Bishop Hovakim Manukyan presenting the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, Sir Kenneth Olisa, with a book on Armenian history

London Celebrates Centenary of St. Sarkis Church


LONDON — The Chilingirian String Quartet gave a superb concert to mark the start of the 100th-anniversary celebrations of St. Sarkis Church, which was filled to capacity on the evening of February 4. The quartet, led by Levon Chilingirian, performed a program of uplifting pieces, many by Armenian composers, which was met by enthusiastic applause.

The Chilinigirian Quartet

Christopher Kurkjian, Chair of St. Sarkis Trust, spoke about the vital role played by St. Sarkis Church in the lives of Armenians within and outside of London: “100 years ago, a visionary by the name of Calouste Gulbenkian, had the foresight to lay the foundations of this magnificent church.”

Bishop Hovakim Manukyan expressed his pleasure that Lord Lieutenant Sir Kenneth Olisa, Bishop Christopher of Southwark Cathedral, and another representative of sister churches, were able to attend. He spoke about the importance of St. Sarkis Church for preserving and invigorating Armenian identity and spirituality. He also described the founders of St. Sarkis Church as visionaries.

Dignitaries at the celebration

He said, “As a symbol of unity for our community, St. Sarkis Church has served as the first meeting point for any Armenian arriving in London. It is where most of you, your parents, and your children were baptized or wedded. Our ancestors built this Church, and our task today is to preserve it and significantly strengthen the spiritual building.”

At the end of the concert, the Lord Lieutenant of Greater London Sir Olisa and Ambassador of Armenia Varuzhan Nersesyan addressed the congregation. Both congratulated the community on this significant anniversary and spoke about Armenian-British bilateral relations, recounting various times and different episodes.

The first day of events was concluded with a special reception organized at Gulbenkian Hall of St. Sarkis Church.

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Sunday February 5 marked the second phase of the celebration starting with a liturgical celebration. The celebrant was Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom and Ireland. There were also guests from Anglican and other churches present. The Mayor of Kensington Chelsea also visited, as well as other dignitaries, among them family members of Caluste Gulbenkian and other benefactors of St. Sarkis Church. Bishop Christopher Chessun of Southwark, a special guest, remarked the following in his speech: “Those of us who attended the centenary concert last night with the sublime playing of the Chilingirian Quartet which began by playing the Mozart Clarinet Quinter, and then wonderful Armenian folk music, were able to reflect on all these things just as today we are offering up our thoughts, our thanksgivings, our sorrows and our prayers in the context of the Divine Liturgy.”

At the end of the liturgy, there was a special prayer service in loving memory of the founders of the church and the late trustees and benefactors of St. Sarkis Church. The day was concluded by enjoying the fellowship and special madagh [agape] blessed by Archbishop Anba Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Bishop Christopher, and Bishop Hovakim.

Everyone was filled with joy and thanked God for this milestone. The celebrations for the 100th anniversary will continue. The centenary committee has planned a number of events that will happen during the year.

St. Sarkis is an Armenian Apostolic church that was constructed in 1922–23 by Calouste Gulbenkian as a memorial to his parents and was designed by the architect Arthur Davis. It is the only church in England to have been built in the traditional Armenian style. Its design is inspired by the 13th-century freestanding bell tower of Haghpat Monastery of the Republic of Armenia.

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