Boston Area Memorial Prayer Services for Armenian Genocide Centennial: Trinity Church in Copley Square and Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cambridge


Delicate luminaries outside the church

Delicate luminaries outside the church

Inside the church

Inside the church

By Aram Arkun

Mirror-Spectator Staff

BOSTON — An impressive evening of prayers, music and sermons at Trinity Church in Boston on April 23 began the Boston community’s joint commemoration of the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Trinity Church was full, with some 1,450 guests. This ecumenical and interfaith event was followed the next morning by a joint service by all Armenian clergy of the area at Holy Trinity Armenian Church in Cambridge, which also was packed, with 700 worshippers.

Trinity Church was a fitting host for the commemoration, as before the Armenians established their own churches in the Boston area, it had been the first church to open its doors to them. The Massachusetts Council of Churches in cooperation with the Armenian clergy of Massachusetts presented the evening as part of the events organized by the Massachusetts Committee to Commemorate the Armenian Genocide (MCCAG).

Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III of Trinity Church welcomed the guests to the venerable and beautiful 19th century church, and recalled that Trinity Church previously hosted the commemoration of the 85th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. Anthony Barsamian, co-chair of the MCCAG spoke words of welcome before introducing college student Ani Karabashian, a descendant of Aurora Mardiganian, the famous Armenian Genocide survivor whose life story was turned into a movie and book as part of Near East Relief fundraising efforts to aid other survivors. Barsamian and many other speakers referred to Pope Francis’s statement on the Armenian Genocide. He thanked all who participated that evening, and said they were “bandaging our bleeding wounds.” Armenians still remind the world that a crime unpunished will be repeated, and join in bandaging the wounds of others.

Bishop Gayle E. Harris, of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, introduced the Vespers Service and two interfaith guests. She later that evening declared that the suffering of the Armenian martyrs was woven into the tapestry of our own souls. Denial perpetuates the Genocide, as does silence. To take the pain of the Armenians, and bind their wounds, she declared that though a black woman, “I am an Armenian too. My people suffered, and continue to suffer, and in that suffering we are grafted together but in the hope, in the light that we share, we bring hope and light to this world.”

Rabbi Ronne Friedman of Temple Israel of Boston spoke of Raphael Lemkin, the coiner of the term genocide, and in the name of the Jewish community of Massachusetts wished for mercy, justice, truth and peace for the Armenians. Warning of the dangers of denial and forgetfulness, he obliquely reproached President Obama, concluding, “When I learned that we were going to speak from the eagle lectern, it reminded me that this eagle has a message to carry to the eagle that represents our government.”

Mary Johnson, of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, spoke a few words of Armenian to win over the crowd before condemning persecution of those who were different. Through collective memory, the Armenian people will have the peace of knowing that the world speaks its name and remembers, and turns the Armenian Genocide into a cautionary tale.

Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker spoke briefly, declaring that “As your governor, I want you to know that I stand proudly with the Armenian-American community. …One hundred years ago, over a million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire. … We should never forget the innocent lives that were lost.” He called to work for recognition in order to help prevent future genocides.

Metropolitan Methodios, Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, described the attempts to eliminate the Armenian people and civilization beginning in 1915. Yet the Armenian language, poetry, vision and faith remained strong even as the survivors were forced into exile on all five continents. Shamefully no outside powers intervened on behalf of the Armenians. The Greeks too suffered during these events, and feel today a special bond with the Armenians. Furthermore, he concluded, “What happened in 1915 is being repeated today throughout the Middle East and Africa….Many turn a blind eye, but we must not remain silent before such horrific acts of brutality.”

Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, delivered an eloquent homily, which is reproduced separately in this issue of the Mirror. She in the name of the “wider Church” embraced the Armenians and offered to share the weight of carrying the truth of the Armenian Genocide, a crime against humanity. While Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley could not be present, Bishop Arthur Kennedy of the Boston Catholic Archdiocese took his place and delivered his message. The cardinal declared that “no human reflection can encompass the loss involved in the infinity of each human life taken from us in the Medz Yeghern, the Great Crime.” In addition to unity in faith, witness, and our voices to carry on their song, “to the martyrs of 1915 we also owe the full recognition of the monstrously systematic murder and assassination of identity called genocide.” Naturally, he quoted Pope Francis. He concluded celebrating the “living, vibrant, growing heritage of Armenian spirituality, holy tradition and incarnated faith.”

During the service, funds were raised for the Syrian Relief Fund through the Armenian Heritage Foundation. Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo, Syria, spoke on the terrible events taking place at present in Syria and made parallels with the Armenian Genocide.

Participating clergy in addition to the individuals mentioned above included Rev. Patrick Ward of Trinity church, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, of the New England Annual Conference, United Methodist Church, Fr. Daniel Findikyan of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), Rev. Dr. Arthur T. Gerald of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, Fr. Samuel Hanna, of St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Natick, representing Bishop David of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of New York and New England, and Bishop Nicolas J. Samra of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton.

Maestro Artur Veranian led the combined Armenian church choirs of the area, and in addition to the members of the Trinity Church Choir, organist Andrew Sheranian of All Saints Episcopal Church of Ashmont, and David Gevorkian (duduk), Martin Haroutunian (duduk), and soprano Nouné Karapetian performed.

The Knights of Vartan served as ushers for the services, and helped in the transportation and organization of the other events of the Boston centennial commemorations. A reception took place after the service ended.

The next morning, Armenians of the Boston region gathered in Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge in the morning to remember their martyrs, who had just been canonized as saints by the Church of Armenia. The clergy of all the churches in the region, including both Prelacy and Diocese churches, jointly participated in the service. Buses brought Armenians from several Watertown locations to the church, and later, after madagh, took them to the Massachusetts State House and Armenia