Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Diaspora Disconnection?

This weekend, I went to a different church than I normally go to, and the Archbishop was there to give out proclamations for 2 priests who had been ordained 50 years ago.

It is no secret that I live in a city with a big Armenian population, a city that is not an onerous distance from New York City. So it is probably pretty easy and compelling for the archbishop to make a trip here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ordination of two Der Hayrs. Especially during a year when the diocese is trying to focus on getting more young men to become priests!

But it contrasted with how disconnected I think Armenians who live outside major population centers of the diaspora must be. If you will remember, faithful readers, I grew up in a place with very few Armenians. My sister tried to get the mission priest to come to my hometown to baptize my niece. It didn't work out, and my family is really angry about how the whole thing was handled. Which is to say, it was handled very, very poorly and in a way that really left a bad taste in all our mouths. If I didn't live in a place where my family could come visit and get my niece baptized relatively easily (and also in a place where we can hopefully involve the former mission priest, whom my family likes very much and who would not have given us this hassle), probably my niece would not be baptized into the Armenian Church at all.

I don't have any special attachment to the hierarchy of the church, but I really appreciate the effort that the Catholicos made to visit some of the mission and smaller parishes (like Baton Rouge, LA, where I also have family) in the Eastern Diocese, rather than only focusing on the big cities (which he did hit as well, of course). These are parishes that may never see an archbishop, or maybe see one every few years, while I have seen the archbishop at services at least 2-3 times in the last year alone.

In a way, being somewhat disconnected can be healthy. One of the major plusses, from my perspective, is that you end up with a view of Armenians as one people, rather than having this idea of Armenians from Armenia pitted against Armenians from the diaspora, or even, as I have heard lately, diaspora Armenians from one city pitted against diaspora Armenians from another city. In more distant communities, it matters less if you are Beirutsi, Barsgahye, Hayastansi (I really only learned what these meant after moving here, where people actually care). The only thing that matters is whether you are Armenian.

Eastern Diocese You Tube Channel

Did you know that the Eastern Diocese has a You Tube Channel? Neither did I. But they do.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Archbishop Sunday

I started writing this post a while ago, but am just now finishing it. "Today" was actually several weeks ago.

So today was what I have referred to in the past as "Archbishop Sunday"- the Sunday when the Archbishop visits to ordain new deacons and acolytes. My old church always had a new crop of young men ready to be acolytes and deacons, so Archbishop Sunday happens almost every year. At my new church, the deacons are mostly older men. This is not unique to this church, in fact, I have learned that the average age of deacons at my old church is way below average.

In the Armenian church, if I am not mistaken (and I know that priests occasionally read this blog, so if any of you want to correct me, feel free), becoming a deacon is considered something you would have a calling to do. In his message, the Archbishop mentioned that this year's theme for the diocese (and I cannot remember the exact theme, I am so sorry!) is related to vocations, and the diocese has a goal of getting more young men to become priests. In fact, his message focused almost entirely on men and getting them involved with the church.

I found myself thinking during this message "yes, yes, but what about getting women involved as well?" I have
posted in the past about my opinions on women in the church, and the bottom line is that I think that their involvement is crucial to the existence of the church. You can't have a church without priests, but in my opinion, you won't have any congregations without the women. And the young women aren't that involved, either! Some are, but on a broad level, they aren't. This past spring, I spent a morning making manti with a lot of the elderly ladies in my church (students have flexible schedules!). I was probably the youngest person there by at least 40 years, and one of the things that the other ladies were talking about were how uninvolved the young women (by "young" I mean women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, women with school-aged children, mostly) are in things like Ladies Guild, and when they come to Ladies Guild, they are coming mostly for the social activities, and they are not that interested in doing the grunt work of fundraising, bazaar organizing, etc.

It was interesting for me to hear this conversation. I think you could argue that they have a point, but also that times have changed since these women were raising their children. They pointed out that they LOVED Ladies Guild meetings because it was a welcome time to be with other women, and their husbands would watch the kids.

I personally am just as guilty of anyone else of not doing Ladies Guild, or much at all with the church except for going to service most Sundays and singing in the choir. I feel like I can see both sides here- yes, we need the grunt work that keeps the financial engines of the Armenian festivals and bazaars going, but on the other hand, women are pulled in a lot of different directions as well, and it's hard to commit to organizing something at church if you are also room mother for your child's class, working full- or part-time, managing your children's schedules (which often include ACYO and Armenian School, by the way!), and generally trying to keep the household running. I am pretty friendly with the woman who helps run Ladies Guild, and I think she is doing a great job of really trying to balance everything- make it fun and interesting for the younger ones to get them there, and respecting the wisdom of the older members and honoring them for their years of service. Unfortunately, I am not sure if either side thinks she is being successful. I do, but then, I don't go to Ladies Guild, so what do I know?

Anyway, I have to say that the Archbishop's speech sort of rubbed me the wrong way, because I think we need to get everyone involved in the spiritual (not just social) life of the church. Both men and women. I think when we get more young men and women coming to Badarak (on time) and participating in the service as acolytes, deacons, and choir members, we will naturally see more men choose to become priests, and the church will be better off overall.

A side point to this is: why don't Armenian churches have nurseries? Pretty much all the protestant churches that I have been to have nurseries for the babies while their parents are in service. At my old church near my university, if I had stayed there, I would have seriously considered trying to start up a nursery once a month so parents with kids too little for Sunday School could come to Badarak once a month. Are you just expected to bring your infant and toddler to Badarak? I could see that, but it doesn't always seem to be very convenient.

Friday, July 24, 2009

MP3 of BBC Special on Komitas

I grabbed the streaming audio onto an MP3 while it was still up, although the quality is middling. If you would like a copy, email me at feminaformosa (at) yahoo (dot) com, or leave your email in the comments if you would prefer.

Also, apparently there is a part 2 that was supposed to air yesterday? Maybe part 2 is up now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Komitas on BBC 4

Holy Etchmiadzin posted a link to this great 30 minute program from BBC 4 radio on Komitas Vartabed. You can listen to it for a couple more days. If anyone knows how to download this into MP3, or can find an MP3 copy of it, I would greatly appreciate it.

Journey to Armenia: Komitas - The Saddest Music in the World

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Armenian Church Podcasts

I discovered that the former Der Hayr at my old church, Der Vasken Movesian, has not one, but two podcasts available on iTunes. One is called "The Next Step," and the other is called "Fr. Vasken's Sermons." These are new since the last time I searched for "Armenian" in the iTunes store, which is something I do periodically to see if there are any new and interesting Armenian music albums in the iTunes store.

I think this is terrific! I don't know Der Vasken very well (as I started going to my former church after he had already left), but everyone always spoke so highly of him; he was a much beloved priest there (the current priest there is great too, by the way, and I really like him a lot). I met Der Vasken after his trip to Rwanda, when he was going to different organizations and churches to show his slide show, talk about the Rwandan genocide, and how all Armenians need to be against all genocides, and just because we still have problems getting ours recognized doesn't mean that we should sit around and ignore it when genocides happen in other parts of the world, and he addressed Darfur in particular. Der Vasken is a person who makes an effort to reach out to others and show them what the Armenian Church is and can do, not just for Armenians, but as a beacon for all people, and I think that is really admirable. I am not surprised that if there is a priest out there who has a podcast, that it is Der Vasken.

On another iTunes note, you can also buy the Pimsleur series for both Eastern and Western Armenian, if you are so inclined.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Holy Week

Well, Holy Week is here at last, after a very challenging Lent. I have managed to avoid animal products on Wednesdays and Fridays, but it has been a real struggle. This is less because I love meat and dairy, and more because I find myself eating more processed foods and not getting enough protein to really feel good, despite all my best efforts. So Wednesdays and Fridays have been pretty tough.

In addition, I found myself eating an awful lot of these really great cookies from Trader Joe's- these new maple leaf creme cookies. They are basically maple Oreos in the shape of a maple leaf. I was delighted to discover that they didn't have dairy in them (they have a hescher from the Orthodox Union identifying them as kosher dairy, but when I read the label, there didn't actually seem to be dairy products in it, so I assume they are just made on the same line as other products that do have dairy in them), and dismayed to realize that this would probably mean that I would end up eating a lot of them during Lent. Which I did. Because I am weak, and they are delicious, and technically do not violate the fasting requirements of Lent.

Which brought me to another thought. I am pretty sure that while maybe not violating the letter of the law, those cookies definitely violate the spirit of fasting. They are delicious, terrible for me, and honestly, I enjoy them a lot more than I enjoy having milk in my cereal instead of almond milk. And Christianity isn't really about the law is it? I mean, it's not about the law in the same way that Judaism is about the law- Judaism is ALL about the law! Some Jews go to school for years and years and years just to really learn the Torah and the Talmud and other writings, just so they will know how to best practice.

But Christians are different. For us, the belief is the primary feature, and even churchgoers with only the most cursory Children's Bible (raises hand) story knowledge knows that Jesus scolded the Pharisees for upholding the letter of the law but not the spirit.

So, in the interest of the spirit of the law, I made a decision about Lent for next year. While I definitely believe that eating no animal products makes for a more mindful day where you remember Lent with every meal you plan (and complain about, in my case), I think that I would best observe Lent by following a more Roman Catholic model, and giving up something that I really, really enjoy, something that it is hard for me not to eat.

Next year, I give up sugar. I actually think this will be MORE challenging in terms of resisting temptation and sacrifice, and will actually be better for me on both a physical and spiritual level. You guys, I LOVE sugar. LOVE IT. And I can't stand artificial sweeteners, so I won't be going there, either. I have given up things for Lent in the past- Coca-cola, alcohol, but never have I tried sugar. I tried chocolate once, but I only made it about 24 hours.

Giving up sugar will have the added bonus of not alienating my non-practicing husband, who abhors Lent because he knows it means lots of vegetarian chili and lentils for dinner.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I have an account on Twitter. It is a general account where I post whatever I want, and not really related to religion or being Armenian, except for when it comes up organically, which sometimes it does (like when I complain about not wanting to go to Armenian lessons).

I posted (tweeted?) a friend about Trader Joe's new maple leaf creme cookies being a terrific chocolate-free dessert for Lent (NB for Armenians- they are also dairy/egg free, shock of shockers, so if you are still eating sugar, fine for us too), and now I have both the Church of England and Westminster Abbey following me! Too funny.

By the way, if you are interested in following me on Twitter, my username is anianiani.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Almost a year!

Sad, but it has been almost a year now since I have posted. I see a bunch of comments on my last post, but for some reason, blogger doesn't have dates attached to comments. I need to see if I can fix that.

Anyway, I have settled into more of a routine. I switched churches, which I think was a good decision for me; I am just a better fit at the other parish.

I want to say hi to Der Hovnan Demerjian, and give him a special welcome, as I was in the congregation when he celebrated his first Badarak after being ordained the weekend before. I think the Armenian Church is lucky to have such young and energetic champions. My recollection is that he gave a terrific sermon about how we should overcome the conflict between different groups of Armenians and look up to God rather than at the flaws in each other. What a great message!

Growing up in a place with basically no Armenians other than my extended family (plus a few others), I had heard about this eastern/western divide, but I hadn't really seen it in action until I came here. Even in California, at my old church, there wasn't an issue; the priest, like so many younger priests, was from the former USSR. The old core of the church were mostly from the diaspora. No one cared. The priest is a great guy, very devout, very devoted the church, nice, loves kids, etc., etc., basically, everything you would want a priest to be, and that is what people cared about, not where he grew up. I think the respect that we all had for him and his family extended to the other eastern Armenians in our congregation, and I felt that we really were all one family.

Even today, I was hearing people ask each other, "oh, was your mother [town]stantsi?" (I can't remember the town) I am always having to ask people "What does that mean?" because honestly, I didn't grow up with these labels, and I don't know them, and I would rather not. I don't really care.

Anyway, this is the first week of Lent! I already broke the fast accidentally- I got fed at church, and I ate vospov kufta (done w/ chickpeas instead of lentils, though), only to find out that it had been made with chicken broth and butter. Oops! No wonder it tasted so good! I am just doing Wednesdays and Fridays this year (that is the most I have ever done; I am really impressed with people who do all 40 days! Wow!!), but I am determined to do it right this year, at least on Wednesdays and Fridays.