DEARBORN, Mich.—A boiler failure on Sunday drove early arriving parishioners at St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church out of the chilly sanctuary and into the narthex to consider their next move.
But a stripped down, acoustic service was held after all when Rev. Hrant Kevorkian picked up the church’s vemkar (consecrated church cornerstone tablet) and took it to the Sunday School assembly room where there was heat.
There, he placed the vemkar on a classroom table, transforming the piece of utilitarian furniture into an altar from which the day’s Badarak was performed.
Parishioners were guided from the sanctuary area to the assembly room where chairs were hastily placed in rows to create makeshift pews. The priest was in his usual place in front of the altar as deacons, acolytes and candle-bearers moved in recognizable ancient patterns, only constrained by space. The choir stood in its usual spot to the right side of the altar, singing the hymns of Gomidas and Echmalian without organ accompaniment and staying on key with the choir director’s help.
More than one parishioner agreed that having the service in the makeshift sanctuary added a sense of anticipation and connectedness that elevated the Badarak to a shared experience they would not soon forget.
“This vemkar made this table an altar,” said Rev. Kevorkian. “It shows that we can have church no matter where we are when we come together.”