LA CRESCENTA, Calif.,—The Crescenta Valley Armenian Apostolic Church is spearheading a program to include families who have children with special needs in its spiritual outreach to the community. The program is being developed in partnership with the Armenian Autism Outreach Project, a parent support and community education and outreach nonprofit organization of parents and professionals established in 2006. The planning options were discussed at the biweekly CV Church trustees meeting held on June 3. Participating in the meeting were two AAOP board members, Nora Chitilian Kalachian and Sonia Konialian Aller, as well as Aram Bekarian. The three, as the program committee, will coordinate with Tina Sofian who will be the church trustee liaison.
Following the opening prayer led by Reverent Ghevont Kirazian, Chairman Hrayr Garabedian explained the deliberations of the various Church and national governing entities that, with the blessing of Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, led to the decision to launch the program this summer. Garabedian said that the program idea is based on the recognition that prayer fulfills a universal spiritual need of human beings, which for many people is met by attending church, and particularly, by participating in the celebration of Holy Mass. Father Ghevont stressed that the mission of the Church has always been to minister to all the faithful, and if accommodations are required for some, the CV church is ready to provide them.
After considering a number of options including time and place, it was decided to launch the program in two stages, starting on Sunday, July 28. As the first stage, the services with accommodations will be on the five Sundays that celebrate each of the five Cardinal Feasts of the Church’s liturgical calendar: Christmas, Easter, the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ (Vartavar) (July 28), the Assumption of Saint Mary Mother of Jesus (August 18), and Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Khachveratz) (September 15). The idea behind this part of the plan is that, because each of these Feasts is celebrated with its unique tradition, for example, blessing of the grapes on Assumption Sunday, parents and children will be able to experience these special celebrations together. The third of these annual Feasts on the Church calendar, Vartavar, will be the first accommodated service of this year, on Sunday, July 28.
Holy Mass will be celebrated at the CV Church, 9 – 10 a.m. Parents and their children will attend jointly; trained volunteers will be providing support and assistance as needed for the children. The remaining two Feasts on the 2019 Church calendar will be celebrated on their respective, specified dates in August and September. In addition to the publicity through church media, AAOP will coordinate the dissemination of the information through the social media-based parent organizations as well as via email.
As part of the second stage, a short survey will be used to plan for expanded, regularly scheduled accommodated services throughout the year. Saturday evening services were discussed as an option. Parent input will be sought to get information about scheduling needs and preferences based on their and their children’s busy schedules which are often filled with therapy activities. AAOP will coordinate the survey distribution and the results will be the basis for planning the regularly conducted accommodated church services.
With prayerful first steps taken towards creating inclusive opportunities for all to participate as members of the Armenian Apostolic Church family, the planners of this significant outreach are filled with excitement and anticipation.