Rev. Dr. Vartkes Manuel Kassouni
Vartkes Manuel Kassouni was born and raised on the island of Cyprus. His parents, Manuel and Martha (Mississian) had immigrated there from Aintab (father) and Marash (mother). Manuel was the brother of Rev. Yeghia Kassouny, the renowned author and minister. He was a teacher in the American Academy, Larnaca, where he taught for sixty years, and where Vartkes received his elementary and secondary education. His spiritual education and experience was in the local Reformed Presbyterian Church where Rev. Hagop Sagherian was Pastor to the Armenians.
Starting in 1949, three educational institutions played a key role in Vartkes’s development: Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC, (BA 1953); Biblical Seminary, New York City (M.DIV. 1956); and McCormick Seminary, Chicago, IL, (D.MIN. 1991). Under the guidance of the AMAA he and his wife, Adrine (Keshishian) were ready to go to Aleppo in 1956, as youth workers in the area churches, but the Suez Canal war that year prevented them from doing so. Over the next several years, they had four children: Linda Joy (Walker); Nancy Jean (McGinnis); Karen Martha (May), and Timothy Vartkes (Amy).
After working for two years as the Philadelphia Area Director of International Students Inc., he accepted a call to the pastorate at the Armenian Evangelical Church of New York City, where he was ordained to the Christian Ministry by the New York Association of Congregational Church (now United Church of Christ) in 1957. While in New York he served as Moderator of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, and a member of the AMAA Board of Directors. While there he led a major effort to raise funds and buy a building for the newly formed Armenian Evangelical Church of Toronto, Canada. He ministered in New York for five years and then accepted a call from the First Armenian Presbyterian Church of Fresno, CA. in 1964. He served there for 13 years, and led their major move to build three new facilities (Christian Education, Sanctuary and Social Hall). He was a founding member of the newly formed union of the Armenian Evangelical churches and youth organizations of the East and the West coasts.
Starting in 1979, Vartkes began a new pastorate at the United Armenian Congregational Church of Los Angeles, following the death of the Rev. Paul Avazian. He served there till 1983, where he played a key role in the startup of the C&E Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School, the first such institution in America. From there he entered a new phase in his ministry, that of serving churches of the Presbyterian Church (USA), to which he had shifted his ministerial affiliation several years before. Starting at the Tustin Presbyterian Church in Tustin, CA, he served six churches (Palmdale, Tustin, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Yorba Linda, and Fullerton). In 1986, he was called to be the Associate Executive Presbyter of Los Ranchos Presbytery, as their new church developer. In this capacity, he was the initiating founder of new churches in Laguna Niguel, Plano Trabuco (Rancho Santa Margarita), Yorba Linda, North Huntington Beach, and several union and revitalized churches. He also was the Interim Executive Presbytery of San Fernando Presbytery (1999-2001).
His marriage ended in a divorce, and in 1987 he married Samira Audeh. They settled in Orange, CA, where they currently reside. Vartkes retired twice: once in 1996, and again finally in 2015, bringing him to the final phase of his ministry, that of writing.
Among his many articles written in church-related organs, sermon and lecture notes, he has a book recently published, titled, POINTS OF LIGHT, A Memoir and More. He continues in that capacity while also maintaining an active preaching and teaching ministry.