Like many Armenians within the “child boomer” era, I grew up as part of a tight-knit ethnic group. We have been for probably the most half American-born, with grandparents who had survived the genocide, and fogeys who have been position models of family and group life. And for hundreds of my peers throughout America, we lived a dual life.
Through the week, we loved our “American lives,” in our faculties and neighborhoods. However as Friday night time approached, we might put together to transition into our “Armenian lives,” comprising of household, church and youth organizations. Wanting back, it was an interesting experience. We had two utterly totally different sets of associates. It afforded us many options.
When our “American life” turned boring or demanding, we had an outlet in the Armenian group. This world made us really feel particular and appeared to guide us by means of the transitions and challenges of youth. On the middle of this evolution was the church. In fact, all of us had those non-Armenian associates that we’d convey to the occasional church or social occasion; those who have been brave sufficient to enter our mysterious world, but typically, Monday mornings at college, we confronted questioning from our non-Armenian pals, about why we disappeared on weekends? In any case, they weren’t spending time with Irish or German buddies. Little did they understand how robust was the calling of our faith and heritage.
Our Sundays have been household time. Our era was lucky to have grandparents who have been the genocide survivors. We admired them for their power, humility and heat. And we liked to be with the “older era.”
Through the summers, we went to Armenian camps where we developed friendships with other youngsters from everywhere in the nation. We found there were a whole lot who felt the same means. I keep in mind the primary time I introduced Easter eggs and choregs to high school for lunch and found that not everybody cracked eggs at Easter. The feeling of satisfaction and pleasure that my Armenian heritage and faith gave me as an adolescent never pale. These have been particular associates from church, and the reminiscences are timeless. We have been proud People—the youngsters of males who had fought in World Struggle II for the USA—however we cherished the present of getting an Armenian id.
Fast forward a number of many years later. As we know, time waits for no one. All of us ultimately grew up. Many went to school and have been “away” for a number of years. The close friendships remained, while others drifted away from our youthful encounters, as one would anticipate. Many of us moved to totally different communities and began our personal families with spouses and youngsters. But we never forgot the particular experiences of our parish communities in America…Racine, Detroit, New York, Worcester, Chicago or Whitinsville.
Or did we? Where did these of my youth and their youngsters go?
my level is, what occurred to the a whole lot if not hundreds of American-born Armenian child boomers who have been raised, educated and socially related to the church? Where did they go?
On any given weekend, many of these formally vibrant parishes are a shadow of their former selves, any which approach you choose to take a look at it. Sunday faculties that have been as soon as loaded with kids, are right now sparsely attended. Church membership is down, and attendance of the providers is a fraction of what it as soon as was. Alongside all of this, financial stressors are taking their toll.
There are, in fact, some exceptions. Sure parishes have retained the recipe for fulfillment. But my level is, what happened to the lots of if not hundreds of American-born Armenian child boomers who have been raised, educated and socially related to the church? Where did they go? A serious demographic disappears from the church and we just transfer on?
The Armenian group in America has skilled numerous waves of immigration in the last 70 years: the “displaced individuals” in submit World Struggle II; the immigration of Egyptian Armenians to North America within the late 50s and early 60s; the key exodus from the Middle East within the 70s and 80s; and the current influx of Armenians from Armenia and Azerbaijan. Lots of our brethren left their lands of origin to flee instability and/or to build a better economic life. I thank God for these individuals, as they’re now the backbone of many communities. Their power, ardour and dedication grace our communities throughout this nation. Immediately, our churches are populated by first era American-born (at present’s elders) and the aforementioned former immigrant inhabitants and their generational descendants.
But what happened to my friends, the American-born Armenians of my youth? Those I went to church with, camp and youth groups? Did they simply drift away after marriage and in that case, why? Did they fail to take care of that all-important “emotional connection”? In that case, why? Did the range of our diaspora (a handy term, but a bit reductive, as it truly accommodates many subcultures) overwhelm the delicate psyche of these born here, who might have lacked the language expertise and married non-Armenians?
These are robust and sophisticated questions. Still, it is nothing less than a failure of imagination on the part of our church and communities, who’ve merely and silently accepted this demographic void.
Let’s look at a number of the possible causes. We’ll talk about attainable solutions in future columns. Inside these causes, nevertheless, we should have answers or maybe the same will happen with subsequent generations of those who immigrated.
- A secular society. The west has skilled a big transformation of secular conduct that has threatened all churches, to the extent that there is a worry of talking about God in public areas. We are in a wrestle for communal participation.
- Lack of inclusion. The issue isn’t intermarriage, however moderately our incapability to adjust to reality. The Armenian church might be, however should not be an intimidating surroundings for a non-Armenian spouse. Many Armenians can relate to non-Armenian Christians on a religious degree, however their concentrate on Armenian heritage may be alienating and prevents the formation of deeper connections, which might secure the way forward for the church. Our outreach should change.
- Lack of language expertise. This usually occurs in the second and third generations and sadly, has created an “inferiority complicated” that ultimately leads to drifting away from the church. Younger individuals are advised to study Armenian, however find it troublesome to apply. The truth that the church is dropping individuals over language communication is a tragic drawback. It’s an emotional situation, but the end result impacts all of us and will unite us to seek out solutions.
- Failure to reconnect. We are an ethnic church. It should not be arduous to recuperate constituents, yet our outreach packages for many who have drifted are restricted. Typically, we must find them first and then determine the connection point. It’s troublesome work, but this is the challenge in the diaspora.
- A spiral of decline. When our parishes are struggling, their infrastructure of packages could also be restricted and fail to satisfy the expectations of those who have been away. It’s a unfortunate cycle that have to be prevented. This is especially true in our fantastic smaller parishes. Collaborative solutions can optimize results.
That is simply my perspective, and I encourage you to share yours. Dialogue can and must lead to motion. Our church can’t continue to endure such vital attrition after which be “rescued” by an inflow of latest arrivals. A critical examination is required in a structured manner to know attrition and provide a closed loop course of that takes our learning and institutes solutions.
The good news is we now have a very spectacular set of “immersion” packages which might be inspiring and educating a brand new era of younger Armenian Christians. Packages just like the St. Gregory of Datev Institute and St. Nersess Summer time Research Packages have been educating and empowering deacons, youth ministers, academics, choir members and other leadership positions that may solely strengthen local parishes. This is the human infrastructure that’s the basis.
The opposite piece of excellent news is that it’s never too late to return back to the church. We do have examples each week of Armenians returning to their church, but the internet outcome continues to be problematic. I consider that the great thing about the Armenian church and the magnetic qualities of our heritage can appeal to and retain generations, but provided that we are prepared to internalize the causes of the exodus. Do we’ve got the desire to regulate? Can the “baby boomers” and their youngsters be introduced into the sanctuary of our beloved and holy church? Can we forestall additional generational attrition? We will and should do higher.