We’ve Got The Power

 

We’ve Got the Power sung by the Pointer Sisters

(Michael Brooks/Bob Esty)

I know the rules for foolish games

They only fill a heart with pain

We need a rest, a change of pace

Come take my heart to a silent place

Where our dreams run wild

The simple joy of a little child lives here

Telling us to hold on a little longer

 

We can climb a mountain

To the top of the world

We’ve got the power

We’ve got the power

To take us anywhere we wanna go

 

We can live forever

At the top of the world

We’ve got the power

We’ve got the power

To live our dreams chasing after rainbows

 

With what we have is where we start

And what we build or tear apart

Depends on what we gain or lose

What we reject and what we choose

When I see your smile

The simple joy of a baby child is born

Reminding us to hold on a little longer

 

We can climb a mountain

To the top of the world

We’ve got the power

We’ve got the power

To take us anywhere we wanna go

 

We can live forever

At the top of the world

We’ve got the power

We’ve got the power

To live our dreams chasing after rainbows

 

Thinking of a title for this post, the song, “We’ve Got the Power” popped into my mind. The lyrics could easily apply to the group that travelled to Rangoon to save the Armenian Church. The group included some trustees of other Armenian churches, international businessmen and interested parties like myself, headed by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians; His Grace Bishop Haigazun Najarian; Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Australia and New Zealand and Pontifical Legate of the Far East; Very Rev. Fr. Zaven Yazichyan; Armenian spiritual pastor of India and Manager of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy of Kolkata; and by Rev. Fr. Paruyr Avetisyan, Director of the Intra Church Relations Department of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

 

Some of the Group

Some of the group

“We’ve got the power”

One could say that by the simple act of visiting the church, this influential group brought it into prominence. It was the first time in history that a Catholicos had visited Burma. It was the first time in decades the church had more than a handful of people at its services. It was the first time a church in Yangon had received an historical Blue Plaque. It was the first time ever, I am willing to bet, that it had a rugby scrum of paparazzi and reporters on its doorstep. With this kind of news coverage (the Burmese nationals and the BBC) you’d think the job would be done. But it wasn’t.

Plaque ceremony crowd

Plaque ceremony crowd

 

“Telling us to hold on a little longer”

There was the problem of the impostor pastor who had the keys to the church. He had taken control last year by the simple act of changing the padlocks on the doors. Even after the denunciation of him from the pulpit, he still wasn’t getting the message that his time was over. On the first Sunday after the visit by His Holiness, the promised Armenian priest from Calcutta could not be there due to visa complications. It takes longer to get a multiple visit visa than a tourist one. There was no way the group would let the church be empty.

Ashot Tunyan, who lives in Singapore stepped in. He came to speak to the newly gathered congregation of two dozen and to reassure them that with their commitment the church would have a future. Impostor Pastor was there as well, dressed up in his robes. (Where did he buy them? There must be a special ecclesiastical supply catalogue rather like the Sears Wish Book.) He introduced Ashot to us while we fumed. He then gave ‘translations’ into Burmese of what Ashot was saying, which weren’t accurate, trying to make us believe the handover was all his idea.

Ashot has come every Sunday since, sometimes with his family. He has succeeded in legally changing the locks so the keys are in the right hands. Father Zaven Yazichyan started coming on Oct. 19 and he or another priest from Calcutta will come every Sunday. The congregation has added some new members and now has an after-the-service meet and greet over coffee or tea.

Ashot Tunyan, second from left.

Ashot Tunyan, second from left.

 

Fr. Zaven addressing the congregation

Fr. Zaven addressing the congregation

 

“With what we have is where we start” 

The congregation is the real key for the success of the church. While it is a charming Eastern/Colonial/English country church building that welcomes visitors of all faiths, it isn’t a museum exhibit just for tourists. In one of his meetings, when asked by a Burmese Armenian descendant how had the current situation happened, His Holiness said it happened because no one, except Richard and Rachel Minus cared. No one, except this father and daughter, was proud of their Armenian heritage. This was the start – these two. At that meeting all the descendants of the original Rangoon Armenians present were asked to make a commitment to the church. As a result there are now enough members to form a committee of Trustees.

Rachel and Richard Minus with His Holiness Karekin II

Rachel and Richard Minus with His Holiness Karekin II

 

Some of the descendants of the Armenians of Rangoon

Some of the descendants of the Armenians of Rangoon

 

“The simple joy of a baby child is born”

The church has already had two baptisms, a sure sign of regeneration. Ashot’s son was the first, a little boy, not a baby. Rachel’s little niece of six months was next. Rachel and her daughter, Beyonce, and Rachel’s sister were confirmed. The church will be welcoming Rachel’s new baby next year in June. Congratulations, Rachel!

IMG_7097

 

Ashot and Lora Tunyan with their son

Ashot and Lora Tunyan with their son

The Minuses, baptized and confirmed

The Minuses, baptized and confirmed

 

“We can live forever

At the top of the world

We’ve got the power

We’ve got the power

To live our dreams chasing after rainbows”

 

This present church building has existed since 1862, there has been an Armenian church in Yangon for nearly 250 years. It has endured capricious kings, Colonial wars, recessions, fire, bombing during World War II and the isolation of a repressive military government. Through it all, the Armenian members hung on, until there were just two.  Those two reached out to the Armenian diaspora, and this is the result. It has surpassed our hopes; from nearly being stripped of it assets in cash and land to now hosting a growing congregation every Sunday, the Church has an excellent chance of survival.

I think all of us who took part in this adventure feel like they are on top of the world. Did we think we were chasing rainbows? If we did, the rainbow was surely caught and will live forever.

The church steeple

The church steeple

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1 Response to We’ve Got The Power

  1. Ani Ghazarian says:

    I was very much moved to tears reading this…thank you for chasing that “Hye” eternal flame within as it has given your blog the wonderful post entries concerning your family’s Armenian history and the undoubtedly diligent efforts in your research that have yielded facts, more stories and renewal of something so moving. God Bless, as you have surely earned your cornerstone in heaven with this feat!

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