175th Anniversary Reflections on behalf of APC
Being a longtime and very active member of The Armenian Presbyterian Church is only one part of my journey as an Armenian Evangelical. It is true that at APC we meld what we hope is the very best of our Armenian Evangelical traditions with our Presbyterian denomination honoring the roots of our formation in 1898. However, considering only that part of my journey does not provide proper context.
As a child and a young man I was raised in our Armenian Evangelical Church of New York. I was privileged to be shepherded by some of the truly great pastors who helped shape The Armenian Evangelical Church in post war America. I was and have always been a “Hye Aved” and proud of it. In reality however that too is only part of my journey as well.
As a child and a young man my parents were very interested in me learning from and understanding our Armenian Apostolic and Armenian Catholic traditions. They felt it would give me a better scope of understanding as to why we are Armenian Evangelicals in the first place and how all of us Armenians are one people and part of one Body of Christ.
For about six years I was privileged to attend Sunday School and serve on the altar at Saint Thomas Armenian (Apostolic) Church in Tenafly, New Jersey, which is the town we lived in. I also attended their Armenian school. The Der Hayr there was quite progressive and allowed me, as an Armenian Evangelical kid, to be part of their worship and even serve on the altar in their worship. His son and I were buddies and we attended the same school. Der Hayr and I remained very close until his recent passing and even spoke weekly. Yes, I am Evangelical, but he was my Der Hayr.
Separately for six Summers I had the privilege of attending camp at Saint Gregory’s Armenian School an Camp in East Falmouth, Massachusetts. The camp was run by Mekhitarist priests. There I learned much about the Armenian Catholic traditions and served as an Altar Boy on a very regular basis, even at times daily. The priests would have a daily Mass and anyone could attended. Under their tutelage I came to understand the differences between the experiences in the Roman Catholic Church relative to our Armenian Catholic Church.
What I came to realize through these experiences was that the Armenian Evangelical movement was not part of The Reformation and not founded based on the needed usurpations of the Church due to the abuses of Rome. Unlike The Reformation in Europe we were not oppressed. We simply saw a different way of worship that was shown to us by missionaries. It doesn’t mean that our other Armenian Christian Traditions are lacking in any way, nor are they better or worse; it’s just that we were shown a different way to worship.
As Armenians we are very proud of the fact that we had the first church and Christian Nation and that we have a language and alphabet designed to translate scripture and put it in the hands of the people. Many Armenians show pride in calling our language “Azdoodzo Lezoo” or God’s language. And why not be proud of our past? Why not be proud of our Martyrs? As a people we came to faith early in history and we kept the faith at the highest of costs.
In that context the blessing that I see in the journey of being an Armenian Evangelical is discipleship. We are given the unique opportunity based on our history and based on the Great Commission to make disciples. It is something we need to do at all times and in all settings. Sometimes people, even Evangelicals, question if we are too religious. I think that’s a ridiculous question. I remember several occasions where I was personally criticized for quoting scripture and told that it should be left to the Badvelis…..Really? I responded by saying, who am I as an Armenian Evangelical to not be quoting scripture. It’s our duty to quote, to teach and to share.
Solomon wrote that of making books there is no end. Therefore I will not prolong these reflections. However I will close by reminding what the Apostle Paul wrote when he said for us to be prepared in all seasons. We need to be prepared in all seasons to be good disciples of Christ’s body, the church and share the Good News of Salvation and God’s Love. That is what being an Armenian Evangelical is all about.
Let us worshipfully enjoy this milestone 175thAnniversary giving the glory to Him who made it all possible! AMEN and Blessings to all!
Nicholas J. Aynilian Sr.
Armenian Presbyterian Church