CHELMSFORD — Sts. Vartanantz Church marked its 35th anniversary with services and a program last weekend and welcomed Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), who joined the community in its celebration.
On Saturday evening, October 12, Barsamian met with the parish pastor, the Rev. Khachatur Kesablyan and members of the parish council and parish delegates. He spoke about the historic bishops synod, which convened at Holy Echmiadzin last month, and he also highlighted Diocesan programs. Parish leaders shared with the Primate updates on local programs and a discussion ensued on parish life.
On Sunday, October 13, Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy and gave a sermon on the importance of the cross as a symbol of victory and hope. “The Armenian nation is a cross-bearing nation—we are a khachagir people,” Barsamian said. “We have been the followers of Christ for two millennia, and today our children and grandchildren must carry forward our faith and heritage in the 21st century.”
Following the Divine Liturgy, Barsamian ordained five altar servers. Jeremy Oldham was ordained to the sub-diaconate; David Arakelian, Gregory Chekmeyan, Benjamin Clark and Dominic Sampson were ordained to the rank of acolyte. The young men have been working with Fr. Kesablyan to master their new responsibilities.
Archbishop Barsamian then led the congregation in a special service of veneration of the St. Vartan the Brave relic — a piece of stone encrusted with the blood of Armenia’s fifth-century warrior saint, and encased in a silver cross. The Primate had brought the relic to Chelmsford from St. Vartan Cathedral in New York City, where it was first unveiled on the occasion of the cathedral’s 45th anniversary in September. The relic is a gift of Karekin II, the Catholicos of All Armenians.
Later that afternoon, some 180 people gathered in the church’s Kazanjian Ballroom to mark the church’s 35th anniversary. Diocesan Council chair James Kalustian gave a toast congratulating the Chelmsford community on its achievements and wishing them continued growth in the future.
Matt Hanson, chair of the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen, presented the parish with a proclamation honoring the day’s milestone. Richard Juknavorian served as master of ceremonies. Remarks were made by parish council chair Bruce Kayajanian and Sandra Boroyan. The afternoon also included musical performances by parishioners.
“For the past 35 years, our church has attended to the spiritual needs of our church family, providing an inspirational place of worship, religious education for our children, a place to celebrate, nurture, and experience our Armenian Christian heritage, and a haven to bring hope and comfort to parishioners who seek relief from the many trials and tribulations of everyday life,” Kesablyan said. “I am truly inspired by and proud of our parish.”
The original Sts. Vartanantz Church was consecrated in 1916, in Lowell, Mass. As the community grew in the decades following World War II, plans were made to relocate the parish to a larger house of worship. Under the leadership of its former pastor, the late Rev. Ghevont Samoorian, the parish purchased a property in Chelmsford and in 1978 the present church was consecrated.
Also during Sunday’s banquet, the parish honored longtime members Patricia Amboian and George Simonian with the “St. Vartan Award.”
Amboian has taught the parish Sunday School, chaired the parish council and assisted with other church organizations. She currently serves on the Women’s Guild and is a member of the church choir.
Simonian is a veteran of the Korean War and a longtime public school educator. At Sts. Vartanantz Church, he chaired the parish council, led the church’s building memorial committee and launched its endowment fund.
“Both Pat and George, through their model of love, faith, and devotion, have been inspirations not only to our parishioners but also to me personally,” Kesablyan said.
Archbishop Barsamian closed the program with a message and benediction. He expressed his gratitude to Amboian and Simonian for their dedication, and thanked the entire parish for their commitment to the mission of the Armenian Church.
“Throughout our history, the Armenian people have been building churches wherever they went. They have been raising up beautiful houses of worship where they have gathered to rejoice, to pray, and to strengthen their faith. And Sts. Vartanantz Church is no exception,” Barsamian said.
“The spirit of the living Gospel has been exemplified by the people of this parish, through your service on the altar, your efforts in parish organizations, your outreach to the community, and your ministry to each other. As you embark on the next chapter of your history, I pray that you continue on this journey and inspire others to join you in your service.”