Photo by Kevin Tanaka/Pioneer Press
Members of the Armenian community gathered at St. James Armenian Church in downtown Evanston on Sunday, Oct. 25, for the unveiling of a traditional khachkar—or a cross stone—in front of the church, reports.
Khajag Barsamian, archbishop of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of American, led the ceremony, which consecrated “the uniquely Armenian monument in honor of the canonization of over 1.5 million martyrs of the 1915 Armenian genocide,” according to a press release from the church.
Evanston’s consecration ceremony took place at the conclusion of the special Episcopal Divine Liturgy (mass). “It was very uplifting and spiritual,” the Rev. Hovhan Khoja-Eynatyan, the pastor of St. James, said on Monday, Oct. 26.
“The khachkar monument, standing over ten feet tall in St. James’ front garden,” the release said, “was carved out of tuff stone in Armenia this summer and then shipped to Evanston.”
The release also explained that the art of carving khachkars dates back to the 4th century and “symbolizes the rebirth of Armenian culture after centuries of hardship.” the release said. No two khachkars are alike, according to the release.
“St. James’ khachkar was commissioned by the parish and supported through donations by dozens of individuals and families in the community in the names of loved ones both living and deceased,” the release said.
Almost every family has a member who was killed in 1915 or forced to leave their home, said Rev. Khoja-Eynatyan. So Sunday’s ceremony, was “very personal for every family,” he said.
On the emotional day, St. James parish members also marked the occasion by celebrating their 70th anniversary as a testimony to Armenians’ presence in the greater Chicago community.
“They (Armenians) came here to the United States,” said Rev. Khoja-Eynatyan, “and the first thing they did after settling was build churches.”