It was 20 Years ago today: The untold story of the Armenian Church Youth Ministries Center
Today’s episode: Resurrecting the Presence
The days that followed the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ were days of organization. An event unparalleled in history had taken place and it was necessary to carry on the momentum experienced by the witnesses of that Miracle of miracles. The celebrations we hold today, 2000 years later, minimizes exponentially the magnitude of the actual resurrection event. Bunnies, eggs, Easter bonnets and baskets, are hardly as shocking and awe inspiring as witnessing a person be critically wounded, assaulted, and killed and then finding that person not only alive, but engaging in conversation and in full power, so much so that he is calling the shots for the newly created Church.
In the Gospel we read that Jesus appeared to the Disciples and breathed into them the Holy Spirit giving them authority over sins. (John 20:21-23)
Not only was he alive, but he was organizing and empowering those who witnessed the resurrection. And to those who did not see him, such as the Disciple Thomas, he offered an opportunity to interact. We read in the Gospel of John (20:24-29)
Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later, Jesus appeared to the disciples and this time Thomas was with them. Jesus said to him, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
And there, Thomas made a complete confession, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
It’s easy to label Thomas as a doubting personality, but in fact, he is like people around us today, and like most people who have come to Christ over the last 2000 years. We all have our doubts. The Resurrection was not an event described by bunny rabbits and colored eggs. This was an earth shaking, history making reality. Humanity would come to split the calendar by this event into BC and AD.
Like Thomas, all people need is a little confirmation of the events. Thomas wanted a tactile feel of the Risen Lord, instead it was his other senses which gave him the bravery to commit “My Lord and my God.” Read the story; Thomas never touches Jesus, he only confesses Jesus as his Lord and God once he has been touched by the presence of the Living Resurrected Lord.
The Armenian Church, as an Apostolic Church, is the Body of Christ. It must reflect the Resurrected Lord in all that it is. In other words the Body of Christ should jar its people to understand that they are in the presence of the Resurrected Lord.
The Youth Ministries’ Center began during the Holy Easter Season. Mr. Mehrabian had given me the keys to the Center at the beginning of Lent. He quickly instructed his team to renovate the church building to bring it up to code and standards of an Armenian Church. Plumbers, electricians and contractors were moving walls, wires and pipes. I was blessed with a team too, they had the tools to transform on the spiritual side. We had 40 days to present the Resurrected Lord on this corner in Glendale.
My family, always part of the ministry equation, went into action, with Susan sewing beautiful banners draping across the newly converted altar area, showing the loaves and fish, and the holy chalice. My youngest, Christaphor, started “sewing” together crosses out of palm branches. My older two, Varoujan and Sevan, had taken up woodwork as a hobby and were only too anxious to create ornamental fans (kushots) out of a wide array of materials.
We tore out the altar area with its adult pool and replaced it with an area where the Liturgy would be celebrated. Mike Geragos, a designer and architect, built an Armenian style altar. Tamar Khatchadourian (nee Papirian), a faithful member of our Bible Study, scoured streets of downtown looking for items to decorate the church and its altar as closely as we could to an Armenian church. She was quite innovative in her selections, going through Catholic supply stores and mom-and-pop curios shops, finding cloths, candle holders and everything that should belong there. She made it happen.
Day-by-day the old dilapidated building was turning into a church. Very much like Jesus’ body, this building was being resurrected. In the end, we had a church which looked, smelled, sounded and felt like an Armenian Church. The people who came in that week, entered and came in contact with the presence of Christ. No wonder it was special and sacred space. It was from here that the miracles came pouring out.
Join me tomorrow as we continue with the untold stories of the Armenian Church Youth Ministries Center which began “20 years ago today.”
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