Assembly Introduces New Theme for 2013

09 May 2013

"What the realities of the modern world have not changed—what they will never change—is the human need to draw close to Jesus Christ," said Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), in his address at the 111th Diocesan Assembly last week.

"We still need his healing, and we still need his words to guide and inspire us.  We still need his life within our hearts, within our communities.  We will always need to ‘Live the Gospel of Christ.'"

The 111th Diocesan Assembly introduced the Diocese's theme for 2013: "Living the Gospel of Christ"—a theme which will be explored across the parishes through diverse resources, which include retreats, Bible studies, print materials, and a new series of interactive iBooks for the iPad.

The Assembly was hosted in Boca Raton, Fla., by the St. David Church, from May 2 to 4. Archbishop Barsamian presided over the meeting of clergy and lay delegates, representing parishes from across the Diocese.

The second general session opened on Friday morning, May 3, with an address by guest speaker, Rev. Fr. Mark Leondis, pastor of St. Mark Greek Orthodox Church of West Palm Beach, Fla. He spoke about the biblical phrase "beloved children of God," and stressed its importance to applying the teachings of the Gospel to daily life.

"We are the beloved of God," he said. "Being the beloved is an important phrase. These words allow us to understand who we are in relation to God and in relation to each other."

He went on to describe ways through which the message of the Gospels can be incorporated into daily living. "Understand what it means to be the beloved of God, and your life will be fulfilled," Fr. Leondis concluded. "We all have a calling to enter a life with Christ—a life of love, service, and action."

Following the inspiring address, clergy and delegates had an opportunity for Bible study.

In his address to the Assembly, Archbishop Barsamian outlined the significance of the Diocese's new theme.

"The words of our Lord were not only meant to be heard—whether two thousand years ago, or today. His Gospel was—and is—meant to be acted upon," Archbishop Barsamian said. "The words of Jesus are alive, and that life needs to be expressed through us: through the way we live, through our families, and our community."

"Living the Gospel" means understanding Christ's mission, and recognizing that we have to play a role in this mission, he said. For Armenian Christians, that understanding begins at the doors of the Armenian Church.

"Our pious ancestors created a rich tapestry of traditions and experiences in our church," Archbishop Barsamian said. "And they created it all for us. They created it so we could recognize who Jesus Christ is; so we could follow him—and encourage others to do the same."

The Primate then explained that this year's focus will be on the five tabernacle feasts of the Armenian Church: Christmas, Easter, Transfiguration, Assumption, and Exaltation. By exploring each of these feast days in depth, parishioners across the Diocese will have an opportunity to "live alongside" Christ through each of the great celebrations of his ministry, and to gain a richer understanding of their role in continuing his ministry today.

The Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar, introduced the resources developed by Diocesan departments to aid parishes in realizing the theme on a local level. These include articles on the feats days in English and Armenian, Bible study guides, sermon outlines for pastors, and illustrated presentations from the Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center. Also planned are retreats for ACYOA Juniors and Seniors, Women's Guild chapters, and parishes at large.

Lastly, the Diocese will offer a series of free iBooks—new interactive publications that will reach a wide audience and help users learn more about each of the five tabernacle feasts. The Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan encouraged parish leaders to share this innovative resource with their parishes, and to make use of the iBooks in the coming year.

Chris Zakian, director of the Diocese's Communications Department, walked clergy and delegates through the first iBook in the series, which focuses on the Feast of the Transfiguration. The new iBook features video, audio, and other multimedia, such as photo galleries, touch-activated text, and a quiz. A virtual sanctuary allows users to listen to the hymns sung on the Transfiguration, while a mini dictionary helps teach key Armenian words related to the feast day.

Delegates then had an opportunity to brainstorm ways in which they might introduce the new theme in their parishes. Ideas included hosting presentations following services, making resources available to parishioners via the web, and organizing workshops and retreats.

"We are excited about the resources introduced by our Diocesan departments," said the Rev. Fr. Hratch Sargsyan, pastor of St. Gregory of Narek Church of Cleveland, Ohio. "These tools will help us reach parishioners across generations, and even initiate dialogue with other Christian communities."

The Rev. Fr. Vasken Kouzouian concluded the morning session with a summary of the materials presented to the delegates. "As ordained and lay ministers, we are continuing the mission of the Apostles," he said. "Our work will succeed only if we commit to ‘Living the Gospel of Christ.'"