The text message that came through the group text had a picture of a flyer advertising an event at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic church. Family night was coming up. The flyer stated that there would be dinner, dancing and games. My wife and I immediately knew we would be there. It was a Friday night event for the family. Besides, the weather had been in the 100s for a while, which meant the kids were cooped up inside the house. It would be a nice release and we’d see longtime friends and acquaitances from church.
Part of our admiration of the church is its historic roots. Before there was a mall on Fulton, before there was Chukchansi Stadium or the latest in modern lofts, cowntown had Holy Trinity. The origins of Holy Trinity in downtown can be traced to 1900. The church was built at its current location on Van Ness and M in 1914, in an area that historically has been known as “Armenia Town.” It is rumored that during construction, placed within its foundation was a handful of soil from an ancient Armenian church in present day Turkey – historic Armenia.
Like the tens of thousands before me, the church has been important in my life and has a special place in my heart. My wife and I said our “I dos” in front of the church’s alter with hundreds of friends and family watching. It’s a place where we have cried, my grandma and others have had funeral services there.
Just like the church has been important to my life, Armenia and the Armenian church have a significant place in spiritual history. In 301 A.D., Armenia became the first state to declare Christianity as the official religion. History will tell us that that bold move came with benefits and severe consequences.
Traditionally speaking, Armenian communities around the world are, for the most part, centered around the church. This is especially true after the Armenian Genocide, when most Armenians who survived were forced to relocate to other countries.
If you haven’t attended an Armenian church event, consider going. There are approximately six Armenian churches in the Fresno area. Like all of them, Holy Trinity has a few staple events that provide a way for you to get introduced to the culture.
The Blessing of the Grapes ceremony occurs in August. This year is the 105th anniversary of the event. The blessing will take place at the California Armenian Home on Sunday. The tradition of blessing of the grapes goes back to Old Testament times, when farming was the primary way people survived. Grapes were chosen because they were the first crop to produce harvest. After the ceremony, there will be food, dancing and live music.
In October there is the annual food bazaar. On this day, delicious Armenian food is prepared and people can stop by to eat or take goodies home. If you go during the lunch hour, chances are you will run into people you know.
Along with the latest improvements to downtown, there are places that have weathered many storms and been important in the lives of those who make up the fabric of the Valley. If you haven’t visited Holy Trinity or it has been a while since you stopped by, your chance is coming up. Let’s learn about each other – it will make the Valley a better place.
Sevag Tateosian is host and producer of the Central Valley Ledger on 90.7 FM KFSR Fresno and CMAC Comcast 93 and Att 99. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
The 105th annual grape blessing and festival occurs Sunday, Aug. 12 at the California Armenian Home, 6720 E. Kings Canyon Road in Fresno. The liturgy will be celebrated at 10 a.m., with the blessing at 11:30. Food will be available, as will music and dancing. Sponsored by the Holy Trinity Men’s Society. Details: 559-486-1141.