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Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church of Chelmsford

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Lowell Sun, MA
Oct 30 2005

Donors give Chelmsford church a gracious gift

CHELMSFORD -- Ara Jeknavorian's biggest goal as a deacon of Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church has been to keep the church open, making sure hundreds of Armenian-Americans can see a traditional Christmas Mass filled with lantern lights every year.

That's because the nearly century-old church has had financial difficulties for years as an increasing number of parishioners struggle to make ends meet.

But, Jeknavorian and his fellow parishioners' wishing to `keep candles burning' got one step closer to a reality after a recent, generous cash donation made it possible for the church to pay off its mortgage.

`The church was in a big celebration mood for receiving such a wonderful gift,' Jeknavorian said after attending a mortgage-burning ceremony that drew 250 people to the church on Oct. 23.

The donation, made by the late Gordon and Virginia Bedrosian, afforded the church to secure the 30-year-old complex on Old Westford Road, do repairs and maintenance, and hire a full-time priest, he said.

The church was opened in 1916 in Lowell by Armenian immigrants. Its members consider it to be their `spiritual home,' Jeknavorian said. The church offers Armenian-language instruction to children, and Mass is held in both English and Armenian.

Armenian-Americans maintain strong sense of cultural identity, and often look for an Armenian church when moving to a new town, Jeknavorian said. He estimates there are about 10,000 Armenian descendants in the Merrimack Valley. The church has 150 dues-paying members, and 700 people on its mailing list. The church provides services to 1,000 when those who only attend for baptism or other special occasions are factored in, he said. The church currently has only a visiting priest from Cambridge.

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History of Sts. Vartanantz Church

By 1908, a group of Armenian women realized the need for an organized Armenian community and started a women's social organization. In 19l0, the first Ladies Aid Society was established with primary hopes of building a church. In 19l3, with the help of the Armenian men of the community, a building committee was formed. This committee raised enough funds to purchase a small parcel of land on Lawrence Street in Lowell. Their dream of building a church was finally realized in 19l6 when the Saints Vartanantz Armenian Church was consecrated, making it one of the first Armenian churches built in America. Set high on the property , the church was a small brick building with an Armenian architectural bell tower. For nearly 60 years, this edifice was the center for all Armenians and served the spiritual, social, educational, and cultural needs of the Greater Lowell Armenian community.

As the Armenian community continued to grow, parishioners began to move to other areas of Lowell and the church began to explore the possibilities of expansion. Under the pastorship of the Very Reverend Father Ghevont Samoorian, the parish decided to move from the site in the city to a new location in a nearby suburb. The new site consisted of a private school building located on l6 acres of land in Chelmsford, Massachusetts overlooking the hills of southern New Hampshire. In 1974, the parish moved into the new building and began their vigorous fund-raising campaign. A new building committee was established, and architect was hired, and construction of the new sanctuary began in l976. During construction, church services were held in many different locations of the attached school complex, including the gymnasium and library.

Finally in June of l978, the Saints Vartanantz Armenian Church of Chelmsford, Massachusetts was completed and the consecration ceremonies were performed by His Eminence, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian. The architectural design of the church is a replica of the old "Cathedral of Ani" in Armenia and is referred to as "Little Ani" by its parishioners. After a major modernization and renovation in l990, the complex now consists of the church sanctuary, the parish offices, a pastor's study, numerous classrooms, a kitchen a library, Ghourgoian Dining Room, Kazanjian Memmorial Ballroom, and a large outdoor area for picnics and social events.

The Saints Vartanantz Armenian Church of Chelmsford is a tribute to the many dedicated, loyal and energetic men and women who unselfishly devoted their time, their tireless efforts, their souls for the love of their Armenian faith and tradition. The church is a testament to their devotion and strong will. With their continued allegiance and service it will thrive, prosper and flourish into the next century for the many generations of Armenians and non-Armenians to come.

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Chelmsford - Saints Vartanantz Armenian Church

Pastor Rev. Fr. Khachatur Kesablyan was born in Etchmiadzin, Armenia and served as chaplain to the Armenian Army from 1999 to 2001. From 2005 to 2006 he was pastor of the City of Kapan and its 30 surrounding villages in southern Armenia. He came to the United States in 2006 and continued his religious service and education in Cambridge, Brookline and Boston.

St. Vartan

The church is named for an Armenian hero named St. Vartan. In 451 AD during the Battle of Avarayr, St. Vartan and others fought a Persian army to defend the Christian faith, which the Persian ruler had demanded they abandon in favor of the pagan religion of Zoroastrianism, which involved fire worship. St. Vartan and many of his comrades died, but the Persians eventually stopped trying to convert Armenia. The Feast of Vartanantz, a religious and nationalistic celebration, is held on the Thursday before Great Lent.


The Armenian Ladies Aid Society formed in 1910 with the goal of building an Armenian church. Eventually Saints Vartanantz Armenian Church was built on a small piece of land on Lawrence Street in Lowell. During the next 60 years, the Armenian community grew and church leaders began to consider expansion. In 1974 they moved into a private school building on 16 acres of land in Chelmsford and held services in the gymnasium and library while a new sanctuary was designed and constructed. In June 1978, construction finished.

The church is a replica of the old "Cathedral of Ani" in Armenia, a domed cruciform church built in 1001 AD that is considered a masterpiece of architecture. It was updated in 1990 and now includes a library, dining room, ballroom, and outdoor event area.


Jan. 19 Dinner and Travelogue on Moscow, Armenia and Dubai, with a chicken kebab dinner.

Feb. 12 Presentation of the Lord to the Temple. All children baptized at the church in 2011 are invited to be re-dedicated at the altar.

Feb. 16 Commemoration of St. Vartan the Warrior and his companions.

Feb. 18 Poon Paregentan Dinner-Dance, featuring Middle Eastern music and vocal, clarinet, keyboard, guitar and dumbeg performances.

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