On Sunday, January 10, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), visited St. Hagop Armenian Church of St. Petersburg, Fla., where he celebrated the Divine Liturgy and ordained acolytes and sub-deacons.
Following services, the community gathered for a picnic in the church’s outdoor pavilion, for the culmination of a series of weekend-long fundraising events, which collected more than $24,000 for the parish. Billed as “Kef Time Tampa Bay,” the weekend featured a golf-tournament and two dances on Friday and Saturday evening, each of which drew more than 200 people.
“This year’s weekend and visit of His Eminence was a milestone for the St. Hagop Armenian Church community,” said parish pastor the Rev. Fr. Hovnan Demerjian. “After many years of prayer and hard work, we have been blessed by God with a new sanctuary, a rejuvenated community, and a new sense of purpose. The ordination of six altar servers reflects this rejuvenation, as the Holy Spirit is at work in their hearts and minds.”
On Sunday, following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Barsamian officiated over the ordination ceremony. More than 200 people gathered in the sanctuary as Bobby Maslar, Michael Sarafian, and Vasken Serpekian were ordained as acolytes. Vasken Serpekian, along with Kegham Vizoyan, Allan Tossoonian, and Jack Dikranian, were then elevated to the rank of sub-deacon.
The Primate presented the altar servers with certificates at the conclusion of the ceremony. “In this Diocesan Year of Vocations, seeing these young souls answer God’s call fills us with hope for our church’s future,” Archbishop Barsamian said.
The altar servers, who range in age from their teens to their 80s, worked mostly with Fr. Demerjian to prepare for their new responsibilities. Some of them also attend training sessions at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary.
“It was a really beautiful service,” said parish council member Alysia Ekizian, who was on the committee organizing Kef Time Tampa Bay. “It was a great representation of our community because it was our ACYOA youth to our senior members.”
At the picnic that followed services in the church’s Tanielian Pavilion, the community raffled off a gingerbread replica of St. Hagop Church, which was created by Bobby Maslar. Proceeds from that raffle will be sent to St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, Fr. Demerjian said.
Even though temperatures dipped into the 30s during the picnic, the mood was warm as parishioners celebrated the day’s ordinations and reflected on the successful fundraisers held earlier that weekend. Greg Ekizian, Alysia Ekizian’s husband, chaired the picnic committee.
The events began on Friday, January 8, with a golf tournament, followed on Friday and Saturday evening by two dances held at the local Clearwater Hilton resort. Saturday’s event was devoted to Armenian music, performed by the Kef Time Band with Richard Hagopian and Hachig Kazarian. A silent auction was held on Saturday, chaired by Debra Kamajian.
Consecrated in October 2007 by His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, St. Hagop Armenian Church is the first church His Holiness consecrated in the Eastern Diocese and the first Armenian Church to be built on the west coast of Florida.
The current fundraising aims at paying off the church’s mortgage. David Kazarian, a parish council member who led the efforts behind Friday and Saturday’s program, said the goal was to “reach out of our community to bring people in.”
U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis of Florida’s ninth district was among the guests, a number of whom traveled from out of state to attend the festivities. Those who couldn’t come, Mr. Kazarian said, generously sent in donations.
“I think it was successful.and it’s only the beginning,” he said, adding that he would like to co-host a similar weekend with other area churches in the future.
“It got us started,” added Alysia Ekizian of the weekend’s program. “We want to make this an annual event.”