PRESS OFFICE
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Jake Goshert, Coordinator of Information Services
Tel: (212) 686-0710 Ext. 60; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.armenianchurch.org

August 4, 2005
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ST. SARKIS CHURCH OF CHARLOTTE CONSECRATED BY ARCHBISHOP BARSAMIAN

By Jake Goshert

It was the birth of a new community as more than 300 people gathered on
Sunday, July 31, 2005, for the consecration of the newest Armenian
Church in the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern): St.
Sarkis Church of Charlotte, NC.

The community has built itself up from just a handful of families, and a
few years after buying its property was blessed by the generosity of a
benefactor from Easton, PA: Mr. Sarkis Acopian.

"I look around today and I see so many people from so many backgrounds
and life experiences," said Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the
Diocese, during the consecration service. "And yet you have all come
together -- in unity -- in the name of our Lord, under the shield of His
church, in the cause of the Armenian Christian heritage. And you have
done this, even though you are remote from the larger concentrations of
our people in this country. Today you begin a new life together,
united, as an Armenian Christian church."

STARTED AS A DREAM

As he consecrated the new St. Sarkis Church, the Primate reflected on
the humble origins of the community. The Armenians in the Charlotte
area first began to be called together when Lena Kupelian Neau arrived
in the area in 1988. At that time there was no Armenian organization in
the area.

She pulled out the phone book and started making phone calls to all the
Armenians she could find. Pulling others into an organization, she was
joined by people like Roland Telfayan; Arthur, Puzant, and Paul
Yessayan; and Zaven Touloukian.

"My profound appreciation goes out to those who had the vision to
establish a parish in this area," the Primate said. "And also to those
who took up that vision, built upon it, and expanded it."

Dozens of these local community leaders, who gave so much of their time,
energy, and financial resources to enliven the community, served as
"godfamilies" of the church during its consecration.

The road to building the new church took some unexpected turns, causing
the consecration to be postponed from two earlier dates. But now, at
last, the community finally have a proper Armenian spiritual home of
their own.

"We feel finally have a home we can gather in. Since we've been using
the sanctuary attendance has quadrupled," said Mrs. Kupelian Neau, the
present parish council chair, who added that the parish now gets between
60 and 120 people at services. "The feeling in our former location -- a
rented church -- was different; people would be talking during the
services. But here you can hear a pin drop. The new church is having a
totally different effect on the parishioners. I think because we're
going from an American church to a totally Armenian church."

Standing on a main street in Charlotte, and being constructed in the
style of traditional Armenian Church architecture, also means the parish
is helping educate the locals about the Armenian people.

"It has put the Armenians on the map of Charlotte. Nobody questions
what an Armenian is anymore. Everybody knows now. Everybody in
Charlotte is talking about it," Ms. Kupelian Neau said.

HONORING A MOTHER'S LOVE

The community was boosted last year when Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis and Bobbye
Acopian, from Easton, PA, pledged $2.25 million to build the new church
in honor of Sarkis' mother, Arax.

Arax was born in Kars, Turkey, in 1898, and grew up in Georgia and Iran,
where she was a respected dentist. With her husband Grigor, she shared
her devotion to the Armenian church and Armenian people with three
children.

Mr. and Mrs. Acopian were on hand to attend the consecration and cut the
ribbon on the adjoining church hall, named in their honor, where the
celebratory banquet was held.

Serving as "godfamilies" during the consecration of the St. Sarkis
Church of Charlotte, NC, were:
Pierre Arbajian
Nely Avakyants
Edward and Mary Anne Azarian
Leon and Sonia Bagdasarian
Olga Boloyan
Raymond and Roberta Bozoian
Charles and Betty Diman
Paul, Dolores, and Donna Loutigian
Sergey and Arevat Manucharova
Gerard and Lena (Kupelian) Neau
Hagop and Noelle Sarkissian
Genrikh and Zhanna Shirazyan
Roland and Marie Telfeyan
Hagop and Zaven and Raye Touloukian
Diane Gulkasian Tudor
Ara Sylvie, Arthur and Lynn, and Paul and Sylva Yessayan

-- 8/3/05

E-mail photos available on request. Photos also viewable in the News
and Events section of the Eastern Diocese's website,
www.armenianchurch.org.

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern
Diocese, flanked by Fr. Daniel Karadjian, left, and Fr. Daniel Findikyan
and benefactor Sarkis Acopian enter the filled St. Sarkis Church of
Charlotte, NC, on the day of its final consecration, July 31, 2005.

PHOTO CAPTION (2): The Primate blesses the altar cross during the
consecration of the St. Sarkis Church in Charlotte, NC, on July 31,
2005.

PHOTO CAPTION (3): Archbishop Barsamian blesses one of the crosses
surrounding the St. Sarkis Church in Charlotte, NC.

PHOTO CAPTION (4): The Primate, Fr. Daniel Karadjian, left, and Fr.
Daniel Findikyan, fight, bless the altar at the new St. Sarkis Church of
Charlotte, NC, on July 31, 2005.

PHOTO CAPTION (5): The Primate and benefactors Sarkis and Bobbye
Acopian prepare to release doves in celebration following the
consecration of the St. Sarkis Church of Charlotte, NC, on July 31,
2005.

PHOTO CAPTION (6): Archbishop Barsamian is joined by the godparents,
altar servers, choir, and leaders of the newly consecrated St. Sarkis
Church of Charlotte, NC.

PHOTO CAPTION (7): The newly consecrated St. Sarkis Church sits on a
main intersection in Charlotte, NC.

PHOTO CAPTION (8): Young parishioners of the St. Sarkis Church in
Charlotte, NC, dance during the banquet in the adjoining Sarkis and
Bobbye Acopian Cultural Hall following the consecration of the sanctuary
on July 31, 2005.

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