NEW YORK—On Sun., Dec. 15, Haig Kherlopian was ordained as the minister of the Armenian Evangelical Church of New York in an impressive and elegant service before more than 200 people in attendance, including family, friends, supporters, and clergy from sister churches.
Among the special guests in attendance were Rev. L. Nishan Bakalian, moderator of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, and pastor of the Armenian Martyrs’ Congregational Church in Havertown, Pa.; Rev. Dr. Peter Doghramji, former pastor (now retired) of the Armenian Evangelical Church, N.Y.; Rev. Berj Gulleyan, pastor of the Armenian Presbyterian Church, Paramus, N.J.; Rev. Mgrdich Melconian, interim executive director/CEO of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA); and. Rev. Kevin M. Fiedler, guest minister of the Armenian Evangelical Church, N.Y.
Clergy from neighboring churches included the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, executive director of the Armenian Diocese’s Zohrab Information Center, and professor of liturgical studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary; Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, pastor of the St. Illuminator’s Armenian Cathedral, N.Y.; Rev. Fr. Bedros Kadehjian, visiting pastor of the Holy Cross Armenian Church, N.Y.; and Deacon Shant Kazanjian, director of the Armenian Religious Education Council (AREC), Armenian Prelacy (Eastern Region).
Also present was Tigran Samvelian, deputy permanent representative of Armenia’s Mission to the United Nations.
The deeply spiritual service began with Rev. Nishan Bakalian’s call to worship, and with prayers, anthems, and scripture readings recited in Armenian by Deacon Shant Kazanjian, and in English by Catherine Momjian, the granddaughter of Rev. Dr. Soghomon Nuyujukian. Beautiful Armenian (“Soorp, Soorp,” “Hayr Mer”) and English hymns were sung by the church choir, led by Choir Director Ivanka Petkovic, who accompanied on the organ, and Shaant Shishmanian on guitar.
‘Don’t be afraid, I will be with you’
In his sermon, delivered in Armenian and directed to the new pastor, Rev. Mgrdich Melconian related the story that began 627 years before the coming of Christ, when God said to Jeremiah, who was lacking in self-confidence, that he had been chosen to lead his people. When the unsure Jeremiah protested, God replied, “Don’t be afraid. I will help you. No one will harm you. I will be with you all the way. May God bless you Haig,” he said in conclusion.
The message of Dr. Ara Jizmejian, the Eastern Region youth minister of AEUNA, who was not present due to illness, was read by Sevag Bakalian, current youth leader of the AMCC in Havertown, Pa. “We should constantly learn as pastors,” the message said, and outlined three steps towards this goal: the first, “taking care, with actions, of your flock, because love is at the center of a pastor’s heart”; secondly, “pastors are soldiers in the army of the Lord, and should not get caught in civilian affairs”; and thirdly, “love your people and obey your God. On difficult days, your people and your ministry will help you. You are not alone!”
In his exhortation to the congregation, Rev. Dr. Peter Doghramji, who has been the pastor of the church for 10 years, related that three covenants were being made today between the pastor, the people, and the mother church. Using the example of Moses, who, as his people fought, raised his arms in victory, Rev. Doghramji said, “You are the congregation which will raise Haig’s arms. You have the duty to help him and raise his hands.”
Lessons from the past
Listening intently to the advice of his elder mentors throughout the service, Haig Kherlopian stood at the pulpit, and explained why he had decided to enter the ministry. He related the 2000-year-old story of the martyrdom of Princess Sandookht. “She was the first martyr of the Armenian people, and from one generation to the next, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been passed down throughout several oppressive empires, among the Armenians,” said Rev. Kherlopian.
He noted that his family, hailing from Aintab, has had four generations of Armenian Evangelical Christians. “I learned to read by learning the Bible,” he said with emotion, and revealed that at one point he had doubted his faith while in high school. “But then the Holy Spirit came and I felt peace. I believed in Jesus Christ. In college, during a worship service, I received a call to preach. I changed my major, went to seminary, and graduated. Today is the confirmation to keep me preaching for years to come.” He concluded with an emotional, “I love you all.”
The deeply inspiring ordination ceremony began with the church moderator, Mossig Makhoulian, presenting the new minister to Rev. Bakalian, who asked him the formal questions. Following Rev. Kherlopian’s responses, the attending six ministers ascended the pulpit and placed their hands on the kneeling ordained, as Rev. Bakalian declared, “Rev. Haig Kherlopian, you are the ordained minister of this church.” As clergy from other churches embraced him, the large crowd broke into loud cheering and clapping for several minutes.
In presenting his personal robe and red stole to the new minister, Rev. Doghramji said, “This is your mantle of authority. Teach, exhort.” He also gave Rev. Kherlopian a communion box, a book of worship of the United Church of Christ, and a book of his own sermons.
The formal service concluded after Rev. Bakalian read letters from the AMAA and the Armenian Evangelical Union of America, the congregation sang of the “Hayr Mer,” and Rev. Kherlopian gave the benediction.
During the sumptuous reception that followed in the church hall, the cutting of the congratulatory cake took place, and the congregation lined up to congratulate the new minister.
The son of Avedis and Ruby Kherlopian, and the younger brother of Dr. Armen Kherlopian, Rev. Haig Kherlopian, at age 27, has an impressive resume that includes a master’s degree in divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and a bachelor’s in government from American University, as well as studies in philosophy and religion at London’s King’s College. He has served two years at both the Armenian Martyrs Congregational Church and the Armenian Presbyterian Church in Paramus, N.J., with a short period at the Armenian Evangelical Church in Hollywood. He was also a Sunday School teacher at St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church for more than two years.
His volunteer service to several organizations includes Bellevue Hospital, the U.S. Congress, the Armenian Assembly, Syria Relief, Habitat for Humanity, Our Lady of Armenia Camp, Urban Outreach, and Hurricane Katrina Relief.