St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of San Francisco Honors Community Members at Annual Banquet – Archpriest Fr. Nareg Shrikian and Khajag Sarkissian Receive Inaugural Leadership Award

On Saturday, October 4, 2014, the parish community of St. Gregory the Illuminator Church of San Francisco gathered at Saroyan Hall of the Khatchaturian Armenian Community Center to celebrate the anniversary of the church and to honor Archpriest Fr. Nareg Shrikian and Mr. Khajag Sarkissian with the inaugural Leadership Award for their service and contributions to the community.

H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, presided over the annual banquet, which was organized by the Pastor and Board of Trustees, and conveyed his blessings to the honorees and to the community. Executive Council members Dr. Navasart Kazazian and Mr. Nerses Teshoian were among the 250 guests in attendance.

The Master of Ceremonies for the evening, KZV Armenian School Alumni and St. Gregory Church Board of Trustees member Naira Der Kureghian, welcomed the guests and invited the Prelate for the invocation.

Prior to the start of the formal program, a tribute video was shown highlighting the lives and accomplishments of the honorees. In his remarks on behalf of the Board of Trustees, Chairman Mr. Rostom Aintablian referenced Rev. Shrikian and Mr. Sarkissian as the “Builder” and the “Godfather.”

Mr. Sarkis Sarkissian, Khajag Sarkissian’s nephew, delivered an impassioned salute to his uncle, recalling the deeply rooted pains of the Armenian Genocide and the humble beginnings of a man who would go on to dedicate his time to his family and his community.

Archpriest Fr. Khoren Habeshian, Pastor of St. Gregory Armenian Church, thanked the Prelate for joining the community in honoring its members, and invited His Eminence to deliver his message.

The Prelate greeted the guests and congratulated the recipients of the Leadership Award. He noted that as children of God and members of the Armenian Apostolic Church we are one body, with our Lord Jesus Christ as our head, and that each one of us has an important role to play in the health of that body, within our homes and within our communities through our local churches and schools. The Prelate underscored that the Armenian people have succeeded in preserving our ancient faith, language, and customs, because we have individuals who selflessly serve and actively strive to preserve and promote our ethnic and religious identity. “Today we are delighted to honor two individuals who truly embody this spirit of service, Archpriest Fr. Nareg Shrikian and Mr. Khajag Sarkissian”, said His Eminence, and went on to extol the lifetime of dedicated service of the two honorees. “In the inspiring example of our evening’s honorees and of generations who have served since the founding of St. Gregory Church, may you all collectively pledge your commitment to actively participate in and make a positive impact on our church and community life”, concluded the Prelate.

His Eminence was then joined at the podium by Fr. Khoren and Mr. Aintablian to present the Leadership Award s. On behalf of the Prelacy, the Prelate presented letters of blessing to the honorees. Ms. Azadouhie Bidanian, a relative of Fr. Nareg, accepted the award and letter of blessing on his behalf given that he could not be in attendance, and read his remarks thanking the Prelate and parish for the honor.

The official program ended with the singing of Giligia and the Armenian national anthem. The evening included a performance by soprano singer Helene Zindarsian and Annig Zindarsian, accompanied on the piano by Carolyn Renshaw.

On Sunday, October 5, the Prelate celebrated Divine Liturgy and delivered the sermon at St. Gregory Church. His Eminence tied in the day’s Gospel reading on the authority of Christ to the service of the prior evening’s banquet honorees, stating that although ultimate authority rests with our Lord, God delegates authority to certain individuals to serve as our leaders. Noting that with authority must come humility, the Prelate said, “Last night’s honorees, Archpriest Fr. Nareg Shrikian and Mr. Khajag Sarkissian are wonderful examples of authority, or leadership, with humility. They both served and continue to serve faithfully and humbly, with authority delegated by God and driven by our faith and national values. Indeed they have left an indelible mark with their life of service. Let us too, in their example, serve humbly and devotedly, with sincere motives and without any expectations in return.”

The Prelate began his sermon by telling of Jesus cleansing the Temple of those who turned it into a marketplace, noting that today also there are those who wish and attempt to profit from our sacred houses of prayer for their personal gain. And so “we must be attentive and ensure that the members of our churches and national institutions serve solely to glorify God and to spread the truth and light of our faith and heritage”. Expounding on the Gospel passage of the day, His Eminence imparted the lesson and message of the reading to the congregation, stating that we accept Christ as our Lord and place our absolute trust in Him and in His authority because of our faith and belief in God’s Word, breathed to us through the Scriptures. But because of our human and sinful nature, at times we struggle to submit to authority and our pride and arrogance leads us to close our eyes and ears to the truth and even to defy the truth. Rather than challenging authority, reality, and righteousness, we must instead humbly acknowledge and accept the truth, and live and serve according to God’s commandments, to our church canons, and to the national values bequeathed from generation to generation for the centuries. We must humbly and fully submit to God’s divine authority and holy will and open wide our spiritual eyes and ears to the Truth that our Savior Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, concluded the Prelate.

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