By David Luhrssen
(Greenfield, Wis.) The members and friends of St. John the Baptist Armenian Church in suburban Milwaukee marked the parish’s 72nd anniversary on Nov. 11, 2012. The diocesan vicar of the Armenian Church’s Eastern Diocese, Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, celebrated liturgy that Sunday and offered a requiem for the godfathers and their wives of the parish. A banquet and program in the church’s cultural hall followed the conclusion of services.
Included in the program was a presentation by Chris Flieller, artistic director of Milwaukee’s In Tandem Theatre company. In Tandem will present Richard Kalinoski’s award-winning play on survivors of the Armenian Genocide, A Beast on the Moon, in March 2013. Flieller pointed out that the play is set in Milwaukee during the 1920s and concerned the travails of a married couple of Genocide survivors, Aram and Seta Tomasian. A Beast on the Moon has been translated into many languages and, Flieller added, is currently playing on stages in Spain, Italy and Estonia.
The keynote speaker, St. John’s parish priest, Rev. Fr. Nareg Keutelian, addressed several topics, among them the plight of Armenians in Syria and the destruction of the Genocide Memorial Complex at Der Zor.. Fr. Keutelian also spoke of the importance of church as “a sacred space set aside for our encounter with God.” Many Christians have lost touch with the sacredness of worship “when they abandoned traditions meant to remind us that we are in God’s presence. The loss of the sense of the sacred might be one reason many people are not eager for church attendance. When we realize church is a holy place, a place of encounter with God, one another and ourselves, worship becomes an uplifting experience.”
Fr. Odabashian concluded the program with memories of his connection to the Milwaukee Armenian community, including his presence as a seminarian at the consecration of St. John in 1986, and remarks on the local community as an extended family whose members include Armenians born in the U.S., the Soviet Union and the Middle East along with non-ethnic Armenians who have assumed leading roles.