HAVERHILL — After not having a spiritual leader for almost a decade, members of the Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe finally have one.
The Rev. Vart Gyozalian, who was ordained to the priesthood in July 2009, has been named interim pastor at the church.
"The future is looking brighter and brighter for us," said Scott Sahigian, chairman of the parish council at Hye Pointe. "This is all part of God's plan coming to fruition. He fully understands the mission and the needs of this parish."
Before Gyozalian was assigned to the parish, a visiting priest led divine liturgies.
The Armenian apostolic church at Hye Point was formed in 2002 after the merger of Holy Cross Armenian in Lawrence and St. Gregory the Illuminator in Haverhill. The merger between the Lawrence and Haverhill churches is the first of its kind in North America.
Members sold Holy Cross Armenian Church at 54 E. Haverhill St. to a Hispanic Evangelical church, and are still in the process of selling the historic church building at 110 Main St., Haverhill.
The Haverhill Historic Commission was against a proposed sale of the 136-year-old church to a developer who wanted to raze it and build a Burger King.
"We're on hiatus right now," Sahigian said. "With the winter we've had and the new priest, that is not our first priority. Our emphasis is making sure that Father has a very positive experience."
The Hye Pointe Community still uses the historic church while it works to build a new church at 1280 Boston Road in Bradford, near the North Andover line.
Sahigian recently gave Gyozalian a tour of the building site, and the priest said he was impressed.
"It's a perfect place for us to have a new church and future home," Gyozalian said.
Gyozalian compared building the new church to one's own family estate.
"Some people pay a lot of money for their own home," he said. "Now we're building a home for God and a place where we can move forward to serve Christ and take the word of God to all the world."
"We're all looking to have an impact in the world, and I see his arrival part of God's plan to move us forward," he said.
Church member Mel Menasian is also happy Hye Pointe has an interim pastor.
"He's very passionate about what he's doing and anxious to get started," Menasian said. "He's very religious, open, considerate and warm-hearted. We hope to God he stays for a long, long time."
Hye Point has 600 families that participate in the community, including 50 to 100 people who attend divine liturgies on Sundays, followed by fellowship.
Gyozalian, 27, was ordained by Archbishop Kajag Barsamian in one of the largest ordinations in Armenia, with the intent to serve in the United States. Hye Pointe was selected by the Diocese of the Armenian Church in America to host him.
Sahigian traveled to Chicago to meet with the new priest and brought him to the city where he spent a week last May. Gyozalian celebrated two divine liturgies during that time.
"I felt good here," Gyozalian said. "The Armenians are friendly and dedicated to the church."
Gyozalian brings a wealth of experience to the church. He worked as a secretary to the Catholicos, the Armenian equivalent to the Pope, from 2007 to 2010. He is fluent in Armenian, English and Russian.
He and his wife, Yeretskin Lusine, have a 6-month-old daughter, Mari.
Gyozalian said his youth will give him an advantage in pastoring this congregation.
"Being a young priest, I bring new blood into the church," he said. "I feel I can help the parish as a father, brother and son, and work with everyone freely."
If you go:
What: His eminence, Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, celebrates a divine liturgy to welcome the Rev. Vart Gyozalian and his family
When: Sunday, Feb. 27, at 10 a.m.
Where: Armenian Apostolic Church at Hye Pointe, 110 Main St., Haverhill, with banquet to follow at Michael's Function Hall, 12 Alpha St.
Tickets: $40 for adults, $20 for children
About the Rev. Vart Gyozalian
Born Oct. 27, 1983, in the village of Voskehat in the Armavir region of Armenia.
Enrolled at the Vaskenian Theological Seminary of Lake Sevan, from which he graduated in 2005. He continued his education at Gevorkian Theological Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin, and graduated in 2007.
He was ordained to the deaconate Oct. 6, 2006.
Worked as an assistant to His Holiness, Karekin II, and was also assigned as the sole administrator for the Pontifical Residence from 2007 to 2010.
Ordained to the priesthood on July 19, 2009 by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of Armenian Church of America.
Took English classes at the American University of Armenia.
From 2009 to 2010, he was invited by Archbishop Khajag Barasamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, to serve in the United States and arrived in the United States on Oct. 7, 2010.
He is participating in an internship program under the supervision of the Rev. Krikor A. Sabounjian, pastor of the Holy Translators Armenian Church in Framingham.