Members are committed to reaching thousands with Armenian ancestry, leaders say.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, an Armenian congregation in Glendale, California, United States, made history in 2021. According to church leaders, it is the first Armenian-speaking Seventh-day Adventist congregation officially organized as a company in the Western hemisphere.
The congregation is in the region of Los Angeles, home to the densest population of Armenians in the United States. According to one estimate, more than 40 percent of the 200,000-plus people in Glendale claim Armenian ancestry.
“Adventist churches in our conference reflect the amazing diversity of Southern California,” Danny Chan, Southern California Conference (SCC) Los Angeles Metro Region director, observed.
A recent organizational service highlighted the rich history and dedicated mission behind the congregation. Throughout the event, tributes were shared about the important work of this congregation in the Armenian community and the historical foundation of that work. Three new members also joined the company by baptism during the program.
In his remarks at an organizing service, SCC president Velino A. Salazar (right) encourages the Armenian congregation to remain steadfast in the mission, moving forward as an organized company, as Vigen Khachatryan (left) translates. [Photo: Southern California Conference]
James G. Lee, Southern California Conference executive vice president (not pictured), offers prayer over the Armenian church officers (left to right): Rita Dekrmenjian, head deaconess; Alexan Dekrmenjian, head deacon; Agapi Zakaryan, clerk/ secretary; Hovik Hacopian, head elder; Vigen Khachatryan, pastor; and Aramis Vartanians, treasurer. [Photo: Southern California Conference]
John H. Cress (left), Southern California Conference executive secretary, presents congregation leader Vigen Khachatryan (right) with the certificate of company status. [Photo: Southern California Conference]
Leaders throughout the denomination recognized the special event, with letters read from Ricardo Graham, Pacific Union Conference president; Tony Anobile, North American Division (NAD) director of multilingual ministries; G. Alexander Bryant, NAD president; and Ted Wilson, General Conference (GC) president. Karnik Doukmetzian, GC general counsel, was present to bring greetings from the GC. “I guess we could have done it by video, but as an Armenian, [for me] to give up this opportunity is just simply unheard of,” he shared.
The group started meeting at the Hollywood Adventist church in 1977. Hovik Saraffian, who was pastor of the congregation from 1983 to 2017, spent many years pouring himself into the ministry this congregation provides to the Armenian community in Southern California. “The motivating part was that this is the only Seventh-day Adventist Armenian group outside of Armenia proper in all the world,” he said. This motivation has kept the congregation alive for more than 40 years. In 1981, the congregation began to meet in Glendale City Adventist church, and in 2017, Vigen Khachatryan joined the congregation as its leader.
Reflecting on the occasion, Khachatryan shared special thanks to God, SCC, and Glendale church for help and support through the years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Khachatryan has led the congregation in tremendous growth through online ministry. “Our work for the community is done mostly through social media,” he shared. “We try to help people who are sick or frightened by the virus, or in distress because of the pandemic, to rely on God’s promises.”
Velino A. Salazar, SCC president, has supported the congregation throughout its ministry. Looking forward, he focused on the mission that lies ahead for this now-organized company. “We need to emphasize that Jesus came to this earth to save people,” Salazar shared, “not just for eternity in the future, but now from suffering and anguish. We find that message of hope in the Holy Scriptures. May the Lord continue using you to share what people need — they need a Savior.”