian community in the St. Petersburg, FL, area had something special
to celebrate this Christmas. On Sunday, January 7, 2007, after celebrating
an "Armenian Christmas" Divine Liturgy, the faithful gathered for a
Christmas dinner dance as part of the kick-off for their drive to construct
a sanctuary for the parish.

"I can feel a true passion in this community," said Archbishop Khajag
Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America
(Eastern), who celebrated the badarak that Sunday and spoke at the dinner.
"I know with the energy they have and the commitment they have to
strengthening their faith and culture, they will succeed in this
construction project."

The community has land in the Pinellas Park suburb of St. Petersburg, on
which it had a small house-like structure where parishioners worshiped. But
that building is now gone, replaced by the work of construction crews
working on an Armenian-style sanctuary scheduled for completion in October

In between the Divine Liturgy, celebrated at a Roman Catholic sanctuary, and
the dinner at a nearby restaurant, many parishioners visited the site of
their future church.

"They were impressed that the walls of the facility were up and the exterior
is taking shape," said Dr. Sam Mikaelian, coordinator of special projects
for the Diocese, who was on hand to help the community plan. "Everyone was
beyond hopeful, they’re energized and exhilarated, inspired by what is yet
to come. People were seeing the positive motion of their community."

As the new sanctuary has gone up, parish leaders say more people are
stepping forward to volunteer, get involved, and donate. More than 160
people turned out for the celebrations, including many young Armenians. In
his remarks, the Primate said it was up to them all to see the dream of a
new spiritual home become a reality.

"It is not just the responsibility of the parish council to build this new
church, but it is the responsibility of each one of us," the Primate said.
"It is a responsibility and an honor to be involved in such a project."

If construction stays on schedule, the sanctuary should be completed by
October. It is hoped His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and
Catholicos of All Armenians, will preside at the consecration during his
upcoming Pontifical visit to America.

Though the consecration sure to be a joyous event, for now simply seeing the
walls being built is enough to impact the community.

"This past weekend they were really celebrating the launch of the church,"
Dr. Mikaelian said. "This is the beginning, really, for them."

Joining the Primate and Dr. Mikaelian on the trip were Dn. Vahe Hovsepyan
and Khoren Mekanejian, coordinator of music ministry for the Diocese, who
had been working with the choir to prepare them to sing the hymns during the
badarak that weekend.

Parishioner Harout Keshishian served as the "godfather" during the "Blessing
of Water" service during Sunday’s church celebrations.

— 1/9/07

E-mail photos available on request. Photos also viewable in the News and
Events section of the Eastern Diocese’s website,

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern
Diocese, joins members of the St. Hagop Church of Pinellas Park, FL, on
Sunday, January 7, 2007, during a visit to the construction site of the
future sanctuary.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): Inside the construction site for the St. Hagop Church in
Pinellas Park, FL.

PHOTO CAPTION (3): The Primate with members of the St. Hagop Church of
Pinellas Park, FL, following his celebration of the Divine Liturgy on
Sunday, January 7, 2007.

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