175th Anniversary of AEC
Celebrating a milestone is a reminder of an important accomplishment in the life of an individual or an entity. But memory in which that marker is anchored, if not recorded and stored, fades. How, then, would a future watershed event be heralded in the absence of hard evidence?
In the case of churches, besides recounting the collective life experiences of the faithful, preserved records first and foremost tell the story of God among men. To what extent have Armenian Evangelical primary sources been saved, cataloged, digitized and/or made accessible to interested parties to disseminate that narrative?
We too often come across documents that belong to organizations but are found in the possession of individuals. As generations pass, the significance of those documents may certainly diminish if not evaporate altogether. Consequently, they may end up in the dustbin of history.
Have churches made an effort to reveal and reclaim them? Have museum-type objects like miscellaneous memorabilia been maintained for exhibits and other use? Have pictures and films/documentaries been indexed with attendant explanations? Are we aware of the existence and whereabouts of records pertaining to attempts at rapprochement with the Armenian Apostolic Church? Do we know that the Near East School of Theology (NEST) archives in Beirut contain the minutes of the annual meetings of the Armenian Evangelical Union in the Near East (Cilicia, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt) both before and after the Genocide, mostly written in Ottoman Turkish with Armenian script? What is the fate of Prof. Armenag Haigazian’s—after whom Haigazian College, now University, has been named—letters, photos, and even the pocket watch inherited by his relatives? How to persuade an individual to relinquish the large corpus of materials pertaining to Rev. Aharon Shirajian that he holds? The list goes on.
We assume that churches zealously and meticulously keep their records. We are also cognizant that the Armenian Evangelical World Council has had discussions in this regard and that an initiative has already been taken by embarking on a pilot project of digitizing historical records. The AMAA rightly supports and joins the effort. A pursuit of this nascent campaign will indeed be a tremendous service, in fact, a most valuable perpetual self-gift, one that encourages the five Armenian Evangelical Unions and their affiliated churches to render their archives in electronic format, retrieve certain “hidden” items from individuals/families, and share information in a concerted manner. This is a tall order that requires perseverance for the preservation of the rich history and future achievements of the Armenian Evangelical Church within the larger context of the tough road that the Armenian nation has arduously but triumphantly traversed and will continue to do so under God’s watchful gaze.