Published on Sep 28, 2009 by Victoria Manoogian, St. Apkar Armenian Church of Arizona

Faithful gathered during the consecration rite of St. Apkar Armenian Church of Arizona on Sept. 20, 2009

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St. Apkar Armenian Apostolic Church was officially consecrated on Sunday, September 20, 2009 by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese.  The other members of the clergy were: His Eminence Archbishop Vatché Hovsepian, Former Primate of the Western Diocese; Rev. Fr. Zacharia Saribekyan, Pastor of St. Apkar; Archpriest Rev. Fr. Manoug Markarian, Pastor of St. John Armenian Church, Hollywood, CA; Deacons Stepan Ovanessoff, George Mangigian and Vahan Manoogian; Sub-Deacons Khachig Jingirian, Sevag Hagopian, Arsen Ovanessoff, Varant Ovanessoff and George Sotiri; and Acolytes Garren Mardirossian, Mardig Najarian, Noubar Manoogian, Peter Touresian, Christopher Touresian, Antranik Hagopian, and Alexander Sarkisian.  The Khatchaturian Choir from Los Angeles directed by Deacon Stepan Gozumian, accompanied by Ms. Lena Beylerian of Toronto, sang the Badarak. 

Parishioners and guests entered the sanctuary to the beautiful sounds of the violin, played by Phoenix Symphony Violinist Levon Zarasian.  Dignitaries in attendance were: The Honorable Jim Lane, Mayor of the City of Scottsdale; Rev. Jan Flaaten, Executive Director of the Arizona Ecumenical Council; Mr. Robbie Sherwood, Executive Director from Congressman Harry Mitchell's Office; Mr. Joseph Kanimian, Chairman of the Diocesan Council; members of the Central Council of the Ladies' Society; Mr. Yeghik Keshishian, Executive Director - Western Region of the Armenian Assembly; and representatives from local chapters of ARS, ARF, AYF, Homenetmen, and the ANC.  Dr. Stephen Batalden and Mr. David Brokaw of the ASU Melikian Center were also present.

The Godchildren of St. Apkar each held a candle as they entered the sanctuary.  They are: Ani Ehramjian, Armen and Shooshan Kaprelian, Tamar and Arka Mardirossian, Daniella Kaprelian, Rafaella Safarian, Kimberly Artounian, Noubar and Rossleen Manoogian, Stephen and Isabelle Sirounian, Natalie Zarasian, Daron Kuehn, Brad Khnanisho, and Andre Khachaturian Rivera.

The Primate blessed the altar, the two dome crosses, and the 16 crosses that adorn the walls of St. Apkar, which each bear the name of a Godfather.  The Godfathers of St. Apkar are: St. Peter - The Hosepian Sisters & Scott and Tricia McWorther; St. Gregory the Illuminator - Mr. & Mrs. Gregory and Emma Melikian; St. Matthew - Mr. Jack Shahbazian, Sr.; St. Mark - Mr. & Mrs. Berj and Victoria Manoogian; St. Luke - Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Anush Sahakian; St. John - Dr. & Mrs. Thaddeus and Andrea Khachaturian; St. Paul - The Armenian Ladies' Society; St. Thomas - Julia Karam; St. James Alpheus - Dr. & Mrs. Raffy and Mary Safarian; St. James Zebedee - Mr. & Mrs. Berge and Doreen Kaprelian; St. Andrew - Mr. & Mrs. Karekin and Zhanet Kaprelian; St. Phillip - Mr. & Mrs. Jim and Shoushan Shahbazian, Jr.; St. Gregory - Dn. Dr. & Mrs. Stepan and Mariam Ovanessoff; St. Simeon Cananaean - Mr. & Mrs. James and Anna Melikian; St. Bartholomew - The Hye-Ways Group;  and St. Thaddeus - The ACYO. 

The Consecration ceremonies continued as parishioners, led by the official entourage, went out to the plaza where white doves were released.  A delicious luncheon, prepared by the Ladies' Society awaited the congregation, as did a program, introduced by Parish Council Chairman Dn. Jerry Avakian, that featured a heartwarming address by Mayor Lane, speeches by various dignitaries, musical selections by Mr. Varoujan Agnerian, Mssrs. Peter Gharibian and Levon Zarasian on piano and violin respectively, Miss  Daniella Kaprelian on piano, the Khatchaturian Choir, and Ms. Lena Beylerian.   In honor of her consecration, St. Apkar Church received many monetary gifts which were announced by Mrs. Suzie Grigorians, the Chair of the Fundraising Committee.  Their Eminences, Archbishops Hovsepian and Derderian, each gave inspiring words of support for the efforts of the Arizona parish to make the Consecration Day a reality.

U.S. Congressman Harry Mitchell recognized "The Consecration of the First Armenian Church in Arizona" in the Congressional Record.  Scottsdale's Mayor, Jim Lane, issued a Proclamation declaring that September 20, 2009 was "Saint Apkar Armenian Church in Arizona Day".  Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva issued a Special Congressional Recognition for the Consecration Day.  Congratulatory letters were also received from U.S. Senators John McCain and John Kyl, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Arizona Senator Meg Burton-Cahill, Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman; Bishop Minerva G. Carcano of the United Methodist Church; and Holy Virgin Mary & Shoghagat Armenian Church in Belleville, IL. 

Two very poignant letters were received and read.  The first letter was from much loved Archpriest Rev. Fr. Shahe Altounian and Yeretsgeen Mary Altounian, who reside in Fresno, CA.  For a number of years before the Arizona parish's permanent priest arrived, Rev. Fr. Altounian was the visiting clergy and advisor for the parish organizations.  He was a frequent contributor to the Jarakite with excerpts from his inspiring books and sermons.  His wisdom, experience and genuine love for the parishioners have been long remembered.  The second letter was from Yeretsgeen Grace Arakelian, widow of beloved Archpriest Rev. Fr. Levon Arakelian, who for many years was the visiting clergy before Rev. Fr. Altounian.  Rev. Fr. Arakelian was the spiritual mentor when the Jarakite was created.

His Eminence Archbishop Derderian recognized individuals for their outstanding contributions to the Arizona Armenian Church with "Hye Spirit" Awards.  The following people received medals: Dn. Jerry Avakian for his work on the Building Committee; Ms. Marlene Imirzian for her work on the Building Committee; Mr. John Mardian for his work on the Building Committee; Mr. Artin Knadjian for his work as Church Architect and as the current Hye-Ways Chairman; Mrs. Zhanet Kaprelian for her many years of dedication to the Armenian Language and Sunday School; Mrs. Victoria Manoogian for her many years of dedication using her talent to produce many Church publications including the Jarakite; Dr. & Mrs. Thaddeus & Andrea Khachaturian for their humanitarian work for needy Armenians; and Dr. & Mrs. Raffy & Mary Safarian for their humanitarian work for needy Armenians.  Mrs. Donna Sirounian was given an award for many years of dedication using her talent to help promote the events of the Church and as the current editor of Jarakite, which was presented by His Eminence, Archbishop Vatché Hovsepian, as she had been his parishioner in New Jersey.

Abp. Derderian and Rev. Fr. Saribekyan also recognized the following for their service and dedication to the Church: the Godchildren and Godfathers as listed previously in this article; Choirmaster Varouj Agnerian, Organist Mary Safarian and choir members Thomas Boyajian, Luceen Deboreley, Hoory Dikranian, Sylvia Hagopian, Silva Krakoz, Hagop Kazanjian, Berj Manoogian, Laura Matevosyan, Anahid Ovanessoff, Zari Panosian, Joseph Sahakian, Myrna Saraydar, Mary Sayadian, Serop Sayadian and Krikor Vartanessian; Altar Servers: Deacons Jerry Avakian, George Mangigian, Dr. Stepan Ovanessoff and Hratch Panosian; Subdeacons Arsen Ovanessoff, Varant Ovanessoff, George Sotiri and Sevag Hagopian; Acolytes Mardig Najarian, Noubar Manoogian, Tro Panosian, Antranik Hagopian, and Peter and Christopher Touresian.  The recognitions continued with Ladies' Society members Jane Allie, Chake Bebekian, Ruth Blake, Laura Gorgorian, Andrea Khachaturian, Shenor Mkrdichian, Mary Sayadian, Djemile Touresian, Gini Topalian, Susan Vartanian and Yeranoohi Zarasian; ACYO leaders Tamar Hagopian and George Sotiri; Mr. and Mrs. Berj and Victoria Manoogian as Founders of Hye-Ways and for their service to St. Apkar; and church construction supervisors Mr. Rafi Hagopian and Mr. Apraham Sarkisian.

The Primate presented gifts in recognition of two ladies that have been indispensible to the parish: Mrs. Suzie Grigorians, Chair of the Consecration Committee and member of the Parish Council, and Ms. Rita Bebekian, the St. Apkar Church and Parish Council Secretary.  He concluded his commendations with a call for Jerry Avakian to join him at the podium to give him a special recognition for his contributions as the Parish Council Chairman and as the Choirmaster.

St. Apkar Armenian Apostolic Church structure is complete on the exterior.  The dome crosses which were blessed by the Primate, will be installed during a formal ceremony in the coming months.  Ongoing fundraising for the interior fit-ups and finishings, including stained glass windows, pews, flooring, and furnishings for the altar, for example, and some items for the exterior plaza level, will continue.   Please contact Suzie Grigorians at (480) 545-9089 if you would like further information on available items.

Be sure to see "Home to Dome - Arizona Builds An Armenian Church", a humorous and touching slide presentation of the history of the Arizona Parish and the efforts that led up to consecration day, narrated by Mr. Noubar Manoogian, a high school sophomore whose great uncle, His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, conducted the first Divine Liturgy in Arizona in 1963.  The presentation will be shown on Sunday, Oct. 4th right after church services as a highlight of the Armenian Literature Afternoon program by the Hye-Ways Group.  Afterwards, it will be posted on the St. Apkar website.