Cleveland Parish Marks 50th Anniversary



CLEVELAND, Ohio — St. Gregory of Narek Church of Richmond Heights celebrated its 50th anniversary on November 15 and 16. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), traveled to Cleveland to take part in the weekend’s activities.

On Saturday evening, November 15, the community gathered for a banquet. Master of ceremonies Ara Bagdasarian opened the program with welcoming remarks.

Peter Zahirsky, the grandson of the late Dr. Kegham Goekjian, who was the godfather of St. Gregory of Narek Church, spoke about the vision and legacy established by the church’s founders.

Parish Council Chair Mona Karoghlanian and Anniversary Committee Chair Cindy Russell reflected on the strong community ties at St. Gregory Church, and looked ahead to the next chapter of St. Gergory’s history.

“We are a small but mighty parish,” said the Rev. Hratch Sargsyan, the parish’s current pastor. “For 50 years, St. Gregory of Narek has opened her doors to countless Armenian families for worship, spiritual nourishment, and cultural life.”

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Also taking part in the celebration were some of the parish’s former pastors: the Rev. Nersess Jebejian (who served at St. Gregory from 1961 to 64); the Rev. Diran Papazian (1972-85); the Rev. Arshag Khatchadourian (1967-72) and the Very Rev. Simeon Odabashian (1992-99).

Each of the clergymen was presented with a plaque in appreciation of his years of service to St. Gregory of Narek Church. In addition, a plaque was dedicated to the entire community for their dedication over the last five decades; it will be displayed in the church narthex.

“Fifty years ago, through an act of creativity and imagination, you built this structure, filled it with your spirit of faith and dedication, and transformed it into a living Armenian Christian sanctuary,” Archbishop Barsamian said.

“Never forget that in this church, you have created a legacy for future generations: a blessing that will only grow in years to come.  You have built a stage on which your children can be inspired, encouraged and trained, to take up their own places in the leadership of this parish, and in the service of God.”

A brief film, titled “Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart,” featured reflections from parishioners. The evening concluded with live Armenian music and dancing.

Also present at the banquet was Diocesan Council member the Very. Rev. Aren Jebejian and the Diocese’s director of administration Jacob H. Yahiayan.

A Deacon Ordained

On Sunday morning, Barsamian celebrated the Divine Liturgy, with Sargsyan assisting. During the service, parishioner Ari Terjanian was ordained to the diaconate.

Originally from St. Stepanos Church in Elberon, NJ, Terjanian studied at Indiana University and moved to Cleveland two years ago to pursue a career in finance. He serves as the choir director at St. Gregory of Narek Church.

At a reception following services the community congratulated Terjanian on his ordination. He was presented with a new deacon’s stole and a series of books authored by Karekin I, the late Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

“The word deacon is derived from the Greek diakonos, which means servant,” Terjanian said. “I derive great joy from serving the Armenian Church.”

Parishioners once again emphasized the strong sense of community present at St. Gregory of Narek Church, and said the anniversary celebration was an opportunity to renew their commitment to upholding the Armenian faith and heritage.

“On this joyous occasion I congratulate Der Hratch and all of my brothers and sisters at St. Gregory of Narek Church,” Odabashian said. “May this anniversary be an opportunity for further growth, spiritual renewal, and Christian zeal.”

Building a Dream

The first Armenian parish was organized in Cleveland in 1911-12. The community did not own a permanent sanctuary, and for many years services were held only a few times a year at various churches in the area.

It was not until 1950 that a campaign was launched to collect funds for a new church and cultural hall. The present seven-acre property was purchased in April 1958, and two years later the community welcomed Vasken I, the late Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, who blessed the newly acquired property and encouraged the community to complete the construction project.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held on March 11, 1962, and construction began in August of that year. A little more than a year later, on April 12, 1964, the new church was consecrated by Archbishop Sion Manoogian, the late Primate of the Eastern Diocese, with the assistance of the Very Rev. Vasken Kebreslian, Rev. Arnak Kasparian, Rev. Diran Papazian, Very Rev. Jirayr Tashjian and Deacon Nersess Jebejian.

The church’s godfather, Kegham K. Goekjian, suggested naming the house of worship “St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church” in honor of the 10th-century Armenian monk who authored the Book of Lamentations, a masterpiece of Armenian mystical poetry.

The church’s cultural hall was dedicated in April 1972.


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