By Aram Arkun
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Armenian-American lawyer and political activist Anthony Barsamian is heavily involved in the life of the Armenian Church of the Holy Translators here. He and his wife Nancy were among its founders, and Anthony at present is a member of its Parish Council.
“I grew up in the Armenian Church and with the church community,” he said.
He was involved with the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), and before going to law school, he went to work at the Department of Youth Ministry at the Diocese in New York while interning for a congressman in Washington, DC.
Barsamian said, “I came up to New York to do work there on weekends, and shuttled back and forth between Washington and New York. People say don’t get involved in politics and religion, but I happened to get involved in both.”
Later, in the 1990s, he was asked through the Diocese to participate in the National Council of Churches. He served on its board for 12 years, and for two years was the chairman of its constitutional bylaws committee. After he moved back to the Boston area, he continued to work with various ecumenical groups, and was invited to participate in the leadership of the Massachusetts Council of Churches (MCC), an interdenominational body which the Armenian Church (and the Greek Orthodox) joined in 2002. Barsamian served as its vice president for the last two years.
The MCC supports its member denominations. Most recently, a number of its leaders and clergy came to participate in the celebration of Armenian Christmas at St. James Armenian Church in Watertown. Barsamian said, “[MCC executive director] Rev. Laura Everett designed the service to meet the requirements of our church with great sensitivity, and was inclusive of all faith groups there, Christians, Jews and Muslims.” Last year, the MCC together with the Armenian clergy in the region organized the well-attended ecumenical service on April 23, 1915 at Trinity Church of Copley Square, commemorating the centennial of the Armenian Genocide.
On February 6, the MCC held its annual meeting at Holy Translators at Framingham, Massachusetts, and installed Barsamian as its president. The pastors of St. James Armenian Church and Holy Trinity Armenian Church, Arakel Aljalian and Vasken Kouzouian, were among those present.
Barsamian will not only be the first member of the Church of Armenia to be president, but also the first Oriental or Eastern Orthodox. The president works with the board and the executive director for Christian outreach and programs that impact the various Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox communions in Massachusetts.
Barsamian was enthusiastic about the work of the MCC. He said, “In the past everybody was divided among their different denominations. We are now starting to see new generations of Christians in America trying to create one family through the unity of the Christian churches.” He said that the MCC is very interested in the Middle East at present and many of its members advocate for Middle Eastern Christians. Furthermore, the MCC plans to travel at some point to Armenia. Another MCC focus for the upcoming year will be the prevention of opioid addiction in Massachusetts.