On the occasion of his first pastoral visit to our parish as Diocesan Primate, Very Rev. Daniel Findikyan met with members of the parish leadership on Saturday, November 17th. The evening began with Evening Service, followed by a light fellowship dinner and an informal question-and-answer session.
Although Fr. Daniel has visited our parish on numerous occasions for talks or celebrating Liturgy and is known to many of us, it was fascinating to learn more about him as a person. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, to an Armenian father and German mother, grew up in New York State, and, as a teenager, was inspired and mentored by Rev. Kevork Arakelian, then pastor of the church in Binghamton, NY, ultimately leading him to enter the priesthood. Fr. Daniel has advanced degrees from several institutions and is an international scholar and expert on liturgy.
The new primate shared with us his assessment of the Eastern Diocese. Although it has had numerous successes over the years, there are also many continuing challenges, including budgets and human resources. Fr. Daniel’s goal is for the Diocese to concentrate first and foremost on being the Church and focus on proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ as expressed in the distinctive faith-experience of the Armenian people. All present were inspired and energized by his vision and plans.
The weekend events continued on Sunday morning as the Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Fr. Daniel, followed by a celebratory banquet with nearly 250 in attendance who wanted to be a part of honoring so many whose years of service number in the many hundreds. All honorees were gifted with beautifully designed plaques of Etchmiadzin and Mt. Ararat in recognition of their service.
Rev. Fr. Hakob Gevorgyan, pastor of Holy Trinity, reflected that every Sunday Jesus Christ gives a great banquet and invites all of us to partake of it. He went on to say that our beautiful Badarak is enhanced because of the angelic voices of our choir members and dedication of our altar servers. He described them as humble, hardworking, well-organized and faithful people “who serve God not because they have to, but because they want to.” Der Hayr added that the choir and altar servers “are an inspiration to me and to our people.”
When our Primate addressed the gathering, he began by sharing that many in the parish are friends he has made as a result of visiting often in years past to celebrate Badarak, preach and lecture; and had “great respect for the many servers who were so worthily honored today.” He celebrated the honorees with their spirit of serving. He stated that “the message of Christian faith is that we are spiritually changed by acts of selfless service, which changes us from deep within.” He continued, “acts of service are love made visible – love and service go together.” In closing, he added that “even if the motivation to do good is not right, we can learn that love changes everything.”
As the banquet was drawing to a close, a well-kept surprise was revealed when the Primate called Deacon Albert Keshgegian to the dais where he was presented with the St. Nersess Shnorhali Medal and an encyclical bestowed by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, for his many decades of service and devotion to the Armenian Church. In addition to his service as an ordained deacon of the church, he is the author of four books on the Divine Liturgy and Christian spirituality. After Albert was over the great surprise of receiving this honor, he shared his thoughts by saying, “Serve the Lord with gladness. We owe everything to God. Everything that is good comes from God. He gave us everything and we owe tremendous gratitude to Him.”
What more could be said after that!