Saturday morning, September 26, 2020, dawned cool but promising sunshine, a very positive start for celebrating the 114 year history of the United Armenian Calvary Congregational Church (UACCC) in Troy, NY. It was bittersweet, since it also marked the final service of the church. Sixty-seven members turned out both to celebrate the church and say goodbye.

The service was officiated by Rev. Dr. Avedis Boynerian, pastor of the Armenian Memorial Church in Watertown, MA and member of the AMAA Board of Directors. Special messages on the occasion from the AEWC and the AMAA were read. Rev. Boynerian’s message, Got Is Not Done Yet, recognized the church’s long and active history and the church founders, who fled the massacres in Turkey and arrived in America intent on making new lives and building a new church community.

Participants in the service also received a recorded message from Rev. Joanne Gulezian-Hartunian, who served the church during much of the 1990’s. Her message was You Are The Church. She shared memories of church dinners and Sunday School activities and a growth of the congregation during her time there, and urged members to gather together in the future.

David Vredenberg, member of the American Guild of Organists, was guest Organist.

A very moving and symbolic point in the service was a baptism. The first baby baptized in the UACCC community was Haiganoosh H. Abajian, on September 16, 1906, as recorded in the church records. The baptism of Raffi Allan George Chalian provided a joyous and hopeful note to this final service. Together, the two baptisms became bookends for the spiritual life of the church.

At the closure of the service, attendees gathered at the altar for a group photo, followed by a COVID-friendly reception.

A history table dating back to the earliest days and photos reminded all of the experiences and spiritual strength the church provided its members for 114 years.

And so this chapter of my journey to understand the history and people who founded and grew my childhood church has ended. I’ve emerged with a stronger and more intimate understanding of the spiritual and everyday lives my ancestors and neighbors created after they escaped the hatred and massacres of the Turks and Kurds in the late nineteenth century into the early twentieth century.

The next chapter begins with recreating their stories. Let the writing begin.

About Dawn Essegian Lajeunesse

I, like so many others, am a novelist struggling for recognition. My last three novels, THE EYES HAVE IT, IN HER MOTHER'S SHOES and STAR CATCHING, are available in e-book format through Amazon and other formats by request here or on my website. AUTUMN COLORS was my first novel and is still available through Amazon and B&N in multiple formats. My early writings are women's fiction, one also suitable for YA. My work-in-progress is a historical fiction about the Armenians who settled in Troy, NY in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Come visit me at my website: www.dawnlajeunesse.com.
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  1. Tovah says:

    More of this too, please!


  2. Christopher Dockal (Yosoian) says:

    I am so thankful that you wrote this post. It was my family/young childhood church as well, and I am so saddened to know that it is now “gone”. I hope someone will preserve the artifacts and pictures from the church,,, my mother (Florence Yosoian Dockal) was an organist there, my grandmother (Margaret Akullian Yosoian) was very active there, I was baptized there, weddings, funerals… it is indeed the end of an era. I was searching online today for an overall update on the church out of nostalgia , and your post was the only publicly available article that shared details of this sad, surprising news- thanks again for writing.


    • Hello, Christopher. I remember Florence well! She was amazing and so incredibly generous with her time. Besides being the organist and directing the choir, she took us younger “kids” to different churches every Sunday in August when our church was closed – she thought it was important to be introduced to other churches and denominations. She partnered with Rev. Baboian to take the youth fellowship members to NYC to visit Riverside Church and see some other sights. While preparing for the closure service, I reconnected with so many friends from that time. What a beautiful experience. The church is in the process of being converted into an apartment building called “The Chapel.” While sad, the builder does seem to be making an effort to retain as much as possible of the structural flavor of the church.

      The church records (three large volumes) and a huge collection of photos and other documents (like the original mortgage papers from 1914) went to the Congregational Library & Archives in Massachusetts. Selected historical archives were donated to the Armenian Missionary Association. The money from the sale of the building was donated to all Armenian organizations, some national but also to local Armenian groups. About $15,000 went to the Sons and Daughters of Vartan to expand and enhance the Armenian genocide memorial in Riverside Park in downtown Troy.

      Some of the members (myself, Rita Ishkanian Petithory) created a historical booklet filled with pictures and memories, and we videotaped the closure service. If you have any interest, I would be glad to send you the booklet and DVD.

      Lastly, I’m writing a historical fiction based on the men and women who built both the original church (which became the Parsonage) and the ninth street church. I started out doing a straight history, but there are too many gaps in facts and no one (and few documents) left to ensure factual accuracy. Thus the fiction choice, although I’ll be as close to real stories as possible.


  3. Christopher Dockal (Yosoian) says:

    Thank you so much for replying, it brought tears to my eyes to read your memories of my mother. You may know that she died when I was an infant, so pictures and others’ memories and stories are especially important to me,.. and there are of course fewer and fewer people alive who knew her and my grandparents, I would be overjoyed to have the booklet and dvd! If you can email me directly, I can provide my address, and arrange for any payment needed for the items and shipping. Thank you so much!! Christopher.dockal@gmail.com


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