Happy Sunday Morning

Armodoxy for Today: Happy Sunday Morning

Growing up in Southern California in the pre-1970s had its unique challenges regarding the preservation of ethnic identity, in particular Armenian identity. Technology assisted the effort through radio. Sadly, of the two different hour-long Armenian language radio programs, both broadcast at the same hour. Later, when television entered the unnecessary competition, it too selected the same hour: Sunday morning, at 10:00AM. It was the universally accepted time for Armenian church services and, I guess, a perfect time to grab the wandering and discontent Sunday morning souls. The grab for the sacred time slot continues today in the Armenian community with scouting programs and sporting events.

In those early days, we lived in Hollywood and attended the St. James Armenian Church. It was a trek to get there. We were a large family with two grandmothers in tow. We’d fill the station wagon and either mom or dad would drive us to church. The car radio, AM of course, had mechanical pull/push buttons for station selection. One of those buttons was set to KTYM, “1460 on everyone’s radio dial” as the jingle would say. The button was pushed only once-a-week, Sunday morning at 10:00 AM en route to church. I don’t think we ever tried, or dared to try, that station at any other time. But at 10:00 AM, we’d hear the station call letters and then the distorted sound of tribal drums playing “Armenian March” and the voice of “Happy Harry Hadegian.” He’d greet us with “A pleasant Sunday morning to all of you…” in both Armenian and English. And as a courtesy gesture, he’d play an Armenian hymn, a sharagan, to acknowledge that he recognized it was church time, and to appease the first Christian-nation audience.

For years, Sunday morning airwaves belonged to “Happy Harry.” And we, the listeners knew the drill. We’d tune in for an hour of “news, views and the best in Armenian entertainment,” as he would say, although we’d never make it to the end of that hour. We’d either arrive at our destination, or our attention had wandered off.

Happy Harry’s radio show became the background “noise” which filled up our space. We’d tune-in and tune-out, so to speak. But it is noted here that this was the first on-line virtual Armenian community. We were tied together by the voice of the happy announcer.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, in-person gatherings were forbidden and so Sunday mornings we developed on-line communities with the help of Zoom, YouTube or Facebook. At first, the number of followers was phenomenal. When I saw the number of hits of the early broadcasts hitting the 5,000 mark, I thought to myself what will we do after the pandemic? When in our lives had we seen this number of followers? Would streaming services be the way of the future?

But soon the novelty wore off and the streaming of church services was in the category of background noise. This is not to say there was disrespect for the service, but it was turned on and then forgotten. Perhaps in the background of Sunday brunch or watched with toast and jam and a cup of Joe.

There is a tradeoff here, and we need to be aware of it before confronting the reality of the day. A man once asked his priest if it was okay to smoke while he prayed. The priest answered, “Of course not, but you certainly may pray while you smoke.”

Broadcasting the Liturgy makes it accessible to a group of people who otherwise may not have the opportunity to join a service. I can vouch for the accessibility factor from these daily messages. It is remarkable and overwhelming to hear from listeners from the various locales that follow us. Yet, on the other hand, the Liturgy – Church itself – is about community, about coming together and celebrating God, Christ, the Eucharist. And the only one to confess whether they are smoking while praying or praying while smoking is the offeror of the prayer themself. So, today’s message comes as a memo of awareness. Thank God we have the technology to reach out. You will be the one to decide how the content is used.

Let us pray, All Benevolent and Almighty refuge and hope of the weak and the troubled, my Lord and my God, who created everything from nothingness protecting Your creation. Draw closer to me with Your unspeakable mercy and have mercy upon me. For you display compassion to those who yearn for You and heal them through your benevolence. Amen.

Cover photo: Envato Elements

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