Saturday 25th of May 2013
|Armenian Evangelical church of Gedik-Pasha|
|Armenian Evangelical church of Gedik-Pasha|
It is the second Armenian Evangelical Church to be established in Istanbul, on November 1, 1850. In the period between 1850-1905 the church used to be known as the Armenian Evangelical church of Langa, according to the neighborhood where it was first established. From 1854-1888 the congregation used to meet for worship services in a house in Langa, but when the place became too small and old for the growing number of the members, the meetings were held in a rented place on Gedik-Pasha street, to the time when the church council buys a land with the vision of building its permanent sanctuary. But the Ottoman imperial permission was delayed against all the hopes of the members.
As a response to the delay, on the eve of August 27, 1895 the congregation erects a large wooden cottage on the allocated land and uses it de facto as its sanctuary. Although the cottage was not a fortified one especially against the winds, rainfalls and snowy seasons, but it became a cozy place of worship and spiritual nourishment.
The cottage could not stand for a long time. After three years it collapsed and the congregation continued to meet on Sunday eves in the Bible-House Church and later in the chapel of the nearby American school.
On May 18, 1911 the Imperial permission to build the new sanctuary had finally arrived. The joy of the congregation was limitless. Under the supervision of architect Mr. Stephen Izmirlian, the church council uses the $10.000 donation of the American William James family for the erection of the new sanctuary, but unfortunately, in 1914 World War I had started and the construction was suspended.
In 1919, the church council resumes the construction and completes the first floor (i.e. the worship hall and three adjacent rooms). On January 16, 1921 a special ceremony was organized by the church during which the dedication service was held and hence the church revitalizes its ministries for all the age groups, even organizing a day school in the basement rooms.
In 1923 when the Turkish Republic was declared, the new government forbid the existence of daily schools within the church buildings. After a couple of years of suspension, in 1927 and under the leadership of Rev. Sarkis Manougian the church starts its day school in the former British Mission's building on Incir-Dibi street, Kumkapi. Later in 1946 the church completes the purchase of the school's building. The school continues until 1981, when the state's Vakiflar Commission (Governmental commission to deal with church owned building issues) confiscates it (based on a 1936 law which disallowed all churches of the state to own properties either granted or bought after 1936) and later pulls it down to be used and invested as a parking lot.
Recently, the Turkish government has conceded to the church some real estates that was confiscated from the church in 1980s, including the site of former Incir-Dibi elementary school.
In 1955 the church council resumes the construction of the second level of the sanctuary and in December 1968, a dedication service is organized where the Patriarch of Istanbul also takes part and delivers a short speech on the occasion.
In 1957 with the fervent vision and dedication of Mr. Hrant (Kucuk) Guzelian, the church starts a unique ministry where it hosts dozens of Armenian children from Anatolia to preserve their ethnic and religious identities. This "boarding school" starts with 30 children, who used to stay in the basement rooms of the church and attend the day-school and spend the summer months in Tuzla camp.
During the years 1980-1982 the church faces very tough times. The Tuzla camp and the Incir-Dibi primary school buildings are confiscated and Mr. Hrant Guzelian is unfairly accused of raising Armenian militants in Tuzla camp, for which he is imprisoned and harshly mistreated. For some time the government disallows Sunday services but the congregation, the council and especially its chairperson at that time, the late Mr. Hrant Dink refuse to give up. They do their best to regulate the life and the activities of the church all throughout the 80's and the early 90's, when winds of change blow over Turkey and a new era starts for religious minorities in Turkey.
1n 1993 Mr. Krikor Agabaloglu of Arapgir, first becomes a member, then council member, then chairman and finally the pastor of the church. He was ordained to the ministry in 2002, giving the church a new uplift and organizing its evangelistic mission.
Today the church runs its activities for congregations from different ethnic backgrounds. On Sundays, four services are organized for Turkish, Moldovan, Armenian and Persian Christians. Day by day the numbers of the attendees grow and the church has become a place of worship, service and spiritual healing, in a familial atmosphere.