BY ELISE KALFAYAN
Gathered in Pasadena at the Armenian Cilicia Evangelical Church on Sunday, March 17 were leaders and supporters of the Armenian Evangelical church community, Kessab Educational Association, Armenian Missionary Association, and other Armenian religious and cultural organizations, for a testimonial banquet and celebration honoring pastoral leader, executive, and author Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian for his 60th anniversary of Christian ministry.
The celebration was organized by the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America (AEUNA) and the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). Rev. Tootikian has served both organizations in many capacities for decades, including as current and long-time Executive Director of the Armenian Evangelical World Council. His years serving churches includes pastoring the Armenian Evangelical Church of Damascus, Syria, along with serving as principal of the local school (1959-1960); Armenian Evangelical Congregational Church, Cairo, Egypt (1960-1965); Armenian Memorial Church of Watertown, MA (1965-1975).
Rev. Dr. Vahan Tootikian is Minister Emeritus of the Armenian Congregational Church of Greater Detroit, where he served from 1975-2005. A graduate of the Near East School of Theology, Rev. Tootikian did graduate work at Hartford, Harvard, and Andover Newton Theological Seminaries, earning two masters and a doctorate. He has been a lecturer at Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, MI, and a lecturer at the University of Michigan. He was a charter member of the AEUNA in 1971, and the Armenian Evangelical World Council in 1978. Of his many published books, six are currently used as college textbooks in North America and overseas.
Banquet guests filled Derian Hall to capacity. The well-organized program featured more than ten speakers, each of whom presented a different perspective on Rev. Tootikian’s life, relationships, and achievements. Moderator of the AEUNA Rev. Vatche Ekmekjian thanked Rev. Tootikian, who has served multiple times as AEUNA Moderator and in other ecumenical roles, for his example and leadership. President of the AMAA Dr. Nazareth Darakjian thanked Rev. Tootikian for researching, writing, and publishing a history of the AMAA to celebrate the organization’s centennial. Rev. Tootikian’s 42nd book, The Genesis and Early Development of the Armenian Missionary Association of America, is available from amaa.org.
Fr. Sarkis Petoyan, representing the Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, read a letter from His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian. Fr. Karekin Bedourian, representing the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Orthodox Church, also brought greetings from His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian. Members of Rev. Tootikian’s family from as far away as the East Coast were present for the occasion. His son-in-law Dr. Michael Voskian presented a warm and personal tribute, as did brother-in-law George Pambakian.
Representing Minister to the AEUNA Rev. Berdj Djambazian, who was out of the country, Rev. Serop Megerditchian spoke about Rev. Tootikian’s dedicated ministry by quoting Luke 10:7: “The worker deserves his wages”, saying that Rev. Tootikian deserves even more because he is considered a “walking Encyclopedia” of the Armenian Evangelical Church worldwide.
Soloist / soprano Arpy Aintablian sang Rev. Tootikian’s favorite hymns, including the Armenian Evangelical “Kezme Izad”, “Make Me a Blessing”, “Pari Arakil”, and “Kele Kele” by Gomidas. Sona Khanjian recited a beautiful poem of Daniel Varouzhan, “Sermnatzan.”
Armenian Observer Editor Osheen Keshishian joined many of the speakers in hailing the 42 books Rev. Tootikian has published, praising the insights and wisdom in the pages. Kessab Educational Association of Los Angeles President Esther Chelebian Tognozzi along with her endearing comments presented a gold pin-insignia of the KEA to the honoree on behalf of the Kessab community.
Zaven Khanjian, Executive Director/CEO of the AMAA, said, “Rev. Tootikian perfectly fills the following three skills in his life, in his lifetime, and in the ministry. His love is subject to his blatant persuasion, which is based primarily on God’s Word, and then on the love of humanity. Rev. Tootikian’s WORKING DISCIPLINE is unique and practical. Finally, LOVE AND WORK undoubtedly need the power of will, determination and courage. And here we see Rev. Tootikian’s dedicated ministry filled with love and work.”
Additional speakers were Dr. Ken Tourian a classmate and a close friend of Rev. Tootikian, Rev. Dr. Ron Tovmassian, a long-time AEUNA colleague; and Mrs. Joyce Philibosian Stein, Chair of the Stephen Philibosian Foundation and a member of the Armenian Evangelical World Council.
The evening concluded with remarks from the honoree, who was humbled and grateful for the love and appreciation expressed by the community, and after the program ended many stayed to congratulate him and share memories.
On this auspicious occasion, several contributions were made to the AEUNA Rev. Vahan
Tootikian Armenian Heritage Endowment Fund.
The Armenian Evangelical Union of North America is a fellowship of 27 churches sharing a legacy based on the Armenian Evangelical Movement of 1846, and is in fellowship with four other unions worldwide through the Armenian Evangelical World Council. The Armenian Missionary Association of America was established by Armenian Evangelical church members in the U.S. in response to the events of the Armenian Genocide and just celebrated its Centennial of faith, love, and service in missionary endeavors for the Armenian nation. For more information you may contact the AEUNA office at 818.500.8839.