Being Armenian in Istanbul Today. Lecture by Christopher Sheklian.

2017-11 ConstantinopleAnthropologist and Armenian Deacon Dr. Christopher Sheklian will deliver a lecture at the Zohrab Center on Tuesday, November 7 at 7PM entitled, Sharagans in the City: Being Armenian in Istanbul Today.

Armenians in Istanbul today navigate a city that is undeniably their home, yet often feels exclusionary. People rarely speak Armenian on the street and many of the churches are hidden behind high walls. Yet the Armenians living there do not necessarily feel excluded or discriminated 2017-11 SheklianSharagan.001against. “Bolis” is their home, and they feel a sense of belonging there.

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Dr. Sheklian will discuss the complicated sense of belonging that Armenians feel toward Istanbul and toward Turkey. He suggests that the inheritance of the Armenian Apostolic Church’s liturgy helps many Armenians to navigate the city. Through constant exposure to Armenian sharagans and other hymns, Armenians are able to hear the soundscape of Istanbul as one where they also belong.

Christopher Sheklian, a native of central California, earned his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2017. His dissertation, entitled, Theology and the Community: The Armenian Minority, Tradition, and Secularism in Turkey, was based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork with Armenians in Istanbul. An ordained deacon of the Armenian Church, Dr. Sheklian spent a year as a student and researcher at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New York. He previously attended the University of California, Berkeley where he majored in Anthropology, and he worked as a substitute

Chris Head Shot 1B
Anthropologist and ordained deacon of the Armenian Church Dr. Christopher Sheklian will speak about how the Armenian Church and especially its sacred music affords a sense of belonging to Armenians of Istanbul.

teacher before earning his MA and PhD at Chicago.

This year, Dr. Sheklian is a Manoogian Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan, where he plans to develop the conceptual apparatus of his dissertation by considering the connections between Christology, semiotics, and hermeneutics and to pursue a second ethnographic project with Armenian refugees from Syria and Iraq living in the greater Detroit area.

The lecture at the Zohrab Center will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. The event is free and open to the public. As always, a reception and conversation will follow the lecture.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

Komitas Vartabed and the Survival of Armenian Music. June 9

0205KomitasThis season’s final Zohrab Center enrichment evening will be devoted to the legacy of the celebrated and beloved Armenian priest-musician-composer, Komitas Vartabed.

Ashley Bozian-Murtha will present a talk entitled, Komitas Vartabed and the Survival of Armenian Music at the Zohrab Center on Thursday, June 9 at 7PM.

Komitas is a central figure in the history of Armenian music, particularly the sacred music of the Armenian Church. His contributions span liturgical, folk, and even concert music. Surprisingly, despite his universal admiration today, during his lifetime his work earned him the ire of church officials and his fellow clergymen, who frequently denounced him as a musicological firebrand and moral deviant.

KomitasVartabedPerhaps more significant than his work inside Armenia, however, is his legacy to the global Armenian diaspora. While controversial during his lifetime, Komitas was uniquely positioned to preserve Armenian music from the oblivion of genocide. Were it not for his oft-condemned inclination to transcribe and transform the music of Armenia, that vast tradition may well have perished in the attempted destruction of the Armenian people.

Much research exists on the life of Komitas, and on Armenian music as a separate entity, but there remains a relative paucity of work to place the two in context with one another. Ms. Bozian-Murtha will survey and sort through the biographical, musicological, and historical research on the composer and his impact on Armenian music. Analyzing the composer’s original compositions and transcriptions along with secondary biographical sources and historical data, she asserts that the very survival of Armenian music in the aftermath of the Genocide is a direct result of Komitas’s labors. 

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Ashley Bozian-Murtha is a PhD candidate in History at St. John’s University (New York). She holds a B.A. in History and Music and an M.Ed. from Manhattanville College (New York). Following her undergraduate work, she earned an MA in Music History from Hunter College, where she wrote her master’s thesis on the life and work of Komitas Vartabed. 

The program will be held in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. All are welcome to attend the free event, which will be followed by a reception.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

A Message to Armenian-American Young People by Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan

The following remarks of Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan (1904-1989) were published in a commemorative booklet published in 1954 on the 25th Anniversary of his priestly Ordination. The booklet was recently donated to the Zohrab Center. It contains other essays and sermons of the Archbishop along with a biography written by his student, “Very Rev. Torkom Manoogian,” the late Primate and Patriarch of Jerusalem. In these excerpts, Tiran Srpazan challenges young Armenian Americans, particularly those in the newly-established ACYOA [Armenian Church Youth Organization] to elevate themselves to the highest ideals of their ancestral church. In so doing he articulates a vision of what it means to be Armenian and American.

Tiran

It is true that there are great numbers of Americans who profess to be religious. Some of these, however, mistake religion for magic. They think that by going through certain ceremonies and thus doing the customary thing, they have done their duty to God. By merely going to church, or by merely having certain ceremonies performed on them, they think their souls will be saved. Others, going to the other extreme, think that by quoting the Bible and drawing all kinds of strange conclusions from those quotations, they will find the way of salvation.

We must beware of both these pitfalls. Of course, we can be saved from spiritual death only through the holy sacraments and through the Word of God, but we must subject ourselves to the holy sacraments and to the Word of God in deep discernment, in humility, and in an honest efforts to be changed by God’s grace.

It is the gradual change and renewal of our souls that will give us the fuller life, in which we can find happiness, real deep happiness, both in this world and in the life to come.

It is that kind of religious that we need. We must all strive towards that kind of religious life, both as individuals, and as groups or corporate bodies…

TiranCollageWe have had great religious leaders and teachers. By following them, by being faithful to our religious and cultural past, and being faithful to our Church and its precepts, we can live in this country the fuller Christian life.

By holding the standard of our faith high and by following dutifully on the path of our forefathers, we can avoid the dangers and the pitfalls to which I made reference a moment ago. Because the Armenian Orthodox way of Christian living will give us a sound, and realistic spirituality, which is neither merely formal nor merely emotional, but which in a healthy way will make us adjust our lives to the circumstances of modern civilization and, at the same time, will lead us to eternal life and to the Kingdom of God.

Continue reading “A Message to Armenian-American Young People by Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan”

An Anthropologist Considers St. Vartan: Faith, Nation and Memory. February 12 at St. Vartan Cathedral

Christopher Sheklian, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Chicago, will be the featured speaker at the annual commemoration of St. Vartan and His Companions (Վարդանանց / Vartanants) on Thursday, February 12 in the Kavookjian Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York.

The Zohrab Information Center is co-sponsoring the event with St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, with the participation of the Mid-Atlantic Knights and Daughters of Vartan.

Competing Memories of Saint Vartan

Anthropologists study culture and since the adoption of Christianity, the Christian faith and the institutions of the Armenian Church have become part of the very fabric of Armenian culture. But if the Armenian Church is reduced merely to one element of Armenian culture among others, what is the place of faith, devotion, and liturgy? Nowhere, perhaps, is this conundrum most obvious than in competing memories over St. Vartan and the Battle of Avarayr. Was St. Vartan fighting for the existence of the Armenian nation? Or was he a consummate defender of the faith? Can we separate these two things? Moreover, the way we remember and commemorate St. Vartan speaks to the way we ourselves think about the connection between faith and nation. How we remember St. Vartan is not merely a historical matter. To fully grapple with the memory of St. Vartan is to take on the fundamental question of the Armenian nation: its relationship to its Christian faith in the salvation of Christ Jesus.

The Armenian Minority and Secularism in Turkey

Deacon Christopher Sheklian at the Armenian fortress of Hromkla in Turkey. He will lecture at the annual Saints Vartanants commemoration at the Armenian Diocese in New York.
Deacon Christopher Sheklian at the Armenian fortress of Hromkla in Turkey. He will lecture at the annual Saints Vartanants commemoration at the Armenian Diocese in New York.

An ordained deacon of the Armenian Church, Christopher Sheklian is currently completing his doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago entitled Theology and the Community: The Armenian Minority, Tradition, and Secularism in Turkey. His dissertation is based on two years of intensive research and fieldwork in Istanbul and Diyarbakir, Turkey within the Armenian Church and community. The first fruits of his research were recently published in a book chapter entitled, “Venerating the Saints, Remembering the City: Armenian Memorial Practices and Community Formation in Contemporary Istanbul.”

Deacon Shekian is a native of California, having been raised in St. Mary Armenian Church in Yettem, in the Central Valley. He spent the 2011-2012 academic year at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary studying Armenian theology and Armenian Christian culture. Several of his current scholarly projects stem from the instruction he received there.

Deacon Sheklian will speak during a commemorative banquet to which the public is invited. Donation for the dinner is $25 for adults and $10 for children 10 and under. Guests are also warmly encouraged to participate in the Divine Liturgy, which will be celebrated at 6:00PM.

For further information contact the Diocese at (212) 686-0710 or zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or

VIDEO. Armenians in a Multicultural World. Dr. Roberta Ervine Delights and Challenges

Did you miss last week’s marvelous presentation at the Zohrab Center by Dr. Roberta Ervine? She read between the lines of the writings of the 12th-century Armenian monk Mkhitar Gosh and uncovered surprising insights for all who wonder whether Armenians have a future in our complex, multicultural world.

Enjoy the video.

Armenians in a Multicultural World. Monastic Insights on Armenian Identity and Faith. Lecture by Prof. Roberta Ervine.

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PHOTO: Idakoos.com

Armenian? American? Christian? Some combination of the above?

Most Armenians for most of history have lived as minorities in lands not their own. So the preservation of Armenian identity and the free practice of their ancestral Christian faith have been unavoidable challenges for Armenians in the past as they are for us today. But what is this Armenian identity that we seek to preserve? What does it look like? Is it an unchanging treasure or a living, evolving being? What are the boundaries between the Armenian expression of the Christian faith and the convictions of others Christians—indeed other people of faith—in our society today?

Dr. Roberta Ervine, Professor of Armenian Studies at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary (New Rochelle, NY) will address these questions next Wednesday, June 4 at 7PM at the Zohrab Center in New York in a lecture entitled, “Living the Gospel of Christ in a Multicultural World: The Monastic Experience of Goshavank.”

Talk amongst yourselves: #ZICMkhitar

The monastery of Goshavank in central Armenia was named after the great monk Mkhitar "the Beardless"
The monastery of Goshavank in central Armenia was named after the great monk Mkhitar “the Beardless”

As it happens, the inescapable questions that come with living as Armenians in a pluralistic society are not new. They were pondered by a beardless monk named Mkhitar, who lived in the northern hinterlands of 12th century Armenia. What principles do we use to guide our thinking and behavior as people with multiple identities? How should we relate to others who are not like us? How do we want to distinguish ourselves as unique — or do we? Mkhitar’s responses to these questions are as fresh today as they were when he first spoke them.

The great intellectual Mkhitar, known as “Gosh” [the beardless] is best known for having codified Armenian law in a work called Datastanagirk. He also wrote a marvelous collection of fables—he was the Armenian Aesop—as well as prayers, sermons, a short chronicle and various theological works. He was also the teacher of a number of disciples who went on to become the most prominent historians and theologians of the thirteenth century.

Prof. Roberta Ervine
Professor Roberta Ervine is an expert in medieval Armenian literature and theology.

Roberta Ervine is a specialist in medieval Armenian authors and theology, and a much loved teacher to generations of students both in Jerusalem and at St. Nersess. She holds her PhD from Columbia University, where she studied with Profs. Nina Garsoïan, James Russell, and Very Rev. Fr. Krikor Maksoudian. Dissertation research led her to Jerusalem, where she lived in the Armenian Monastery of St. James as a disciple of His Grace Abp. Norayr Bogharian, curator of manuscripts. For sixteen of her twenty-one years in the Holy City, Prof. Ervine taught for the Holy Translators Academy; she also lectured for several other Jerusalem institutions, including the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2001 she returned to the United States to teach at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, where she lectures on topics related to the history of Armenian Christianity and Armenian Christian thought. She is the editor of the St. Nersess Theological Review.

Join Dr. Ervine on June 4 and be challenged by what one of Armenia’s great teachers has to say on social relationships, community identity and individual integrity. The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.