Armenian Evangelical Bethel Church History/ 90th Anniversary

While we write these pages, the founders of the Bethel Church look down on us from the sky and look at  the house of God,   the right path  for which was the love of  God  Almighty  and of our homeland.

The founders of the Arm.Evangelical Bethel Church were the kind of men, who, just like their people, have fled their homelands and settled in Syria where they enjoyed the generosity of its nation that served as an   oasis for all Armenians. The founders, who were consoling the people in their tragedy, were also living the dream of going back to their homeland.


And now, after 90 years, after living all these years without  returning “home” ,  the Armenian people, being  always loyal to their  Syrian roots and to Syria-their  second  homeland, following the Bethel church pastor’s orientations, have always had their eyes turned towards Armenia, and their spirits towards God.


The Arm.Evangelical Bethel church is the house of God  that –in the past 90 years- had 19 lasting pastors in addition to contemporary (periodically visiting  ) officials, who have been a consolation for the Armenian believers and have never ignored to complete  their  selfless tasks on a daily basis. Hence, along with preaching  the Lord’s  teachings, they haven’t forgotten that the Armenian deported people are their responsibility and have always  encircled them with the Armenian spirit.

That’s why, today’s beautiful Bethel was once called the camp Bethel Church.The 90th anniversary of this church coincides with a period when one of the youngest  pastors is in charge, namely reverend Haroutune Selimian, who is the church’s 19th pastor.

History is proof enough that, even during the massacre, especially after the final evacuation of Cilicia, when the civilized world treated  defeated Turkey as a winner, deported Armenian masses  came to settle first in, Aleppo, to be more specific, in the Jabriye and Suleymaniye areas. The conditions were more than tragic, yet, the need to survive led them to join each other in churches and schools.


It was during this period, and amongst the same  people that the Evangelistic worships  started in 1922.

At the same time, in a hacienda called al Hamidiye ,the American  missionary board initiated in constructing a wooden  hall for educational and religious purposes. If we ask the elderly, they remember that the Bethel Church classrooms were separated by mere curtains. The hall was extended later , when another  small hall was attached to it to welcome the kindergarten classes and Sunday school students, as well as  the Chanits  group  meetings.

At those times, most of the Bethel Church attendants were  surviving members  of the Marash Arm. Evangelical church deportees  who were mainly laborers, elderly, widows, orphans and teenagers; and because the Turks, have  first and foremost  aimed at our intellectuals and the lay leadership, one could clearly sense the lack of young  prelates.

In 1922, the year Bethel Church was founded, Reverend  Garabed  Ketenjian was  asked to be the pastor,The Bethel church remained in the hacienda from 1923   to  1932 during which , the main responsibility of the pastors was to bring  the Armenians  together with the power of God’s words and to console them with an optimistic view of the future and to help them financially  as much as possible.At the end of this period , around 1932, the number of the church attendants reached 1600.the initial pastors had the idea of collecting monetary donations so that they would be able to build a stone church in the hacienda area.In the years  1932-1934,   Reverend Nerses Sarian  was appointed  as a pastor to the Arm.Evangelical Bethel church,  who was born in the village of Junie not far from the HROMGLA  castle.Reverend N.Sarian was one of the hardworking students of the Ayntab college.He  was so understanding of his predecessors’  efforts exerted in building the church ,that he  dedicated himself and was able -with the help of the donations and the American mission Board-to buy the piece of land on the hill in the Jabriye area, upon which the Bethel church stands  still until today.

In 1934, they celebrated the  foundation of the Bethel church  that looked exactly like the Arm.Evangelical first Marash church.It was 20 meters  long  and 15 meters wide. It was during Reverend Yeghia kassuni’s period that the Bethel church construction  reached its final version and he became the church pastor during the years  1935-1937.it was also through his efforts that the Bethel church   personage house  came to existence. For a short period, reverend Misag Manugian was in charge of the church pulpit ;Reverend Aharon Shirajian, another faithful member, was an example of generosity and dedication for the  Armenians in the their first  decade and a half in Aleppo.His role was big, not only in relation  to the Bethel church foundation buying process, he was also the main founder of the Red Cross organization.He was also the one who thought of establishing the Aleppo Armenian  home for the elderly along with Nerses Babayian senior  priest, and the  Right Reverend  supreme preacher  Boghos Charkian.

For the Armenian women who have come from the deserts and found refuge at foreign households, there was a centre in Aleppo city, managed by Rev. Aharon Shirajian in 1923, who ran it perfectly for 15 years.This Reverend who has gone through   so many difficulties but ignored them all   for the sake of his people,   has even been imprisoned and suffered a lot, yet, never complained.

From 1939 to 1947, the Bethel church pastor was Reverend Hovannes Apkarian, who was well-known, loved and respected by everyone because of his dedication to his mission. During the second world war, people felt even closer to church and they were so supportive that the church  was finally financially independent. And despite the fact that the number of its attendants was decreasing because of the suburbia areas, once more it reached one thousand during the war season.

The years 1947 to 1949 the church was at its best shape, the Reverend responsible for the church worships was  Rev. Nerses Khachadourian,an orphan since childhood, who was also at the same time, the executive manager of the “Church of Christ ”  who used to arrange Sunday  meetings  for the Armenian youth. After being the Bethel church  trustees   for a long  period of time, reverend khachadourian  was appointed  head of the Armenian Evangelical community in Aleppo before he moved to Tehran for another mission.

During the years 1949-1956, the Bethel church pastor was Dikran Anteriasian, who was previously a minister in Zeytoun and had a big role during Mount Musa’s defense.

Although in the years 1956-1957 Reverend Anteriasian was the head of the church councils, the ones responsible for the pulpit and the activities were Rev. Hovannes Karjian and Rev. Lutfi Haidostian.

During the years 1957-1963, we could see Reverend   Vahan Bedigian on the pulpit.

As for Rev.Yesayi Sarmazian, he started to serve for the church in the year 1963-(currently in Toronto Canada).throughout all these years there had been times when the church pulpit has remained unoccupied. This is when Mr. Sarkis Malakian would  offer his services.

In 1969 Rev. Barkev Apartian  and Mr. Bedros Kelligian voluntarily  took over all the responsibilities  until 1972.

1973-1975, Rev. Manase Shnorhokian took over. From 1975 to 1958, Rev.Hovhannes Sarmazian and Rev. Ardashes Kerbabian, took over for short periods of time.

Throughout   1978-1981 the church enjoyed  Rev. Barkev Orchanian’s services, and from 1982-1988, Rev. Hanna Sarmazian was in charge.

From 1990-to 1992, Mr.Melkon Melkonian  took over, and finally in 1992, The Arm.Evangelical Bethel church had a very young Reverend, namely  Haroutune Selimian, who-until this very day-is in charge and remains loyal to this  mission.

The Armenian Evangelical Bethel Church continues its Sunday and weekly  communal worshipping and meetings in the following domains: Sunday School, Women's Auxiliary, Christian Chanits Youth, Junior High Group, Daily Vacation Bible School, Internet centre, "Armiss" Conservatory, Church Café, YERAKHDIK children's and adult's choir, Young Couples Committee. The Armenian Evangelical Bethel Church has a Christian Education and resource center. This center offers leadership training and seminars for Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders, lay preachers and church board members, as well as, provides our youth with the opportunity to take foreign language courses and computer training. By doing this we allow them to be exposed to the internet facilities for a learning process.  Throughout all these, we can  clearly feel the guidance and wisdom of our Lord as we put ourselves  at His  service.

                                                                        Sunday School

Junior Group

Yerakhdik Choir

Youth Group

Junior Group

Summer School


 



 

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