By Yadira Betances
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — In the midst of death, despair and destruction in his native Syria, the Rev. Karekin Bedourian still finds things to be thankful for.
“We’re thankful to have life, our family, the church and our community,” said Bedourian, pastor of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church.
Today, Bedourian, will preach at the Thanksgiving interfaith service at Trinitarian Congregational Church.
“Being thankful is the core of the holiday and it’s a good occasion to evaluate what we have and what we’re thankful for,” he said.
Bedourian’s parents, two brothers and two sisters still live in Syria, as well as his in-laws.
Growing up, he recalls Syria as a peaceful country with freedom for Christians to worship and attend Christian schools.
“People are killing each other and we condemn that. We don’t know when it’s going to end,” he said.
Bedourian said it is hard to read newspapers and watch the news. One of the most disturbing days came Nov. 12 when the Holy Martyrs Armenian Church was heavily damaged as a result of shelling. In the lower level of the building, the remains of Armenian Genocide victims are kept in a museum and memorial.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Bedourian, pastor at St. Gregory for two and a half years. The majority of its membership are fourth and fifth generation Armenian Americans.
Bedourian, 29, was born and raised in Kessab, Syria. He attended seminary of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Bikfaya, Lebanon. After graduating, he served as a deacon to Greece to work with the Armenian community. Bedourian was ordained to the priesthood in 2009.
Traditionally, the newest pastor in town is chosen to give the sermon at the Thanksgiving service, said the Rev. Rich Knight, pastor of Trinitarian Church.
“We’re all looking forward to hearing his message, so Karekin’s words on thankfulness will not be taken lightly,” Knight said.
The service includes gospel reading, prayers of thanksgiving, and a lot of music by soloists from North Andover churches, an ecumenical choir led by Renee Rivers, music director at Trinitarian Church and town ministers singing, wearing the robes and stoles of their different denominations.
“It’s a nice picture of the body of Christians coming together,” he said.
List of other ecumenical Thanksgiving services:
Andover: South Church, 41 Central St., today at 5 p.m. Clergy from Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations will participate and the service includes the sharing of bread from each tradition. The Rev. Jon Paul, pastor at Free Christian Church preaches. Among other participating clergy are: Imam Telha Akkaya of Selimiye Mosque, Methuen; Rabbi Dr. Robert S. Goldstein, Temple Emanuel; Rev. M. Laura Hoke – Unitarian Universalist Congregation; Rev. Kit Lonergan, Christ Church; the Rev. John Zehring pastor of South Church; Sherry Tupper, Laura Weiss, Director of Music, and Linda Zimmerman all of South Church. Offering during the service benefits Neighbors in Need.
Hampstead: Old Meeting House, 24 Emerson Ave., The Hampstead Historic District Commission hosts a Thanksgiving service today at 4 p.m. The service features music, readings and prayers. Donations accepted for the Hampstead Area Ecumenical Food Pantry.
Londonderry: Londonderry United Methodist, 258 Mammoth Road: The Londonderry Clergy Association sponsors the service Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. Participants are asked to bring canned goods for a local food pantry and donations will be taken for the Sonshine Soup Kitchen.
Georgetown: First Congregational, 7 Andover St., Ecumenical Thanksgiving prayer service with clergy from Georgetown and Haverhill area, Tuesday at 7 p.m.
North Andover: North Parish Unitarian Universalist, 190 Academy Road, Rev. Lee Bluemel leads an intergenerational Thanksgiving service with the adult vocal and children’s choirs performing today at 9 and 11 a.m.
Pelham: New England Pentecostal Church, 327 Gage Hill Road, the church hosts an ecumenical Thanksgiving service with members of St. Patrick Catholic and Pelham Congregational, Tuesday at 7 p.m.