Con-celebration of the Divine Liturgyl (Update)
- Armenian church hosts joint Liturgy with Oriental Orthodox faithsBy Jake GoshertGeographically, they came from a variety of cities and towns around the Tri-state area. Spiritually, they came from a shared faith connected at distant roots.The annual Con-Celebration of the Divine Liturgy was held Saturday, December 1, 2001, at St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, NJ, bringing together the area's Oriental Orthodox Christian leaders. The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America was chosen to host theevent in honor of the 1700th anniversary of Armenia's conversion to Christianity."In a general sense I want you all to feel that this sanctuary is your home," Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese, told the members of the assorted denominations who crowded the church. "And I want you to know that you will always find a home among the Armenian people, just as we feel at home with you, our brothers and sisters."Along with the Primate, Archbishop Abune Mattias of the Ethiopian, Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Syrian, and Bishop David Coptic churches helped celebrate the liturgy. The Armenian Church's Diocesan Legate and ecumenical officer, Bishop Vicken Aykazian, also participated. Archbishop Mor Nicholovos Zachariah from the Malankara Syrian church was unable to attend, but sent representatives."I believe this is one of the most important things we do in this country, as Oriental Orthodox Christians," Archbishop Karim said. "Especially in this country, being minorities, there is astrong need to come together more often and voice our concerns as one voice, united with each other. We need each other. We are all threatened with extermination, with being melted out."The church leaders shared the main role in a celebration of the Armenian Divine Liturgy; the first full-Armenian service many had attended. And for the Armenians in the audience, seeing the bishops and archbishops share the altar illustrated how closely related the churches are."I was really impressed with the ethnic and cultural spread of our orthodoxy. With the hats and skullcaps and turbans, it looked like a scene from the magi, a Christmas card at the altar," said St. Leon parishioner Leo Manuelian. "The fact all of these different cultures and ethnic backgrounds were interchanged during that service was amazing. All these years we grew up in the Armenian Church, and it was Armenian this and Armenian that; all of a sudden we have people from all around the globe, our brothers and sisters in Christ, here beside us."Archbishop Barsamian said the collaboration between the closely related denominations is a solid example of Christian theology calling faithful to action in creating love and understanding. It is that unity that will help guide the Armenian Church and its OrientalOrthodox siblings into a successful future, he said."Naturally, the breaking-down of barriers among churches will not happen overnight," he said. "But it can happen ? indeed, it must happen ? if we are to remain true to the spiritual unity we already share under the diving leadership of Jesus Christ."Along with the spiritual mission of uniting denominations, the event also allowed parishioners at St. Leon to meet their neighbors. Mingling during a lunch at the church's community hall, with hymns and Christmas songs in a variety of languages being sung in the background, the different congregations mingled with their new friends."Just seeing everybody come together is encouraging. We aren't separate churches," said Syrian Orthodox church member Fay Douglass of Bloomingdale, NJ. "It's all one church of neighbors, with people united in the same beliefs."Oriental Orthodox churches are five ancient Christian traditions ? Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Indian Malankara, and Syrian ? that are in communion with each other but retain their own independence.12/04/01PHOTO CAPTION 1: Leaders of the Oriental Orthodox churches celebrate the Armenian Divine Liturgy together. From left, Bishop Vicken Aykazian, diocesan legate and ecumenical officer for the Armenian church; Archbishop Cyril Aphrem Karim, Syrian Orthodox Church;Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America; and Bishop David, of the Coptic Orthodox Church.PHOTO CAPTION 2: Leaders from the Oriental Orthodox Churches -- Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Indian Malankara, and Syrian -- join the procession to the alter at St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, NJ, for a Con-Celebration of the Divine Liturgy.PHOTO CAPTION 3: Members of the Oriental Orthodox Churches gather outside St. Leon Armenian Church in Fair Lawn, NJ, on December 1, 2001, following a Con-Celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
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