A Village Remembered: The Armenians of Habousi - The Compatriotic Union of Habousi

Chapter 25:

Ararat Armenian Congregational Church

Habousetzies were very active in the Armenian Protestant church too.

For many years, Armenians had wanted to have sermons in their own language in the United States. One day, they expressed their wish to the pastor of the Congregational Church of Lawrence Street, Rev. Volkat.

Affected by the piety of immigrant Armenians, Rev. Volkat wanted to help them. At first, he opened the basement hall of the church for services, and then he looked for an Armenian speaking preacher who would dedicate some time to service the community. He learned of the availability of Rev. Sahag Hovsepian, pastor of the Worcester Armenian Evangelical Church.

He sent for him to come and organize the Bethel Evangelical Church of Lawrence, with the assistance of the pastor of the Congregational Church of Lawrence Street. Rev. Volkat kindly undertook part of the new pastor’s salary and offered his church to the Armenian community for use.
The community grew rapidly in number because of new immigrants from the Old Country. Many Armenian Protestants gathered in the town of Salem, New Hampshire.

The following were the prominent members of the Salem Armenian community: Avedis Vartanian, Garabed Matorian, Bedros Yezegelian of Habousi; Melkon Garabedian, Sarkis Garabedian, Vosgian Jamgochian, Garabed Jamgochian of Garmir; Sarkis Danielian, and Krikor Danielian of Khokh.

These first occupants of Salem attended Bethel Church for a short time, but due to commuting difficulties they finally decided to build a church of their own.

On October 25, 1912, a meeting was held in Hagop Jamgochian’s house, initiated by Melkon Garabedian. Close to twenty-five people attended the meeting, together with Rev. Kapriel Bedrosian. Melkon Garabedian, Ghougas Akmakjian, Hagop Kachadorian, Avedis Vartanian, and Hagop Jamgochian were elected to pursue the establishment of a church under the leadership of Rev. Bedrosian. The church as a community chose to be called Ararat Armenian Evangelical Church.

When this matter was brought to the attention of the missionaries of New Hampshire’s Congregational Churches, they supported the idea, and the church was built in 1912 and anointed on October 12, 1913, in the presence of a huge crowd, with many government officials and Armenian and American preachers among them.

The first pastor was Rev. Bedrosian who was the pastor of Bethel Church as well. He was a very dedicated preacher who helped the community and established a school for teenagers to teach them Armenian. In addition, he organized seminars to educate adults and to inform them about Armenia and Armenian community life. A choir was established under his direct supervision, and an Auxiliary Women’s Union too.

When the volunteer movement for the liberation of Cilicia began, the church donated $1,000 to that noble cause. Ever since, the church has actively participated in all major fundraising events to help Armenia and Armenians.

Following is a list of the preachers:
Rev. Kapriel Bedrosian of Van—1911-1918.
Rev. Tavit Pakhchoyan of Van—1918-1920.
Rev. Markar Der Asadourian—1920-1921.
Rev. Vahan Tamzarian of Kharpert, who was named the Father of the Community for his exceptional kindness—1921-1925.
Rev. Yeprem Jernazian of Marash, a very enthusiastic preacher under whom was built the parsonage—1925-1926.
Rev. Socrates Mackitarian of Bitlis, a graduate of Euphrates College, who was able to maintain the Armenian character of the church and under whom the church prospered—1927-1942.
Rev. Arsen Goergizian of Van under whom the church became self sufficient and was known to a larger sector of the population—1943-1953.
Rev. George Cary of Haverhill, an American preacher, who helped the church until an Armenian preacher was found—1953-1955.
Rev. Mihran M. Koeroghlian of Deortyol, Cilicia—1955-1962.
Rev. Avedis Jean Zarifian—1962-1967.
Rev. Zaven Dohanian, under whom was celebrated the “burning of the church’s mortgage”—1967-1973.
Rev. Lincoln Thomas—1973-1974.
Rev. Soghomon Nuyujukian—1974-1980.
Rev. Robert Swanson—1980–1981.
Rev. John Mokkosian—1981–1985.
Rev. Robert Swanson—1985 to present.