INDIAN ORCHARD, Mass.—The St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in Indian Orchard celebrated its 75th anniversary at a lavish banquet on Sept. 27 at the Country Club of Wilbraham in Wilbraham.
The community was blessed to have His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, prelate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Eastern United States, and His Grace Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, vicar general, as their distinguished guests.
More than 150 guests—from all over New England and as far away as California, representing families and friends of the Church’s founding fathers—attended the sold-out event.
Following Soorp Badarak, celebrated by Archbishop Choloyan, the banquet began with a cocktail reception, which was highlighted by a touching video depicting the history of the church through scenes of past generations of members partaking in events, activities, and dedicated community service.
Sarkis Garibian, the chairperson of the Board of Trustees, served as the master of ceremonies for the event. After the opening prayer, Sonia Merigian sang a beautiful rendition of the U.S. national anthem, followed by the St. Gregory Sunday school children who sang “Mer Hairenik,” the Armenian national anthem.
The program continued with Ladies’ Guild member Sonia Arakelian, Armenian Relief Society (ARS) member Mary Garibian, and Armenian National Committee (ANC) member Gary Setian giving congratulatory remarks.
The next item on the banquet agenda was the honoring of the church’s founders and their wives. Salpie Cavros and Leo Vartanian talked about to the church’s unique history and provided background information on its founders, namely, Nazaret Atanian, Sam Aykanian, Arsen Derderian, Zadig Derderian, Krikor Derstepanian, Kevork Jamgochian, Mgrditch Janigian, Avedis John Jansizian, Toran Kalagian, Kapriel Kojian, Miran Margosian, Hachadoor Meldonian, Mardiros Meregian (Mike Melikian), Onnik Melikian, Antranig Piligian, Henry Piligian, Stepan Piligian, Hovsep Setian, Nishan Setian, Yeprem Setian, Nishan Tanelian, John Tarpinian, Oksan Tarpinian, Onnig Tarpinian, Negohos Vartanian, and Nishan Vartanian.
Program highlights included the St. Gregory School children who also performed. The younger boys beautifully recited “Hay Em Yes” while the girls followed with “Massis.” The Sunday School children included Taline Brubach, Van Brubach, Vasken Fereshetian, Anna Garibian, Eddie-John Garibian, and Sophie Pariseau. The children’s rousing spirits and excitement was certainly contagious.
After the children’s performance, humorist Dottie Bengoian entertained the guests with her uniquely Armenian humor, which recalled the days of growing up in an Armenian family and community in America where Armenians could build their own church.
Der Antranig Baljian, the current pastor of St. Stephen’s Church in Watertown and St. Gregory’s past from 1976-94, gave some thoughtful remarks to his former congregation.
Der Hayr Bedros Shetilian then gave an address honoring the founding members and introduced Archbishop Choloyan, who gave the keynote address and closing benediction followed by the singing of “Giligia.”
St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church, one of New England’s oldest Armenian churches, was built in 1934 by 26 founding members who not only cleaned the bricks themselves but helped dig the foundation of the church. The church survived a devastating fire in June 1966 when the original structure burnt to the ground. The Indian Orchard community rebounded and two years later the church was beautifully and artistically rebuilt.
This event not only served as a celebration, but also symbolized the strong community spirit and commitment the Indian Orchard Armenian community has to helping educate, preserve, and promote Armenian traditions for those living in the diaspora.
A video showing the founding and building of the church with beautiful Armenian background music was made by Scott Brubach, Claudia Muradian-Brubach, Armen Tashjian, and Leo Vartanian. They are available for purchase ($15, plus $3.50 for shipping and handling) at St. Gregory Church.