Celebrating the 80th Anniv of The Armenian Community of Greater Wash

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]

December 17, 2012

Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Armenian Community OF Greater

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church
of America (Eastern), visited St. Mary Church of Washington, D.C., this
month, as the parish marked the 80th anniversary of the Armenian community
of greater Washington and Baltimore.

On Saturday, December 8, a gala was held at the Washington Marriott, with
400 people gathered to celebrate the milestone. Archbishop Barsamian opened
the evening with a prayer for the victims of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia,
after which parish council chair Zakar Shahverdian welcomed parishioners and

Diocesan delegate Dean Shahinian gave an overview of the community’s
history. Armenians began arriving in the Washington, D.C., area in the late
19th century, with larger waves of refugees arriving in the wake of the
Genocide of 1915.

In the early 1930s, then-Primate Archbishop Ghevont Tourian helped establish
a Ladies Auxiliary committee, which was followed by the establishment of a
parish council and other church organizations. While it took longer to
acquire a permanent house of worship, the greater Washington Armenian
community was active in spiritual and cultural pursuits throughout these
early years, laying the necessary foundation for subsequent parish life.

Following the historical reflection, Tatjana and Hrant Parsamian performed
Armenian classical music on the piano and cello. Messages of congratulations
were read by representatives of Ambassador Tatoul Markarian, Armenia’s
Ambassador to the United States, and Robert Avetisyan, Nagorno-Karabagh’s
Permanent Representative to the United States.

The long-serving former pastor of the community, the Rev. Fr. Vertanes
Kalayjian, spoke about the many parishioners whose service strengthened the
parish and helped contribute to the fulfillment of its mission.

The Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, the current pastor of St. Mary Church, spoke
of the importance of everyone’s participation as the parish embarks on the
next chapter of its history.

“It is fitting for us to take time, to look back, to reflect on the work of
the founders of our parish-and to draw inspiration from them,” he said.
“This is a wonderful time for us to renew our commitment to God and to our
heritage and faith, as individuals and as a whole community.”

Today the parish has an active combined Sunday and Armenian School program,
with an enrollment of 100 students. Some 30 young people also take part in
the church’s Youth Choir, while others are preparing for altar service
through a training program led by Fr. Karapetyan.

Other initiatives include ACYOA Juniors and Seniors chapters, a program for
the elderly, and an active Women’s Guild. St. Mary Church recently began a
Deacons Ministry program for parish deacons to perform visitations, gather
for prayer, and hold regular preparations for the Divine Liturgy and other

“We see great possibilities for the future of St. Mary Church,” Archbishop
Barsamian said. “There is a healthy generation of young Armenian-Americans
who will take up the role of leadership.” Addressing the young people, he
said, “The mission of our church is in your hands. You have to carry forward
the vision of our ancestors.”

Also during the gala program, parish council members-Zakar Shahverdian, Mike
Tashjian, Jack Guiragossian, Sinita Petrossian Guasmo, Onnik Sivaslian,
Sergik Tilimian, and Aris Cubuk-were presented with certificates of

Parish council vice chair Mike Tashjian served as master of ceremonies. The
gala was planned and organized by a committee of young people, including
Sara Arabian, Arlet Koseian, Lerna Shafakian, Nora Shafakian, Sophia
Shahverdian, Zakar Shahverdian, and Sarine Zenian. The evening concluded
with traditional Armenian dancing.

On Sunday, December 9, Archbishop Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy
and consecrated the church’s new doors and a new carving of St. Mary that
has been installed at the entrance. The architectural enhancements are the
latest in a series of renovations at St. Mary Church in the past year.

Last May, the community celebrated the installation of a khatchkar on church
grounds, which is dedicated to the memory of the deceased parishioners of
the community. In September, the renovation of the main altar and two side
altars was completed. The interior work also included window enhancements
and the renovation of the church balcony, floor, ceiling, pews, and candle

At the conclusion of the December 9 services, a hokehankisd was held for the
victims of the 1988 earthquake. A reception followed in the church hall.


Photos attached.
Photo 1: Archbishop Khajag Barsamian consecrates the new doors of St. Mary
Photo 2: Parish council members were honored with certificates of
Photo 3: Tatjana and Hrant Parsamian performed Armenian classical music.