– It’s been years in the works, but the church that serves Armenians across the region has completed the first phase of its new complex in Haverhill near the North Andover line.
The Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe will open its new Family Life and Cultural Center this weekend, less than a year after construction began. The center cost $2.7 million, church officials said.
While plans are being made to build a new sanctuary on the grounds, the new family center will allow church members to attend “Badarak” — Armenian for church service — until the actual church is completed next to it on 9 acres that the parish bought in 2000.
Parish members have been attending Sunday Mass at Sacred Hearts Church, ever since their former church, St. Gregory the Illuminator across from City Hall, closed last fall. St. Gregory is expected to be demolished to make way for a proposed restaurant.
“Our first service in the new building will be held on Sunday,” said the Rev. Vart Gyozalyan, pastor of Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe.
Gyozalyan said the new building is a testament to the dedication of Armenians whose ancestors survived the genocide of 1915 and came to America to build a new life.
“Their decedents continue in their footsteps by building a new church and family center, to pass on to their children their faith, their culture and their history,” he said.
“There is a sense of relief, and there are a lot of emotions involved in the opening of our new center,” Gyozalyan said. “One parishioner dropped by on Wednesday and started to cry. She told me, ‘I never thought I’d see this day.’
“I knew there would be excitement, but I did not expect tears of joy,” Gyozalyan said. “People love the building. Especially our older members, as the building is one level and they don’t have to climb stairs as they did at St. Gregory. I had some parishioners who could not climb those stairs at all, so they stayed downstairs in the church hall.”
Gyozalyan, the church’s pastor since 2011, said his congregation has been counting the days until they could set foot in the new center.
He said his parishioners should love the new sound system, especially those who had difficulty hearing him speak during Masses at St. Gregory.
“I was getting complaints … We didn’t have the right equipment to deliver God’s message,” he said. “Now we have a system where everyone will be able to hear me, no matter where they sit.”
The church has about 120 members hailing from Portland, Maine; several Southern New Hampshire communities; Haverhill; Methuen; Dracut; North Andover and Andover; Reading and North Reading; Stoneham; Lynn and Lynnfield; Groveland; Georgetown; and Manchester, New Hampshire.
The next phase of the complex, the worship area, will cost $1.5 million to $1.9 million, church officials said.
In addition to temporarily serving as a sanctuary for Masses, the Family Life and Cultural Center has six classrooms for Sunday school, three parish offices, a meeting room, a fellowship hall for 75 people, a large, commercial kitchen with appliances and a great hall that can accommodate 390 people.
The entire 15,000-square-foot Family Life and Cultural Center can accommodate 788 people.
A grand opening celebration for the Family Life and Cultural Center takes place on Saturday, beginning with a ribbon cutting at 5 p.m.
The sold-out event will include special guests Armenian Achbishop Khajag Barsamian, Armenian Olympic Gymnast Houry Gebeshian. Armenian clergy from throughout the region, Haverhill clergy members, and city and state officials.