Armenian Church Armenian Community blog Culture Diaspora Stepan Piligian

Our Institutions Cannot Stand Alone, Part II: Closing the Gap

Stepan Piligian writes, “Open the doors, and let the fresh air of new thinking replenish our institutions.” (Photograph: St. Karapet Church, Noravank, Wikimedia Commons, Rostom)

The President of Armenia just lately commented in an interview about the want for all of us to by no means cease learning. So true. Most learning depends on our potential to pay attention. The properly is deep with what we will study from one another. The President of Armenia just lately commented in an interview about the need for all of us to by no means cease studying. So true. Most learning depends on our capacity to pay attention. My grandfather used to say, “There is a reason why God gave us twice as many ears as mouths.”

This previous weekend, we all celebrated Father’s Day. My choice for this present day is straightforward. I need to be with my household and go to the annual church picnic at St. Gregory’s in Indian Orchard—the group where I used to be born and raised. Though I have been a Bostonian for a few years, this is the place my roots are. This is residence. This yr our family once again loved the spirit of this small Armenian group with a heart of gold.

The opportunity for enhancing group and institutional participation is all the time on my thoughts. It transcends all features of our diaspora life from individual id to institutional sustainability to the homeland. It’s in the small and medium-sized communities where the wrestle for continuance could be very visible. Additionally it is the place I all the time study something new about this problem we face as a larger group. It’s in the small communities where native economics might restrict an influx of latest families; this is the place shades of ambivalence or absence might be devastating. Smaller communities are isolated from a few of the cultural assets and replenishment of bigger communities resembling Boston or New York metro. In fact, this doesn’t exempt the latter from the problem, however it takes on a unique dimension. But despite the struggles in these small, venerable communities, general you’ll discover constructive attitudes, heat and power.

During the Sunday afternoon picnic, I spoke with several individuals on this topic which invariably surfaces. When one thing good begins to wrestle, we all the time ask ourselves…why? Why are our Sunday Faculties weaker? Why is church attendance down? Why are our youth not becoming a member of establishments as a lot as their mother and father? The tragedy and the dilemma is that longtime dedicated people experience this decline and really feel powerless to reverse it. This is the place management is required to restore hope.

I want to share two conversations I had, what I discovered and how it provides me hope. Whereas having fun with my kebab dinner, I sat next to an aged man I have recognized all my life. He is one among the best individuals I have recognized—devoted, type and artistic. He checked out me and stated, “Look at all the people here today. Lots of young faces who are local. If they came more often, just imagine how much better things would be.” He was not complaining. His tone was more targeted on a chance. We instantly engaged in a brief dialogue on why. Why will we see them socializing at a picnic or bazaar, but not collaborating in group institutions or shifting from the periphery?

In fact all the commonplace challenges are there: secular society, intermarriage and time allocation. However there are additionally successes from the similar generational pool. We concluded that there remains some thread of id. They got here for a cause. Maybe the food, however in all probability more. We have now all met individuals who have been raised in the group, where the seeds of their heritage have been planted. Typically they blossom. Typically they go dormant solely to awaken with some connection later in life. As a group, we will never hand over on our wandering flock. We have to be prepared to offer the stimulus via revolutionary packages and relationships that may re-awaken what’s sleeping.

I say relationships because lots of our establishments fulfill a social want. “I have my friends at church.” “I love working with my colleagues at the ABGU.” “The Knights of Vartan offers me an opportunity to work on important projects with like-minded people.” “AIWA has helped me grow as an Armenian woman.” All of these are typical comments on the benefits of participation. It goes past the mission of the organization. Small communities are closely relationship-dependent as a result of they don’t sometimes have entry to the bigger infrastructure. They have discovered to make due with much less. I walked away from that dialog having discovered something about the dynamics of participation and new ideas on making connections.

each of us must internalize that we will make a distinction.

Later in the afternoon, I wandered over to the grilling area, which is often an excellent source of conversation. I talked with a gentleman from the Hartford group who has household regionally. I’ve recognized him to be a critical Armenian American who’s deeply concerned about lots of the group dynamics I have addressed on this column. The Higher Hartford group is comprised of three Apostolic church buildings: two in New Britain (one Prelacy and one Diocese) and a Diocesan church in Hartford. All three are on the small to medium measurement. He was sharing his concern about the lack of cultural exercise in the area. Apparently, the basic group has carried out surveys asking group members for feedback on their needs and their views on how you can improve the vibrancy of the church life.

There was consensus that cultural programming was wanted and needed, but missing. The first constraint is that no single parish has the assets to usher in this sort of exercise to the common Hartford space. Just lately they shaped a committee from all three communities to deal with these wants. They’re hoping to convey a dance or vocal group to the space for a group efficiency. Right here is an instance of a brand new type of group participation: the “unified” efforts to deliver our widespread tradition to the group and foster much-needed relationships. As time has healed the wounds of our division, many communities are rebuilding these fractured relationships by way of joint ventures. Motivated by an ability to do more once we work as one, this opens up a whole new area of larger group participation—one that many have an extended held ardour for. Since disunity is one among the “turn off” elements, especially in the rising era, they could inspire others to turn out to be extra lively in our establishments. I applaud the efforts of these in the Hartford-New Britain communities for their courage and dedication to creating a better setting.

What I’ve discovered and what continues to be re-enforced each day is that participation is a worth greatest instilled by mother and father by means of position modeling. However I’ve additionally discovered that it’s by no means too late for these connections to occur. As youngsters, we study from our mother and father. As adults, we develop expertise and pursuits that can function a connection to group. These expertise are presents granted from God. Sharing them is natural expectation. It’s also clear that our individuals are resilient and artistic in sustaining our sense of group. Reaching out to those who might have drifted or who are looking is a key component of creating a stronger setting. It is all about making connections. Aligning the expertise and interests of people with the wants of our group is the definition of institutional sustainability.

So what can we do to enhance the results? In the beginning, every of us must internalize that we will make a distinction. Whether or not you are a chief in your group, one among many volunteers contributing your piece to the puzzle or somebody presently on the sidelines wanting in, your actions (or inaction) may have an adjoining influence.

Final week I discussed that solely about 46 % of respondents to the Diaspora Survey have been “often” volunteers in establishments of the group, whereas one other 27 % responded “sometimes.” At the similar time, 68 % of the east coast respondents determine as “Armenian” or “Armenian American.” The opposite choices subordinate the Armenian id. What this says is that although less than half are lively in the group, almost seven out of ten determine as Armenians. That hole is the alternative. It illustrates that individually most Armenians determine with their heritage, but many do not apply that id in the group structure. The reasons for this will not be shocking but are essential. Whether it is lack of time (which is one other method to say it’s less essential) or the picture they see shouldn’t be engaging, breaking via those limitations is the key to growing the 46 %.

This is troublesome however crucial work. It requires all of us to look into the mirror and ask ourselves to define our commitment to the id we declare. It additionally requires our leaders and choice makers to be prepared to adapt and institute change the place applicable to change the paradigm. Give these on the periphery a unique picture. Surveys are ineffective until we do one thing with the knowledge. Main institutions ought to be digesting the content and instituting packages to deal with the opportunity. Another survey in three to five years can be helpful, but when we move ahead, will probably be visibly evident in the brief term. Open the doorways, and let the recent air of latest considering replenish our establishments.

Stepan Piligian

Stepan was raised in the Armenian group of Indian Orchard, MA at the St. Gregory Parish. A former member of the AYF Central Government and the Japanese Prelacy Government Council, he additionally served a few years as a delegate to the Japanese Diocesan Meeting. Presently , he serves as a member of the board and government committee of the Nationwide Association for Armenian Studies and Analysis (NAASR). He also serves on the board of the Armenian Heritage Foundation. Stepan is a retired government in the pc storage business and resides in the Boston space together with his wife Susan. He has spent a few years as a volunteer instructor of Armenian history and modern issues to the young era and adults at faculties, camps and churches. His pursuits embrace the Armenian diaspora, Armenia, sports and studying.

Stepan Piligian