5300 White Oak Avenue - Encino - CA - 91316 - (818) 980-6919
HOLY MARTYRS ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH
In the broad scope of time, five decades may not seem like such a long time since achievements of an establishment are realized by centuries and not decades. However, if we intend to evaluate the accomplishments of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church, we will find that the Church has continuously provided for the San Fernando Valley Armenian community both as a spiritual and intellectual beacon.
The Holy Martyrs Church celebrated its 10th anniversary with exhuberance, its 25th anniversary with pride, and today it is celebrating its 40th anniversary of glory with a series of triumphs, beginnig with the the new purchase and renovation of the house next to the church. Every person who has given an effort in the progress of our chuch’s existance can now equally share the fruits of its labor that is the result of the last 48 years; the realization that the Holy Martyrs Armenian Church of the San Fernando Valley came to fully satisfy the needs of the local Armenian community. It would be impossible to acknowledge every single names of each generous benefactor who wholeheartedly dedicated their time, resources, and efforts during the course of our church’s existance. Yet there is no doubt that each and every person who partook in the realization of the dream of the Holy Martyrs Church deserves the blessing of thechurch and the recognition of the community.
The history of our fair church began with the commencement of the project on September 12th, 1958 in Hollywood Park, at a festival organized by the local ACF Apovian committee. The growing Armenian community in the San Fernando Valley who had immigrated from various provinces of Armenia such as Kharpert, Paghesh, and Van, as well as lran, had felt the need for the existence of a local Church; however, practical measures had not been taken and the idea had remained as such. The time had come to realize the vision. The beginning steps were taken during the above mentioned festival, where Florindo Arklin, who would become the first chairman of the future Board of Trustees, invited the community members to help him realize the dream.
The first step after the project began was to register names of the people willing to sponsor the undertaking. Encouraged by the number of sponsors, the small group of organizers contacted the Pastor of the Holy Cross Church of Montebello, Rev. Kourken Koudoulian. With the Pastor's assistance and Support, the newly originated committee began its activities by finding and contating any Armenian Last-names from the local telephone directory and inviting them to a meeting where an official Board of Trustees was elected. The members of that historical Board became Florindo Arclin-Chairman, William Paparian-Education Co-Chairman, Alidz Keshishian Secretary, Dr. Virgil Arclin-Co-Chairman, Martin Konjoyan-Treasurer, Richard Kedneyian and Aaad Tanielian-lnspectors, and Levon Andreasian-Advisor. Regular meetings were conducted at the Laurel Dale School in Pacoima for one full year.
Although the official decision of purchasing or building a church was not reached during these meetings, excitement within the small community reached an all-time high. The Christian spirit displayed by Saint David Episcopal Church of North Hollywood added onto the excitement where they eagerly offered their church to the Holy Martyrs group.
As the result of the generosity of Fr. Alexander Kemple, the Pastor of Saint David Episcopal Church, the Holy Martyrs community conducted its first Sunday Mass on October 12th, 1958. Rev. Kourken Koudoulian conducted the mass, as more than 300 parishioners attended. After the mass, lunch was served to the members and the guests of both communities.
The Holy Martyrs group continued to develop and organized a membership drive on February 8th, 1959. Once again, with the assistance of its Episcopal friends, the beautiful building of St. David was put under the group’s disposition. ln the presence of more than 250 enthusiastic guests, the telegraph of the Prelate of New York was read which decreed that the Armenian community of San Fernando Valley to have its own church. With the aid member drives, it finally became possible to expand the church activities. A choir and a Ladies' Auxiliary were formed.
Due to efforts of the latter group a number of successful fund raising events were organized. The Ladies'Auxiliary became famous for its cooking, about which articles were published in local newspapers. Understanding the need for a Sunday School, the church opened its Sunday School on April 12th, 1959, where 30 students began their Christian education with the help of devoted women. The fundraising event for purchasing a building on March 10th, 1960, coincided with the visit of Archbishop Khoren Paroyian (the future Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia) to Los Angeles, who visited the event and gave us much needed publicity.
After raising a substantial capital, plans were put in order to purchase a church in Van Nuys, which needed some repair to accommodate the communities needs. However, because of the continually growing number and the unusual interest displayed by the community, the limited land of the building that was to be purchased was considered insufficient. Consequently, searches for another piece of land remained underway. This quest culminated with the finding of a one acre strip of land at 5300 White Oak Avenue in Encino, priced at $75,000.
With the help of the ACF Apovian Committee of the region, the small number of community members was able to come up with the $25,000 down payment and on January of 1961 the land was purchased.
It is said that the owner of the land who was a member of the Anglican Church, realizing the land was being purchased for the purpose of constructing a church, excitedly reduced the amount of the land by $10,000 and sold it for $65,000, Just then Mrs. Satenig Arakelian notified the Holy Martyrs Board of Trustees that the newly built church possibly could benefit from the Arakelian Madour will which was in a court case in Merced, California. A land owner, farm owner, wine exporter, and benefactor from Fresno, Mr. Krikor Arakelian, a native of Marzvan, had left a will of $64,000 in his bank account for the construction of a church near the Senior Citizens' Residential Facility of Fresno in memory of his father-in-law, Mrs. Satenig Arakelian's father, Rev. Fr. Vartan Arslanian who had died in prison. After Krikor's death, the money that was kept in the bank combined with the interest had risen to $85,000. Mrs. Satenig Arakelian, the inheritor of this amount, found it more appropriate to build the church in the Valley. Since her wishes ran against the decree in the will, the will was taken to court to justify her wishes. Prelate, Bishop Hrand Khachadrian, testified in court that the Encino land was the most appropriate for the construction of a new church and that the community was able to complete the requirements of the Arakelian Church.
After the detailed evaluations of Judge Gregory Mousharat from the office of The Supreme Court of California and the office of the State Prosecutor of this 11 year case, the Holy Martyrs Community was given the authority to use the lump sum left in the will.The next milestone came on March 5th, 1961. The foundation of the new church was cast and later blessed by His Holiness Bishop Hrand Khachadrian who was representing the American Prelacy of the Holy See of Cilicia. Accompanying the good bishop at the ceremony was Smpat [Vartabed] Lapajian, who would later becomes the Prelate of the Western Prelacy, and Late Rev. Fr. Yeghishe Mkhitarian (from Los Angeles).
The architect of the newly built church, Lawrence Cones (Loris Koundourjian), was of Armenian origin who took on the task of constructing and caring for the church. A Building Committee with the membership of William Srabian, Vazken Khachadrian, Sarkis Betekjian, Haroutyoun Sarkisian, and Bedros Solakian was formed. ln the presence of the clergy, national and political representatives, and Armenians from every corner of California, the 16 God-fathers positioned the stones in the four corners, signifying the borders of the church. With this ceremony the Holy Martyrs Church was given birth, in the eternal memory of the 1.5 million Armenian victims of the Genoicide of 1915.
The construction of the building began in August 1962 and completed in October 1963. From an architectural standpoint, it is the exact replica of the St. Gregory the llluminator's Church in the historic city of Ani, which was built in 10th century by the famous architect Drtad. In fact, this man would later be invited to Constantinople to renovate the dome of the St. Sophia Church. He was the author of the designs of cross-like arches, domes, and windows, which were the source of the Geodesic style of European architecture during the 13th century. lndeed, by the ingenuity of Drtad the architect, and the decisive efforts of the small community of San Fernando Valley, this beautiful church was able to exist and be the mould by which our beloved Holy Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church would be constructed October 13th, 1963 marked a critical day in the history of the San Fernando Valley Armenian Community. The church was consecrated and blessed by the Prelate of the American Prelacy of the Holy See of Cilicia, Hrand Archbishop Khachadrian. Following a year from the blessing of the Holy Martyrs Church, due to the realistic nature and courageous efforts of Mr. Gabriel lnjejikian, along with the unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees, the Armenian residents of the San Fernando Valley founded the first daily Armenian school of the United States.
During the past 45 years, successive Boards of Trustees have operated with great responsibility and zeal to enhance and improve the church. Indeed, after the building of the church, its windows were stained by biblical scenes; at the entrance the name of the church was inscribed with distinctive letters; the church was furnished by marble tables.
The latest milestone came with the opening of the new adminstrative building. This project was realized due to the generous contributions of Mr. & Mrs. Osgo and Yeran Giragossian. Included in the building was an area allocated to the Board of Trustees, which they in turn decided to use as a hall. With the contribution of the Sarafian family, the new hall was built and was named after their father, "Yeghia Sarafian" Hall. The Sarafian family graciously accepted the task of furnishing the hall, as well. ln the presence of hundreds of community members, the blessing and opening of the newly renovated building was conducted on February 22, 2003 by the Prelate of parish, His Greatness Moushegh Archbishop Mardirossian. Currently, in this renovated section alongside the school and church offices, the fellow organizations actively function out of offices. All of these are the result of various contributions made for the safeguarding of the church, of which is the $40,000 contribution made by Mr. & Mrs. John and Asdghig Bedrossian that actualized the renovations of 1996. At the present time, the children of the late chairman of the first Board of Trustees, Mr. Florindo Arclin, Mr. & Mrs. Steve and Diane Arklin, Mr. & Mrs. Philip and Christin Arclin, and Mr. & Mrs. Leon and Martha Arclin, donated $30,000 which in its entirety is dedicated to the preservation and alteration of the church.
Yet the efforts continue. About two years ago the Board of Trustees undertook the task of purchasing the land adjacent to the church located at the corner of the next-door alley. Coming from the previous experiences and the objective of expanding church properties, it was significant to attach that property to the church despite the financial hardships.The Board, however, was responsible and with insight began its undertaking. The excitement was great, and once more it was the Armenian people who was going to stand behind the project to contribute to the church; and so, on August 21, 2001 the property was officially reassigned to the parish. In honor of the generosity and dedication of our people, we are hopeful that very soon we will be able to conclude the payables of the new property. Our church may be of iron and stone, but it springs to life through our supporters, and with no doubt will remain the rock that will stay anchored in the stream of life and against current of time.