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.


Raffi said...


It's a fact of life that in CA there are differences among the Beirut-tsiz, the Barsgahays, and the Hayasdan-tsiz. Despite being all Armenian, each has a subculture of its own and understandings.
The old difference was being Marash-tsi, Adana-tsi, Ainteb-tsi, and other cities in Turkey. Now, it's the cities and countries in the world. Sad but true.

Richard said...

Imagine the job of the Srpazan for Canada, Bagrat Galstanyan. He covers a territory of 10 million square kilometres (3.5 million square miles) with a congregation of maybe 80,000 total). He goes as far as Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories where there are some 80 Armenians involved in the diamond mining business.

And he does it with joy and energy.

Anoushig said...

Richard, that is impressive! Kudos to him. I think it's great when the church does a good job of reaching out to the small communities. Armenians have this hunger to be Armenian, and in my experience, this is easiest when you feel connected to other Armenians.