WASHINGTON — Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), visited St. Mary Church of Washington, DC, 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. 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 guests.
Diocesan Delegate Dean Shahinian gave an overview of the community’s history. Armenians began arriving in the Washington, DC, 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 US and Robert Avetisyan, Nagorno-Karabagh’s representative to the US.
The long-serving former pastor of the community, the Rev. Vertanes Kalayjian, spoke about the many parishioners whose service strengthened the parish and helped contribute to the fulfillment of its mission.