- Our Mission
In Armenia: Under the auspices of Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate, a Sister Church Mission project is established with St. Sarkis Armenian church of Stepanavan in the Diocese of Googark, Armenia. St. Peter parish annually provides moral and financial support to its sister church, so that both the priest and the parish continue their Christian ministry in our homeland. Each year St. Peter Church subsidizes a Habitat for Humanity project towards building a house for needy people in Armenia.
A SHORT HISTORY OF ST. PETER ARMENIAN CHURCH IN VAN NUYS
St. Peter Armenian Church has served its San Fernando Valley community for 50 years! The history of St. Peter Armenian Church is truly important because it shows the dedication and the willingness to preserve and spread the doctrines and traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian heritage and culture. This church history is another example of how we, as Armenians have truly survived our history and how each of us here now are victors of our powerful past. This church is a blessing to all Armenians in the San Fernando Valley and acts as the backbone of this unique Armenian community.
St. James Armenian Church in Los Angeles was the center of the Armenian community in southern California. In the 40′s and 50′s its community stretched to East Los Angeles, Pasadena, and those who resided in the San Fernando Valley. These valley members had a dream to build another Armenian Church, creating a new center for Armenians to gather in Los Angeles.
For the community members, the first aspect of creating this church was organizing a Sunday school. On September 22, 1957, registration for the Sunday school began and within a few weeks it became apparent that larger facilities were needed as more than 100 students enrolled. At that time regular Sunday school classes were being held in the Reseda Masonic Temple. Enthusiastic parents and supporters in the community donated generously to help defray the rental expenses and to purchase instructional materials.
As the Sunday school became more established, the community was eager to start on the next phase of establishing the important pieces to a parish. On Pentecost Sunday, May 25, 1958, the Very Reverend Dirayr Dervishian, then pastor of St. James Church in Los Angeles, celebrated the first Divine Liturgy ever held in the San Fernando Valley. This day marked a new era for the Armenians in Los Angeles, as this celebration was the birth of one of the most faithful Armenian communities in the world.
To begin the construction of this new parish, the community leaders requested permission from the Western Diocese of North America to establish a church in the San Fernando Valley. In October of 1958, the first meeting was held to organize a Parish Assembly. At this meeting, 52 members voted unanimously to formally organize the San Fernando Valley Armenian Apostolic Church. Two months later, 64 members elected a board of trustees (Parish Council), Diocesan Assembly Delegates and an auditing committee. The new officers were installed at the inaugural General Assembly on December 7, 1958.
Anxious to build their own sanctuary as soon as possible, the trustees appointed a building site committee and also organized the Ladies Aid as the major support unit of the church. The name St. Peter was chosen for the newly formed parish and Father Dervishian was asked to preside until a permanent parish priest could be appointed.
On February 14, 1959, St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church was incorporated and formally admitted to the Western Diocese. That summer, a two-and-one-quarter-acre parcel was purchased for $46,500 at our current location of 17231 Sherman Way.
Although the property had been purchased, fund-raising banquets were held by the Ladies Aid in 1959 and again in 1963. Construction of Sunday school classrooms and a Fellowship Hall began in early 1963. Finally, on June 16, 1963, the buildings were dedicated and the Sunday school classes were moved to their current location. Church services were conducted in the Fellowship Hall, where a temporary altar had been built.
In March 1962, Rev. Fr. Shahe A. K. Semerdjian was elected as parish priest. Under his leadership many constructive changes took place that served as an important foundation to his young parish. Fr. Semerdjian initiated proper methods of bookkeeping and other vital church operations. Most importantly, Fr. Shahe started three important church organizations, which still remain as the backbone of today’s church. The Mr. & Mrs. Society, the church choir, and the St. Peter Armenian Church Youth Organization were all started with guidance from Fr. Shahe.
In 1963, Fr. Semerdjian inaugurated the “Pari Loor.” This parish publication reports activities of all church organizations, church programs, and news that are important to all Armenians in the San Fernando Valley. The Pari Loor is still published today. In 2003, the Pari Loor made its Internet debut and can still be found on the St. Peter Website.
In July 1964, final plans for a sanctuary of St. Peter Church were held on June 6, 1965 with Bishop Torkom Manoogian, the Primate of the Western Diocese, officiating. The event coincided with the 10th anniversary of the enthronement of His Holiness, Vasken I, Catholicos of all Armenians. Consecration ceremonies for the sanctuary, which seats 500, were held on Pentecost Sunday, May 29, 1966, again with Bishop Manoogian presiding.
In the ensuing years, St. Peter Parish underwent what can be described as “growing pains” and the need for more classrooms and a larger cultural hall and auditorium became evident. In addition to the growing Sunday school attendance, classrooms were needed for the St. Peter-AGBU Armenian Day school, which also experienced phenomenal growth in the short period of its existence.
With a young and vibrant parish priest, a completed Sunday school and fellowship hall, combined with the many newly organized church organizations, the parishioners of St. Peter Armenian Church were ready to consecrate their sanctuary. Exactly 8 years from the first celebrated Holy Badarak in the San Fernando Valley, the St. Peter sanctuary was completed and consecrated, officially completing St. Peter Armenian Church, Van Nuys. Presided by Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, consecration ceremonies for the newly erected sanctuary were held on Pentecost Sunday, May 29, 1966.
On August 4, 1991, then Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, Primate of the Western Diocese ordained to the order of priesthood, Rev. Fr. Shnork Demirjian, who assumed his pastoral mission as the parish priest of St. Peter Armenian Church on November 1, 1991.
The Northridge Earthquake of January 17, 1994, extensively damaged the structure of the church, but the entire Parish Council, the Reconstruction Committee, the Re-dedication Committee and all the faithful diligently rebuilt the church, and on February 5, 1995 the church was reopened with a jubilant consecration banquet.
Soon afterwards facilities were renovated, such as the large Karagozian Hall, and a new one, the adjacent Yacoobian Hall was built. The Sunday and Saturday School classes were renovated, a children’s playground was opened and a new bookstore added at the left-hand entrance of the Karagozian Hall. With its many amenities St. Peter Church strives to serve the spiritual and cultural needs of the Armenian community in San Fernando Valley.
A full-time two office staff members, a caretaker and a facility manager take care of the daily activities and services of the church.
The church enjoys the services and commitment of a full-time ACYO director. The present youth director is actively promoting the participation of the Armenian youth in the life of the church and community. As such, the church is in an ongoing progress, constantly meeting the requirements of the growing community and looking forward to new challenges and successes for the greater glory of God.
On April 13, 2008, His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese, elevated Fr. Shnork Demirjian, the parish priest of St. Peter Church to the rank of Archpriesthood, in appreciation of his faithful ministry.
St. Peter Church continues to be the pride and the glory of all Armenians in the San Fernando Valley, and as clergy and laity celebrate the 50th Anniversary of St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church, they renew their faith in God Almighty and with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit always glorify the Kingdom of God established by our Lord Jesus Christ.