HAVERHILL — Members of the Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe are celebrating the start of construction of their new sanctuary, which is being built next to their Family Life and Cultural Center, which opened in April at 1280 Boston Road.
The Rev. Vart Gyozalyan, pastor of the church, said the original goal was to begin construction in two or three years.
“We were able to begin earlier than expected with help from two major donors,” he said. “One member of our church told me that she can’t wait to pray in the sanctuary.”
Since the center opened this spring, services have been held there, while parishioners await the construction of their new sanctuary, a place of worship.
Construction began last week, and Gyozalyan hopes the project will be completed by August 2018.
He said the design of the sanctuary borrows from traditional Armenian architecture, just as the design of the Family Life and Cultural Center did.
Since the grand opening of the center this past spring, the parish has held a number of successful and well-attended events there, including a Mother’s Day Dance put on by the church’s Youth Group, an Armenian spring food festival hosted by the church’s Women’s Guild, an Armenian food festival in August that was organized by the parish council, and the recent Armenian fall food festival hosted by the Women’s Guild.
Hundreds of people attended each event in the new center, which has a capacity of about 450 people.
“We were able to do all of these things because of the much larger capacity of the building and the convenience of our new, fully-equipped commercial kitchen,” Gyozalyan said. “We could not hold functions of this size before.”
Gyozalyan said that after the grand opening of the Family Life and Cultural Center, an Armenian man with ties to the parish approached him with an offer to donate money, if the parish would move forward with construction of a sanctuary as soon as possible.
“We also approached another donor, who agreed to provide money to help build our sanctuary,” he said. “Between the two donors, we were able to move forward with construction of the sanctuary and not have to wait two or three years.”
The construction of the center marked the realization of a dream come true for parishioners, who for years had been trying to sell the former St. Gregory the Illuminator across from City Hall in order to fund construction of their new church.
The Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Church of Lawrence merged with St. Gregory in 2002 to create the Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe, the first merged Armenian Apostolic Church in North America.
Both parish councils had previously purchased a site for their newly planned church, and put both church properties up for sale. Holy Cross sold in 2006.
There were growing problems with the St. Gregory building. It was in need of major renovations, lacked handicap accessibility and did not have enough space for parish functions.
Last year, after 15 years of trying to sell the building, the church finally found a buyer. The building was demolished this summer and in its place the new owner is building a Domino’s Pizza franchise along with one or two other retail businesses.
Church leaders said their congregation supported building a new church and selling the St. Gregory church, even if it meant seeing the building torn down, because they needed the money from the sale to build their new church and family center.
The move to a new church received the blessing of Armenians throughout the region and that of the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, his Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, who blessed the new church property in Bradford in 2007.
While the Family Life and Cultural Center was under construction, services were held at Sacred Hearts Church in Bradford.