Filled with a desire to learn more about the history of the Assyrian Church of the East in the United States of America, 40 young members of Detroit’s St. Mary Church have experienced a spiritually uplifting visit to Mar Shimun Bar-Sabbai Church in Flint, Michigan.
Aged between 7 and 20 years, the youth delegation included four recently ordained young Sub-deacons from Detroit.
Accompanying the group were Rev. Amir Brekha, parish priest of St. Mary Church in Warren, Michigan and Rev. Genard Lazar, Youth Coordinator of the Diocese of California and Secretary to the Bishop of California, His Grace Dr. Mar Awa Royel.
Arriving at the church on 18 June, the group were welcomed by Rev. Joseph Peera, parish priest at Mar Shimun Bar-Sabbai Church. As part of the official welcome, Deacon John Howell gave a presentation highlighting the history of the church and community in Flint.
Deacon David Lazar said the visit of the youth had brought great blessings to the Flint community and enhanced the sense of purpose and community felt by the members of the small but faithful parish.
Speaking on the contemporary proliferation of social media, Rev. Genard Lazar advised the young faithful that this media should be employed for positive and uplifting means rather than to advance insignificant or detrimental interactions.
Rev. Genard highlighted the longevity of the parish, explaining the sacrifice of Flint’s early Assyrians who gave so much to establish the church in the hope that it would last for the benefit of future generations. Noting the centrality of youth to the mission and future of the church in his closing remarks, Rev. Genard suggested that the youth should consider what actions they would take, as active spiritual sons and daughters of the church, which would last a century, as the first Flint Assyrians had done in establishing their congregation.
Mar Shimun Bar-Sabbai is the earliest Church of the East congregation established in the USA. Flint, Michigan drew many Assyrian immigrants to jobs at the General Motors plants in the area and an Assyrian-American community began to be established nearly 100 years ago. A majority of the original Assyrian community in Flint came from north-western Iran, around Lake Urmia and the surrounding regions. It is noteworthy that many of the Assyrians who came to Flint had fled from horrors of the Assyrian Genocide during World War I and had suffered great hardships in pursuing a new life in the USA.
The Assyrian community of Flint was in existence by at least 1913 and the congregation was formed in 1923, with members originally conducting worship in the basement of the church site. The construction of the church was undertaken completely by local Assyrians and finally completed in 1939. The historical building continues to be used by the parish faithful today. Future visits to the earliest Assyrian parish in the USA are expected from other congregations in North America.
The following individuals are to be commended for their valuable contribution to the success of the day’s program: Elizabeth Baly (President of the parish Ladies Circle), Younia Isaac (Choir Director), Mervat and Biyar Assoofi, Faiza Isak, Linda Isaac and Mervat Botani.
news.assyrianchurch.com also acknowledges the efforts of Mar Shimun Bar-Sabbai Church’s resident photographer Dawood Botani for the photographs provided.
To learn more about Mar Shimun Bar-Sabbai Church in Flint, visit www.churchoftheeastflint.org.[nggallery id=217]