Anglican Journal, Canada
Dec 1 2006

Journey of a lifetime

Solange De Santis
staff writer
Dec 1, 2006

The latest recipient of the Anglican Foundation's St. Basil the Great
Scholarship, Dean Walter Raymond of the diocese of Quebec, spent four
months this year among the Armenian Orthodox of the Middle East in
what he called `the pilgrimage of a lifetime.'

Founded by the late Bishop Henry Hill (see related obituary), the
scholarship provides for visits to Canada by members of Orthodox
churches and visits to Orthodox denominations by Canadians.

Dean Raymond, who had been friends with Bishop Hill, said in an
interview that he heard from another scholarship recipient, Canon
Philip Hobson, that the foundation was looking for exchange
candidates. `I did not already know a great deal about the Armenian
Orthodox Church,' he said. However, since he is single (as a member
of the celibate Order of the Good Shepherd) and the Cathedral of the
Holy Trinity in Quebec City had a Lutheran curate who could take over
for four months, Dean Raymond was able to leave on sabbatical.

He stayed at the Catholicosate, or religious compound, of the Great
House of Cilicia in a suburb of Beirut, traveled in the Middle East,
and met many Armenian Orthodox. Dean Raymond said one thing Canadian
Anglicans could learn from the Armenians is how to keep their culture
and traditions alive.

`They are a diaspora people, a minority people. They have lived in a
minority situation since the 12th century. They have distinctive
cultural traditions that bind them together as a community,' such as
ceremonies that involve children, he said.

Located between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, Armenia has been
subject to a number of invasions, starting with the Byzantine Empire
in 1045. It came under the control of the Ottoman Empire in the
1500s. More than one million Armenians died from 1915 to 1917 in what
they term the Armenian genocide, a term disputed by Turkey, which
controlled Armenia at the time. In the 20th century, Armenia was
controlled by the Soviet Union. It is now independent.

During his sabbatical from January to May of this year, Dean Raymond
attended worship and taught part-time, in English, at the seminary of
the Catholicosate. There are two main groups of Armenian Orthodox, he
noted, one in Armenia, and one in Lebanon.

Although he was back in Canada by July, when fighting broke out
between Israel and Lebanon, he did tour the southern part of Lebanon
and wondered whether some of the people he met in the villages
survived the battles.

`The atmosphere of modern Lebanon is very conciliatory. There is a
real effort to get along. Nobody wants to go back to the days of
civil war,' he said. There are at least 100,000 Armenian Orthodox
among the four million people of Lebanon, he said.

Many situations he encountered were all-male, since the Orthodox do
not ordain women - a contrast to the Canadian church. `Ecumenically,
it was not my job to tell them to smarten up and be like us. I was
interested in who they were as a community, but they are a clearly
patriarchical society,' he said.

The time away from his Canadian duties refreshed his spirit, he said.
`The biggest benefit is it was a really good sabbatical leave. I
would encourage clergy to take a break. It was very stimulating. I
came back with a sense of greater clarity and vision and great
affection for the Armenians,' he said.

During his trip, Dean Raymond kept a diary on the Internet and posted
photographs to, then published the text and pictures
in a 348-page spiral-bound book. While he was traveling, there were
about 1,000 visits per week to the site; currently, it logs about
300-400 visits per month, he said. 132/nov/09/article/journey-of-a-lifetime/