BY FLORENCE AVAKIAN
PARAMUS, NJ – “The Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) was born, nurtured and grew up in the bosom of the Armenian Evangelical Union (AEU),” stated Rev. Dr. Vahan H. Tootikian, in a telephone conversation with this writer.
“In the last 100 years it has rendered 100 years of dedicated service to the Armenian Evangelical Church and the Armenian nation,” said the eminent church leader who is the Executive Director of the Armenian Evangelical World Council which comprises five Evangelical Unions, the AMAA, and the Stephen Philibosian Foundation, a humanitarian and philanthropic organization.
GRAND CELEBRATION ON OCTOBER 19
On Saturday, October 19, in Boston, MA, a grand Banquet will honor the Armenian Evangelical Church’s relationship to the AMAA, as well as the AMAA’s 100th Annual Meeting for their vital and dynamic work. In 2018, the 100th year of the AMAA was celebrated globally and crowned at a Banquet in Los Angeles.
“The Armenian Evangelical Union of North America is the offspring of the Armenian Evangelical Union (Eastern States), which was organized in 1901 in Worcester, MA,” explained Rev. Tootikian. In 1960, two Armenian Evangelical Churches from Canada joined the AEU, and in 1971 this AEU joined with the Armenian Evangelical Union of California and formed the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America (AEUNA).
The Armenian Evangelical Church in New York was the “moving force of the AMAA, with such spiritual pillars as the Telfeyan and Donchian families,” he continued.
The AMAA enjoys “a good relationship with all Armenian churches in America, as well as with Etchmiadzin, Antelias, and the Armenian Catholic church.”
TWO DEVOTED CHURCH LEADERS
Born in Kessab, Syria, Rev. Tootikian grew up in an Armenian Evangelical family. His grandfather and half of his family were deported during the Genocide to Deir-Zor where they were killed.
Following his childhood in Kessab, the future cleric who has devotedly served the church for 60 years, studied and graduated from the American University of Beirut, and the Near East School of Theology, did his graduate work in Hartford, Harvard and Andover Newton Theological seminaries, earning two MA degrees and a Doctorate in Theology. He is the author of 42 books.
He regards the greatest rewards of his life’s work, “reaching out in the name of Christ, helping, and serving the Armenian people.”
Just as Rev. Dr. Tootikian is one of the devoted long-time leaders of the AMAA and the AEUNA, Rev. Jeremy Tovmassian, Pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Chicago, represents the young generation of new leaders.
Born in Boston, he studied administration and business at California State University. Originally he had hoped to be a lawyer, then became disenchanted with the business world, and finally decided that he “wanted his life to be devoted to doing justice, as his Pastor father, grandfather and great grandfather had done in Boston, Detroit and California churches.
He is also the Moderator of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America. “Historically the AEUNA has nurtured and supported the AMAA, developing pastors and local churches to execute their mission,” he relayed.
The AMAA and the AEUNA collaborate with each other, he revealed, adding that the AEUNA comprises a network of Armenian Protestant churches a few of which were created before the Genocide. “It is a symbiotic relationship which makes sure that pastors are capable of caring for their congregations wisely.”
As an American-born Armenian, who is fluent in the Armenian language, Rev. Tovmassian digressed for a moment to share the news that his two-year old daughter speaks enough Armenian “to be dangerous.”
Emphasizing the significance of the October 19 Banquet in Boston, he stated that “it’s an honor and joy to celebrate the relationship that the AEUNA and the AMAA have, which has, and continues to change the lives of people all over the world.”