SAN DIEGO, CA – Blessed by sunny skies and a warm ocean breeze, 500 worshippers attended the official groundbreaking ceremony of a new Armenian Church campus in San Diego. The event took place on Sunday, April 29, 2018 and was presided by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese. The Very Rev. Fr. Pakrad Berjekian, parish priest of St. John Garabed Armenian Church, and Fr. Manoug Markarian from the Western Diocese also officiated. The 40-member Khachadourian Choir, led by Deacon Stepan Gozumian from the Western Diocese, sang the beautiful hymns dedicated to the special service.
The program began with the religious ceremony and followed with speeches and presentations. Dr. Berge Minasian, chairman of the Parish Council, welcomed the guests and expressed his delight that after many years of hard work, the construction phase was finally going to become a reality.
He said, “We’d like to thank Srpazan for his rock-solid support of the Armenian Church and community in San Diego. We are blessed to have Fr. Pakrad as our pastor who has a second job as the Diocese’s Vicar General. I like to say ‘if you believe it, it will happen,’ and now it is happening. We are embarking on our bridge to the future.” Minasian also thanked 50 guests from a Bible study group who attended the ceremony from Los Angeles.
Jim Sahagian, chairman of the Building Committee, was introduced as master of ceremonies. He provided an update on the construction phase, and recognized the godfathers who established the church in San Diego and clergy led the congregation over the years.
Sahagian said, “This campus is going to be a jewel in Southern California, a source of immense pride for us all, and a destination for Armenians worldwide. I’m happy to report we have already received $800,000 in pledged support, but in order to accomplish this huge endeavor, we will need pledges from all of our parishioners, community members, and other benevolent Armenians who embrace our vision. Our Parish Assembly has decided that the first two buildings to be constructed will be the Sanctuary and Social Hall.”
“We are indebted to Dr. Sam Markarian whose bequest allowed the Trust Committee to purchase the first 14 acres of land. We have many people to thank today including all those who generously supported the acquisition of the CUP, especially the Founding Pillars. I’d also like to recognize the members of St. John Garabed’s Parish Council, Building Committee, Trust Committee, Armenian Sunday School, Ladies’ Society, A.C.Y.O., and Choir.”
The keynote speech was delivered by Archbishop Derderian. “This is a glorious day,” he proclaimed. “The journey has started, the bridge is now being built for the sake of our children. Our hearts are filled with joy – this is a spiritually uplifting day as we witness the blessing of the grounds of the House of God and prayer. God is calling on us all to fulfill this important mission, which will be a legacy for our future generations and which, above all, will be an edifice that will reflect the resilience and resurrection of our nation. The new church will unite us all to become one strong body and will reawaken the vision of our national cause.”
Speaking directly to the 40 Armenian Sunday School students and interns, he said, “My dear and beloved children, you will be repeating what I say. ‘I will feel in the depth of my heart God’s divine love and wisdom so I may grow as a good Christian. Today I’m a witness, tomorrow I will be a leader. This church will become a living church with my presence and my prayers.’”
Archbishop Derderian continued, “I extend my warmest gratitude to all members of the Parish Council and all committees for their zeal and patience as well as to the devout members of the Trust Committee for their perseverance and resilience. Special thanks to all the donors. But in particular, I would like to extend my gratitude to one very important person who has been the driving force behind this mission for many, many years, Mr. Harry Krikorian.” Krikorian, who is the chairman of the Trust Committee, received an icon of the Presentation of Jesus Christ to the Temple as a symbol of his lifelong commitment to the Armenian Church.
In conclusion, Archbishop Derderian stated, “Let us all be the holy hands of Almighty God. Today is the day for commitment. Today is also a day for us to reflect our faith in action. And I pledge to you all that this will be realized.”
Closing remarks were made by Fr. Berjekian. “This groundbreaking ceremony presided and supported by our Primate, is our first bold step across the bridge to our new home in Del Mar. It’s a reminder that the road forward is our true destiny. We stand today at the very sacred intersection where a new Armenian Church community center will soon flourish,” he stated.
“Here, God will be worshipped, and His Son will be praised, and the faithful shall salute each other every Sunday with the commandment of divine love and brotherhood. Here our children will grow to become the future leaders of this community. Here our youth will dream their dreams, and one day shall rise up armed with their national Christian identity and culture to take their rightful place in the community. There many among us who see the task ahead as a labor of love. When asked about what it is that they are cheerfully building they respond, ‘Why, I’m building a beautiful church, can’t you see!’”
The ceremony closed with the beautiful voices of the Armenian Sunday School students and interns who joined the clergy in reciting Hayr Mer. The children led the congregants outside the tent for a ceremonial groundbreaking.
Commemorative shovels decorated with red bows and hard hats were set up in the soil where the church sanctuary will be built. The children received mini shovels and hard hats as gifts, and joined the clergy, Parish Council, and Building Committee in the prayer and dove release. A delicious buffet luncheon was generously provided by the owner of Aladdin and Amardeen restaurants. The Ladies’ Society provided desserts and fresh fruit.
When completed, the campus will feature a sanctuary designed to resemble St. Hripsime in Etchmiadzin, elegant social hall, youth center and gymnasium, education and cultural building, Armenian Heritage Park, picnic and meditation spaces, and abundant parking. Situated less than a mile from the ocean and just east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds, this valuable, 18-acre property promises to become a destination for Armenians worldwide.
The property is located at 13860 El Camino Real, San Diego, CA 92130. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.stjohngarabed.org or contact Jim Sahagian at [email protected]. To get on the mailing list for regular email updates, please send a request to [email protected].