FRESNO—The weekend of November 1 was a historic one for the Fresno parish family as the community gathered to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the consecration of Holy Trinity Church with Episcopal Divine Liturgy and a gala banquet.
Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian arrived in Fresno on Saturday, November 1st to preside over the festivities. He was accompanied by Rev. Fr. Boghos Tinkjian and Deacon Khatchig Shannakian. Executive Council Chair Vahe Hovaguimian and members Vahrij Pilavjian and Deacon Mark Shirin participated in the weekend’s events.
On Sunday, November 2nd, the Prelate celebrated Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon at Holy Trinity, assisted at the altar by Fr. Boghos, parish pastor Rev. Fr. Vahan Gosdanian, and deacons.
Prior to the Prelate’s sermon, on behalf of the parish, Fr. Vahan welcomed His Eminence and thanked him for joining the community on this special occasion.
The Prelate first thanked God for the day and congratulated the community, wishing for Holy Trinity Church to remain the heart of the community for centuries more. He greeted the Executive Council members, parish delegates, board members and all the dedicated servants, and also Sunday School youth who were present. Noting that the previous day was All Saints’ Day, His Eminence wished for the virtuous conduct and deeds of our martyrs and holy fathers to inspire us all in our faith and service. The Prelate then turned to the day’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, a lesson on hearing and putting into practice the Word of God. He exhorted the faithful to be like our saints and the champions of our faith who heard the Word of God with their physical and spiritual ears, received it into the depths of their hearts, and rooted Christ in their souls where their faith matured and produced plentiful fruit that shaped our faith and nation.
Disciples of Christ are commissioned to share the good news of the Gospel with others so that the Light and Truth of Christ can illuminate the world, said the Prelate. Our saints did just this, he said, they positioned the lamp of God’s Word at the core of their lives, allowed it to light their path and the path of our nation, and through their faith and dedicated life of service, showed us the true meaning of being Disciples of Christ. In their ideal example, let us too proclaim His Word proudly and boldly, especially to our children by focusing on their spiritual development and instructing them to be receptive to His Word, so that it may sink deep into their hearts and take root in their souls from a young age, and one day bear fruit for His glory and for the splendor of our Church and nation.
Concluding his sermon, the Prelate prayed for God to bless the memory of the Church founders who served with faith and devotion in the example of our saints, and urged for their legacy to encourage the faithful in their service with reinforced faith and commitment. During the requiem service, prayers were offered for the souls of the founding generation and all past pastors, delegates, board members and servants. At the conclusion of the service, the Prelate was escorted in a procession to the site of the Church cornerstone where a plaque indicates the construction of the Church in 1914, a year before the Armenian Genocide. Thanksgiving prayers were offered at the site. The service came to a close with Cilicia and the Armenian national anthem.
The centennial gala banquet was held on Saturday evening at the hall of the Fresno Convention Center, presided over by the Prelate and with the participation of Executive Council members and over six hundred guests. The evening began with welcoming remarks by Master of Ceremonies Ani Hovannesian, followed by the American and Armenian national anthems, and the invocation and blessing of tables by the Prelate. Centennial Committee Co-Chairs Michelle Asadoorian and Leslee Minas shared memories of the service of their parents and grandparents to Holy Trinity Church, signifying the continuity of service from generation to generation.
During dinner, guests enjoyed musical entertainment by the Mazmanian family from San Francisco and a video presentation of the Church history. Artist Arev Petrosyan from Armenia presented the Church with a painting she had created for the occasion. Guests also enjoyed the centennial commemorative booklet published on this occasion.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Chairman Varoujan Der Simonian thanked the Prelate and greeted the guests. His message focused on the blessings and successes of the past one hundred years. Echoing the words of His Holiness Aram I that “building a church is important, but becoming a church is more important,” he commended the devotion of successive generations since the founding of the Church, expressed thanks to all for their enduring support and encouraged them to continue with the same dedication.
Executive Council Chair Vahe Hovaguimian conveyed the Council’s congratulations to the community. He noted that faith in our Resurrected Christ and allegiance to our Armenian spirit has kept the Armenian Church strong through the centuries, and called on the gathering to do their part in keeping the Armenian Church strong.
Parish Pastor Rev. Fr. Vahan Gosdanian commended the dedicated service and support of generation after generation to the continuation of the Church, and thanked God for guiding them to the centennial celebration.
The Prelate was then invited to deliver the evening’s keynote speech.
He greeted and congratulated the parish members on the jubilant occasion, stating that as the first Armenian Church in the Western United States, in the past they were an inspiration to other communities who had a dream of having their own church, but they are still an example to our parishes that look to them as proof that it is possible not only to maintain but to flourish a church for over a century. The mission of maintaining a church is an ongoing one, stressed the Prelate, as continuous work is needed to draw in new faithful to the church and to ensure that our faith and heritage is bequeathed from generation to generation to ensure the perpetuation of our religious and ethnic identity. “This centennial celebration today, and the forthcoming 114th anniversary of the establishment of this parish, is a powerful demonstration of this community’s faith and commitment to the liveliness of this church. The foundation for Holy Trinity was set long ago, but the torch lit by the founding generations at the start of the 20th century continues to burn bright owing to the faithful service of successive generations. Now we must do our best to guarantee that our successors keep the flame burning for generations more, toward the bicentennial and beyond, through renewal and by focusing on our youth,” said His Eminence, and went on to speak about the importance of evolving with the times while remaining true to our roots and of properly instructing our youth who we will trust to carry on our faith and heritage.
The Prelate stressed that the duty of maintaining a Church is not solely that of the leadership, it belongs to all, from the Pastor, to the delegates, board members, to the parishioners, each of whom collectively form the backbone of the Church. Thus, he noted that the day is a day of celebration but also an opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to this mission with renewed vigor, to keep Holy Trinity Church as strong as possible for as long as possible. The Prelate concluded by praying for God to safeguard the Church and all those who serve for its splendor.
The official program concluded with the benediction and Cilicia, after which the evening continued with entertainment by Harout Pamboukjian.