Days we used to know; Now 29 years later.

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Ian & Me – 1994 in San Jose, CA
Whenever I get to feel this way,
try to find new words to say,
I think about the bad old days
we used to know.

Nights of winter turn me cold –
fears of dying, getting old.
We ran the race and the race was won
by running slowly.

Could be soon we’ll cease to sound,
slowly upstairs, faster down.
Then to revisit stony grounds,
we used to know.

Remembering mornings, shillings spent,
made no sense to leave the bed.
The bad old days they came and went
giving way to fruitful years.

Saving up the birds in hand
while in the bush the others land.
Take what we can before the man
says it’s time to go.

Each to his own way I’ll go mine.
Best of luck with what you find.
But for your own sake remember times
we used to know.
-Ian Anderson
(Jethro Tull 1969)
Another day of reflection. Twenty nine years to the day Fr. Vazken was born. Days are lost, one in another. Filling up moments with mission and ministry.  Each September 26 is a convenient opportunity for reflection, accounting and rededication. A few years ago, I remember I wrote the manifesto for the “Next Step” and it pushed me to take the next step in this ministry God has graced me with.
On the eve of ordination, by spiritual father, Abp. Vatché asked me, to vow to never to substitute the worldly work with that of spreading the Gospel of Christ. I took a vow to never tire and by the Grace of God, I’ve been given this awesome ministry that has had challenges, but keeps me ever vigilant in the work of spreading a message of love, hope and peace.
The years go by, the message is the same and the audience changes.
Well do you ever get the feeling that the stories too damn real and in the present tense? Or that everybody’s on the stage and you’re the only person, sitting in the audience?
 And so the challenge – to stay relevant. The beauty of Christ’s message is that it is always relevant, because it is pure. It is based on love and peace. The foundation of the message IS love and peace. And the message produces love and peace.
I’m listening to Jethro Tull as I write these notes. Tull music has been my inspiration. They are playing a version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” at the moment. It is SO relevant. The beat is picked up and it flows. An ancient melody making me swing right now, pushing the keyboard strokes in rhythm.
So to my old headmaster and to anyone who cares, before I’m through I’d like to say my prayers. I don’t believe you. You have the whole damn thing all wrong. He’s not the kind of god you wind up on Sundays.
The Church was in my veins from early days. I was brought up in the Church. I’ve been told that my first words were spoken in the church: pointing to a light, I exclaimed “Looys” and so I can even claim mythical roots to this growth. 
My growth through orthodoxy has been nurtured by many factors, perhaps non greater than the music that has filled my ears from childhood – church music, ethnic Armenian music, the beat on the streets and the incredibly large collection of music by Jethro Tull. In fact, I can safely say that the music of Jethro Tull pushed me to the priesthood. It has been a constant tune that has been playing in the background as I grew and developed. It has kept beat with me and by the Grace of God, it has been a constant in my life for the last 40+ years, consistently inspiring me, with genius lyrics coupled with complex tunes and a nasally voice that mimics the best of the Armenian deacons of the old world. (Only last year I found a group that had made the connection with me – Bambir and their album, “Armenian Scotch” connecting the dots between the Caucasus mountains of Armenia and the Highlands of the United Kingdom.)

Have you seen Jack-In-The-Green? With his long tail hanging down. He sits quietly under every tree,   in the folds of his velvet gown…. Jack, do you never sleep, does the green still run deep in your heart? Or will these changing times, motorways, powerlines, keep us apart? Well, I don’t think so, I saw some grass growing through the pavements today.
Ian Anderson is the genius behind the band. It is remarkable that he has kept Tull going for the last four decade – and though the music develops, say between a “Beggars Farm” (1968) and “Farm on the Freeway (1989) and the “Rupi’s Dance” (21st century), there is a drone – the dahm – humming through it all. When I hear some of the tunes combined with the magical lyrics I don a smile, “from ear to hear” and my spirit fills with awe, with wonder. When I first heard “Thick as Brick” in 1972 and sat through five performances of “Passion Play” in 1973 – I was overwhelmed by the fact that such monumental pieces of music, each 45 minutes in length, could exist in the mind of one man. I began to understand what power God has given us to express the Love in our heart. It is in that expression that we find the Creative Energy that comes from without and resides within.
I’ve been walking this walk for over 29 years, considering I answered the Call when I came to terms with the idea the God is “not the kind you wind up on Sundays.” The beauty of God is not something that can be limited. We’ve done a great job of throwing Him inside “His golden cage” and thrown away the key. The Call has always been and continues to be to open that cage. Once opened, you find what the Apostle John explains, “God is Love.” That Love needs to be expressed. It is the basis of peace and peace comes where there is Love.
I was ordained at St. James, Los Angeles in 1982. Father Arshag Khatchadourian and Father Levon Apelian were my sponsors.  Both were Dzayrakoyn Vartabeds of the Church. Archbishop Vatché Hovsepian ordained me, assisted by Bishop Aris Shirvanian, Fr. Dirayr Dervishian, Fr. Sipan Mekhsian, Fr. Samuel Aghoyan, Fr. Kevork Arakelian, Fr. Vartan Kasparian,  Fr. Datev Tatoulian . I was blessed to have spent my days of seclusion there under the dome of the “empire” church.
Do we inhabit some micro-space and interface through wires. Dance on a printed circuit board throw the software to the fires. My memory is slim — so volatile but I’m learning. Plug yourself in. Stay for awhile un-discerning. And on dusty terminals, finger me lightly do. And QWERTY is the name of love printed on the V.D.U. Cut yourself free. We’re all alone communicating. User Friendly, that’s what I am to you!
From 1982 to 1996 I was assigned to the Pastorate at the Armenian Church of the Santa Clara Valley. During that time we built and consecrated an Armenian Church dedicated to the First-called Disciple of Jesus Christ, St. Andrew. It was there that we formed our new family. Susan would took classes and graduated San Jose State, the boys were born and raised in Cupertino. We learned the importance of community in the Life of the Christian – that our only hope was to extend ourselves to one another. We raised our children with the understanding that Love and Harmony were attainable with faith in your heart and the willingness to extend yourself beyond yourself.
It was there that we learned and explored social justice as the world was changing in our sight. Santa Clara Valley became Silicon Valley as technology exploded and shrunk our world. We learned of world tragedies in the time it took for electrons to travel from the remote corners of the earth to our electronic nerve center. I set up and established the first electronic information network dedicated to the Armenian nation, church and cause.  With Hratch Tchilingirian we published “Window, View of the Armenian Church” during one of the most difficult and challenging times in the life of the Armenian nation. Communism collapsed, Armenia was free. The Armenian Church was ill-prepared to meet the needs of the people as the spirit was awakened in them. We fight the battle against materialism that consumed the post-Soviet generation until now.

So lean upon Him gently, and don’t call on Him to save you from your social graces and the sins you use to waive. …
In 1996 the Call moved us to Southern California to build the church in Pasadena. There we built up a community from a pitiful handful to thousands as the word of Love and Peace was spread once again. The St. Gregory Hovsepian Day school saw waiting lists, we went on Television and established our first Internet broadcast of the Divine Liturgy. Yes, we were building the Church, but the powers at the parish wanted to merely build a church (small-case ‘c’). They couldn’t see beyond their nose, the forest from the trees.
I listened to the command of our Lord, “Whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.” (Luke 10:11) 
We left St. Gregory Pasadena, and have never looked back. God was leading us in new directions. We ended up at the Diocese, establishing a Youth Ministry – to oversee the ACYO, Camp and Education, each feeding the other. But, that same year we got a new bishop who did not see a value or benefit in having such a department.  Subsequently, the Youth Ministries evolved into the St. Peter Armenian Church of Glendale.
Some rocky roads were in our path. 
A mule falls into a pit. He is old. The owner does not want the mule to suffer and decides to put it out of its misery. He starts to pour dirt into the pit to bury the mule. As each shovel of dirt hits the mule on his back, the mule shakes it off and lets it fall to the ground. The dirt lifts him up ever so slightly. And so, the mule, shakes and steps up. Slowly he rises out of the pit. The same dirt that was to kill him, became his salvation.
That’s how I’ve felt these past several years. God is teaching me to shake it off and take a step up. I took one step out of the pit and it was “in the shoes” of my brother and my sister. The In His Shoes Movement was born. A trip to Rwanda allowed me to see the Armenian Church as a LIVING Church – one which has a mission beyond the Armenian people, with a message that needs to be heard throughout the world. We spoke the truth of Love and began a campaign of universal Peace as expressed in the expression 7×77. There is a Truth that is greater than the Church – it is God. Christ is the Incarnation of God, therefore the Incarnation of Love. In Christ we understand how it all comes together. And we express that Love as a United Means of Salvation – it is erotic, filial and agape all in one. That’s Christ.
Hello you straight laced lady, dressed in white, but your shoes aren’t clean. Painted them up with polish in the hope we can’t see where you’ve been. The smiling face that you’ve worn to greet me rising at morning. Sent me out to work for my score, please me and say what its for. … Give me the straight laced promise and not the pathetic lie…. Sossity: You’re a woman. Society: You’re a woman.
And so… we have evolved. We’re bringing it all together, the good and the bad from throughout the years. And we’re calling it Armodoxy. It’s a “hyebrid” of Armenian Orthodoxy made relevant, NOT by touching the message, but by speaking to the times. It is much like the Armenian Scotch – with all the power of moutains, the people – from back there and here, from ancient times and today. It is the mix of chant and Rock & Roll. It is walking in the Sandals of Christ and In the Shoes of the homeless, the cancer victim and the prisoner. Armodoxy has arrived. And the process is flowing forward. 
We’re a church on the corner in Glendale with a worldwide mission. Today God has moved us to new heights. Epostle took form as “Apostolic Evangelism for an electronic world.” We are podcasting “Next Step” and just last week we launched “Compass.” We are streaming Bible studies and sermons. We’re a church that is growing in the right direction because our success is measured in people and not brick and mortar.

In days of peace, sweet smelling summer nights, of wine and song; dusty pavements burning feet. Why am I crying, I want to know. How can I smile and make it right? For sixty days and eighty nights and not give in and lose the fight. I’m going back to the ones that I know, with whom I can be what I want to be. Just one week for the feeling to go and with you there to help me, then it probably will.
Jesus asked me to follow Him. I’m blessed. I’m not alone. My family, is committed to the cause and is taking the giant steps with me. I’m further blessed because there are people all around me who understand the same and know that our only hope and salvation is through the spreading of Christ’s Love for a lasting peace.
When Christ called me, he said,  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11)
My body was assaulted this year, but God has brought me to this 29th anniversary and I’m renewing my commitment to the same cause and the same mission that I vowed to 29 years ago: Love. Speak it, spread it and live it. Tonight I’m humming it. Thanks Ian. Thanks to everyone. Now let’s move forward…
So you ride yourselves over the fields
 and you make all your animal deals
and your wise men don’t know how it feels
to be Thick as a Brick.
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Vazken Movsesian

1 Comment

  1. And it’s only the giving that makes you what you are!!!!

    Beautifully written. I appreciated the influence that music has had in your ministry of truth and love.

    May God bless you with many healthy, productive years ahead! Keep spreading the word!

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