The Spirit of Togetherness in Franklin’s City

Philadelphia, July 2010: “Mher, a legendary figure of inspiring power symbolizing the invincible faith of the Armenian people - the first nation to endorse Christianity” reads the inscription on the 22-foot-high Young Meher monument, a gift by the Armenian community to the city of Philadelphia on April 24, 1976 on the occasion of the US Bicentennial. The
sculptor Khoren Der Harootian (1909-1991), a genius of an artist, has Mher holding the cross up and at the base a panoramic basrelief in bronze depicting major tragic events in the history of the Armenian people but
that culminated in their resurrection like the Phoenix from the ashes.
It was this same survival-against-all-theodds history that I witnessed while I preached at the Armenian Evangelical Martyrs’ Congregational Church in Havertown on Sunday, July 4, 2010.
Indeed, Rev. Nishan Bakalian’s inspiring leadership has been very instrumental in the life of the Church. Rev. Bakalian, a Philly, moved with his family to Beirut twice to serve in the institutions of the Union of the Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East. He is back in his home city now with the zeal and passion to do more within the Armenian Evangelical Church and Armenian community.
The Armenian Evangelical Church in Philadelphia was founded in 1907 by Rev. Haig Yardumian. The present building in the suburb of Havertown was built in 1964.
This century-old history of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Philadelphia is a living testimony of the community’s commitment to Christ, His Word, and the Armenian nation.
Philadelphia, with its lush green scenery and the beautiful Delaware River, is one of the most beautiful cities in the US. The city is especially proud of one of its citizens, Benjamin Franklin, who was one of the Founding Fathers of the US. Franklin, a writer, inventor, diplomat, businessman, musician, scientist, humanist, and civic leader, helped found a new nation and define the American character.
Rightly, Philadelphia is dubbed as “the city of brotherly love”, as it is home for more than 15,000 Armenians. I also sensed this “brotherly love” when I met with the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic clergy at the luncheon organized by the Armenian Evangelical Church on the occasion of the Independence Day. A spirit of togetherness has been established over the last 50 years where the whole community come together regularly to celebrate Vartanants, Martyrs’ Day, and Tarkmanchats. This same spirit is rooted in the daily lives of the community where the five established Armenian churches, Armenian Catholic St. Mark, Armenian Apostolic Sts. Sahag and Mesrob, Holy Trinity, and St. Gregory the Illuminator, and Armenian Congregational Martyrs’, come together regularly for fellowship, consultation, and celebration of cultural, religious, and historical events.
The Armenian community in Philadelphia is faithful to the historical values of their adopted city with a spirit of togetherness. It is this same spirit that creates a new history with Mher’s enduring power for struggle, existence, and identity.

Hrayr Jebejian