My wife, Renee, and I landed at Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts on Thursday, April 20. We were greeted and welcomed into our temporary dwelling in the parsonage of the First Armenian Church (FAC) in Belmont. The hospitality of the Church family was a true blessing as we spent the next 18 days in that home, right next to the church. I was also afforded office space for that period of time. Words cannot express my appreciation for all they did to make my stay productive.
The next morning, Friday, April 21, Berge Ayvazyan, co-moderator of FAC, had arranged for me to represent the Armenian Evangelical community at the Armenian Martyr's Commemoration held at the State House. I was honored to give the invocation and met many dignitaries and political figures present for that event. I am thankful to Berge for making this arrangement. It was a great way to start my trip.
Sunday Church Visits
On April 23, I joined the Armenian Martyr's service at FAC in Belmont. It was a lively and meaningful service with lots of lay participation. Pastor Dikran Youmshakian serves as the interim pastor and drives up every weekend to lead the worship service. He took a break that week since I was there to cover for him.
Renee and I were in Salem, New Hampshire on April 30 and we joined the Ararat Armenian Evangelical Church for worship. They have recently remodeled their church and sanctuary to include modern technology and add a sleek, more modern look to their church facility. It has been effective and the church is reaching more young people now on Sunday mornings. Pastor Janley Pierre is the interim pulpit supply for the Salem Church and again, my presence allowed for him to take a break for that day. This church has come a long way, but without a pastor it is still a struggle. They are on the right track.
Finally, on May 6, we went to Worcester and I preached at Armenian Church of the Martyrs. Pastor Steve and Carol Carlyle work hard bringing outside musicians every week to enhance the service. After the service, there was a wonderful reception downstairs in the social hall celebrating Carol’s graduation with an MA Degree from Gordon Conwell Seminary.
Visits with Interims/Pulpit Supply Pastors
Pastor Steve and Carol Carlyle invited us to their seaside rental apartment in Salsbury, MA. They were great hosts and we truly enjoyed out time with them.
We made a special trip to Providence to visit with Rev. Hagop and Gohar Manjelikian sharing fellowship with them for a few hours. Hagop is doing well and very happy to show off his work in the garden and around the house. He is loved by the church family in Providence, and Gohar’s mother has come to live them with them. They seem very settled and happy.
Rev. Dr. Ara and Kim Heghinian met us for breakfast in Burlington on Saturday morning, April 29. Rev. Ara is preaching every Sunday at the Armenian Evangelical Church in Cranston, Rhode Island and taking care of their pastoral needs, but he is ready to step aside when a permanent pastor is found.
Rev. Dr. John and Linda Mokossian invited us to Salem, New Hampshire for a visit. John has been making himself available to our churches during this unprecedented time of empty pulpits. His help is greatly appreciated.
Ara Balian is a lay person from FAC in Belmont. He has also been preaching wherever needed in either Armenian or English. I met with him a few times while I was in the area. He is a wonderful blessing for our community in New England.
Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to catch up with Pastor Janely Pierre or Pastor Dikran Youmshakian. I will make a point to see them next time I am in the area.
Committees and Church Leaders
During this trip, it was good to meet with leadership of the various churches, including Pulpit Search Committees, Moderators, Committee chairs and Church Council members. James Boyadjian, the leader of the AMC/FAC Joint Youth group, lives in the downstairs apartment at the FAC parsonage, so we enjoyed a couple of enjoyable lunches together. Also, Harout Nercessian, AMAA Representative in Canada, came over one morning for a cup of coffee and a time of fellowship.
The first weekend we were there, FAC hosted a Men's Retreat for the AEUNA Churches on the East coast. Speaker Greg Sarian from Philadelphia addressed the theme Pursuing Integrity as Men of God. People came from as far away as Toronto to attend this event. I attended the retreat on Friday evening and Saturday morning.
Saturday night, Renee and I went to Cranston, RI where the Armenian Evangelical Church was holding a dinner in support of the AMAA Shogh Centers in Armenia. Harout Nercessian was present and did a great job presenting the work. There were about 150 people present for a great meal and a very meaningful program.
Renee and I attended the Meat and Meet Bible study which is held alternately in the Boston area and in Salem. James Boyadjian led a meaningful study on prayer. He encouraged us all to go through an exercise of reading the scriptures, using each verse as a platform for prayer.
FAC has a contemporary worship program, The Gathering, that meets in the sanctuary once a month on Tuesday nights. Led by Nancy Berger, this service provides an alternative to the weekly traditional Sunday morning worship service.
Lay Leadership Training Seminar
On May 6, from 9:30am-3:00pm, over 40 people representing our five New England Churches traveled to the Edward's Conference Center in Framingham, MA for this special seminar. The topic was Difference Making Leadership, and we explored ways to strategically address the issues facing our churches right now. The discussions were lively and the spirit was enthusiastic and we shared our unique perspectives and ideas.
I will be following up with the NE area fellowship zoom group and see what the next steps might be. We are open to thinking outside the box to engage the next generation.
Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary
Thursday, May 4, I was able to get an appointment with Dr. Katherine Harvath, Director of Mentored Ministry and Placement at Gordon/Conwell Seminary. She also invited Dr. Edward Keazirian, an Armenian professor at Gordon and Stacy Glidden, Director of Student Financial Services. They were all very engaged in wanting to help us connect with Armenian theology students in New England and build up our area churches. I felt this was a very productive meeting that built bridges for the future.
When I embarked on this trip, I did not know what to expect, but I must say that I believe God has used this time to do some wonderful things. The relationships being established and the bridges being built will continue to grow and bear fruit for many years to come. I remain on call and ready to help as all these churches work to build up their ministries and their mission for God’s kingdom.
- Rev. Ron Tovmassian
AEUNA Field Pastor