175th Anniversary of AEC
On the occasion of the 175th Anniversary of the founding of the Armenian Evangelical Church, I would like to reflect upon my Armenian Evangelical roots and experiences that shaped my identity throughout my developmental years and guided my adult life.
I consider myself fortunate to have been born in a family where both of my parents, Bedros and Aznive Piloyan Kellikian, were active members of the Armenian Evangelical Bethel Church in Aleppo, Syria. I, along with my sisters Sona and Nora, attended Sunday School while our parents worshiped in the church. We sang hymns, learned Bible verses, recited psalms, and anxiously waited for Oryort Gadarine Guleuzian to begin her storytelling that captivated us all. Those childhood experiences are vividly etched in my fond memories.
As I grew older, I joined the Armenian Evangelical Christian Endeavor groups, first, by becoming a member of Krisdoneagan Badanyats Engeragtsutyun (teen association) and then Krisdoneagan Chanits Engeragtsutyun (youth association). The Armenian Evangelical Bethel Church and its affiliated school became the hub of my spiritual, intellectual, physical, and leadership development as we engaged in miscellaneous activities. We immersed ourselves in Bible study and prayer meetings that allowed us to grow spiritually. We had a book club that exposed us to the enlightening world of literature. We had general knowledge contests among sister church youth groups that carried us beyond the narrow confines of our daily lives into the wider universe. The adage “A healthy mind in a healthy body” was achieved through basketball, volleyball, and ping-pong, with sportsmanship shaping our character in the process. We joined the church choir, caroled on Christmas Eve, and staged dramas, thereby honing our talents. In short, it was a very healthy environment for body and soul to mature in Christian fellowship. All this has become part of the moral compass that has guided me in my adult life.
As we live in a rapidly changing and morally declining world, our values are constantly challenged. Public education, for one, has become, to some extent, part of the problem rather than the solution. It is open to all sorts of ideas and discussions in the name of freedom of expression except for religion. Therefore, children are deprived of the element of spirituality that creates an imbalance in their overall wellness. This lack may ultimately interfere in identity development and achievement in adolescents. On the other hand, adolescents exposed to religious teachings tend to have social competence, positive peer relations, emotional regulation, and positive behavior, among other advantages.
In this general context, the role of the Church, and in our case the Armenian Evangelical Church, becomes of paramount importance to one’s moral development, identity formation, and finding purpose in life. Therefore, the Armenian Evangelical Church should enhance its efforts in buttressing Christian values and character in youth so that they may be able to endure the dangerous currents facing them. We all share the responsibility of combatting evil forces as they try to deconstruct man who is created in the image of God.
As the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “Let your roots grow down into Him. Let your lives be built on Him.” Colossians 2:7