His Holiness Aram I visits the Armenian Missionary Association of America

His Holiness Aram I entering the AMAA headquarters

By Gilda Buchakjian Kupelian

PARAMUS, N.J.—His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia visited the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) headquarters in Paramus, New Jersey, on November 15, 2023. He was accompanied by His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, Prelacy Vicar and pastor of Sts. Vartanants Church, New Jersey, and an entourage of clergy and representatives of the Holy See of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon.

The pontifical delegation was warmly welcomed by prominent members and guests from the Armenian evangelical community and members of the AMAA Board of Directors led by Zaven Khanjian, Executive Director/CEO, and Rev. Calvin Sagherian, Moderator of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America (AEUNA).

Upon his arrival at the AMAA headquarters, His Holiness blessed the bread, the salt and the water carried by Aren and Aline Shnorhokian, the great-grandchildren of evangelical luminary Rev. Manasseh Shnorhokian. 

After the Atchahampuyr, the greeting and homage of the attendees to the guest of honor, His Holiness and Archbishop Tanielian met with the following clergy and members of the AMAA Board of Directors and AEUNA: Khanjian, Rev. Avedis Boynerian, Rev. Joseph Garabedian, Rev. Serop Megerditchian, Rev. Sagherian, Rev. Hendrik Shanazarian, Phyllis Dohanian, Berjouhy Gulesserian, Dr. Nurhan Helvacian and Dr. Michael Voskian.

After the brief meeting, a sumptuous luncheon ensued in honor of the esteemed guests with the representatives of the community. The invocation was delivered at the meal fellowship by Rev. Garabedian, pastor of the Armenian Presbyterian Church in Paramus, New Jersey. 

Rev. Sagherian expressed his deep appreciation to the Catholicos for holding the shrinking Armenian community together despite the emigration of its members, and for “not just surviving but thriving under the circumstances.” Rev. Sagherian conveyed his cognizance and gratitude of His Holiness’ connection to the Armenian Evangelical churches across the Middle East and North America and expressed hope for more opportunities to support one another.

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Khanjian’s speech on behalf of the AMAA and its president Dr. Nazareth Darakjian was delivered under the gaze of all the evangelical leaders whose photographs adorned the walls of the hall. Khanjian also cited the contributions of the Catholicoi of Cilicia who preceded the current Pontiff and invoked their spirit, which resides and flourishes in him. Addressing Catholicos Aram, Khanjian said, “Following the example of the incarnate life of Jesus Christ, you have loudly declared that faith means service.” Khanjian noted the Catholicos’ prowess and wisdom in addressing youth to steer away from corruption and its consequences; his courage and involvement in the critical issues of our homeland; and, “as the Diaspora loses its identity,” his continued efforts to “persevere in following its reevaluation and self-examination in order to reinvigorate and reorganize it.” 

Khanjian acknowledged that the “roots of our faith are firmly anchored in the Mother Church” and applauded the Catholicos as “the example of indefatigable leadership for our Armenian nation.” He concluded with the earnest wish and prayer for the Armenian Evangelical Church to continue to spread the word of God, hand-in-hand with the Mother Church, aware of and faithful to its mission.

On behalf of the AMAA, Khanjian offered the Catholicos a pen symbolizing the power of the written word and a contribution of $100,000 to benefit the religious and educational endeavors of the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia. Khanjian lauded Archbishop Tanielian’s exemplary service to the Armenian church and gifted him “the heaviest gift,” which included a collection of all the recent publications of the AMAA for the Prelacy library. On the occasion of His Holiness’ pontifical visit, His Eminence Archbishop Tanielian saluted Catholicos Aram’s steadfast commitment to the causes that distress the Armenian nation and lauded his work as a source of inspiration and reinvigoration. 

His Holiness began his eloquent message by stating, “This is a mission house. Mission is the raison d’etre, the foundation, the identity and the purpose of this house.” He focused on the two words in the AMAA acronym: first, Missionary and second, Armenian. “Mission is not one of the activities of the churches. Mission is not one of the departments or functions of the church. Mission is the very essence of the church,” emphasized the Catholicos. He explained that Jesus Christ sent his disciples to the world not to establish churches, but to take the word of God to the people. “The outreach was the integral part of the community of faith. Therefore, the church is a missionary reality,” he said. His Holiness expressed gratitude that the AMAA and the evangelical community continue their activities towards the “promotion of missionary values in the Armenian Evangelical church.”

Alluding to the word Armenian, His Holiness said, “You have gone even beyond the Armenian Evangelical church in your missionary outreach.” Referencing the spirit of collaboration, the Pontiff added, “We are beyond being partners. We are in fellowship.” Emphasizing that all the Armenian churches have the same roots and values, he stated, “Our commonalities are stronger than our differences…We work together as servants, members of the fellowship and we have to continue working in fellowship.” The Pontiff noted that the AMAA contribution will enhance the missionary activities of the Catholicosate, education being an important facet of mission. As he commented on his own ecumenical education, citing the Near East School of Theology, Oxford University and Fordham Catholic University, His Holiness underscored, “The evangelical dimension has remained a strong one.”

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Expressing joy for his presence in this missionary house, Catholicos Aram prayed to God “to strengthen you and grant new vitality, in this world where the reality of God is being more and more marginalized.” His Holiness noted that the church should go beyond its walls and destroy all fences and barriers that separate it from its people; otherwise, it will suffocate. The church is a missionary reality, and as such, the church acquires “its true meaning, its credibility, its relevance, outside itself, outside its ecclesiastical boundaries, when it becomes a living reality.” “Our Lord Jesus Christ is the first missionary,” he said, and in this crucial period of human history, “I believe and I repeat, mission should become a high priority for all churches.”

The Pontiff ended his message with a benediction praying that God Almighty would always keep this house strong and steadfast on the steady path of its mission. 

The elegant event was tirelessly and meticulously coordinated by co-chairs Seta Nalbandian and Lucienne Aynilian and their committee members John Cherkezian, Sona Khanjian, Zaven Khanjian, Christine Kutlu, Magda Poulos, Nancy Rivera, Michele Simourian, Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian and Marie Viducich. The exquisite autumnal centerpieces were graciously donated by John and Michele Simourian. The outstanding program concluded with a moving rendition of Giligia by all the attendees.

Armenian Missionary Association of America
The Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) was founded in 1918, in Worcester, MA, and incorporated as a non-profit charitable organization in 1920 in the State of New York. We are a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. Our purpose is to serve the physical and spiritual needs of people everywhere, both at home and overseas. To fulfill this worldwide mission, we maintain a range of educational, evangelistic, relief, social service, church and child care ministries in 24 countries around the world.

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