The Armenian Evangelical Holy Trinity Church
The Armenian Evangelical movement is a spiritual awakening within the bosom of the Mother church with the aim of reforming the church. The waves of the Armenian Evangelical movement reached Kessab in 1948 following 3 stages:
First, during 1844-1845, one of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions’ missionaries named Van Lennep, left in Kessab a few copies of the New Testament in Turkish, but written in Armenian script, while he was traveling to Aintab. This action attracted the attention of some young people and they came together to read and study these books. This event became the core impetus behind the establishment of the Armenian Evangelical church in Kessab.
Second, Meghdes Hannah, who was actually trying to convince one of his evangelical friend to abandon the evangelical movement ended up joining the movement and started attending the bible studies himself.
Third, in 1948, Mr. Hagop was sent to Kessab by the prelacy to act as a teacher. He led bible studies which soon began to take the form of regular prayer meetings. The members of this group continued their own gatherings in rented houses while at the same time remaining faithful to the mother church. Because of his actions and attitude, Mr. Hagop was soon expelled by the national authorities.
During 1850-1862, the Armenian Evangelical church witnessed its most turbulent, but nevertheless, its liveliest and the most prosperous period. The church remained without a pastor, but it survived by the efforts of visiting pastors.
Beginning in March of 1853, the Armenian Evangelical community was listed as a separate community from the Armenian Apostolic community under the Ottoman tribute registry. On the 23rd of May 1853, the Armenian Evangelical church was founded in Kessab and was run by 12 members. One year later, the Armenian Evangelical church expanded to consist of 34 communicant members and 300 tribute paying members. 550 people attended the first worship ceremony. During this period of time, the church obtained a substantial number of voluntary active members who became involved in spreading the word of God. The Evangelical church flourished despite many difficulties and obstacles.
In 1859, after obtaining permission from the Sultan to construct a church building, the Evangelical community undertook the task of constructing the church house. The plan was put into place in 1860. All the members of the evangelical families contributed in constructing the church house.
In 1860, the church numbered 41 communicant members and 400 regular members. The first worship ceremony took place on the February of the same year inside the new church building. After a few months the church held an inauguration service, where 1000 individuals were estimated to attend.
In 1868, the church expanded to include 192 active members who played an essential role in spreading the Evangelical movement. Some of these active members were comprised of Armenian Evangelicals in Kayajek, Chinarjek, Korkouna, Ekizoloukh and Karadouran who attended worship in Kessab’s Evangelical church every first Sunday of each month.
In 1873, the annual meeting of the Clinician union took place inside the church building. In 1874, the Reverend Stepan Mahshigian (the first Kessabtsi ordained pastor) was installed to serve in the church for 7-10 years. Under his supervision, the church continued to enlarge in number, become more organized and improve its methods in its teaching ministry. During the subsequent years, the church had a stable situation and did not suffer from any lack in pastors serving the church until 1902-1903.
In 1909, the Reverend Dikran Koundakjian received a new decree from the Sultan to build a new church house, adopting many beautiful architectural features. The construction started during 1912-1913, but was halted because of the Genocide that took place in 1915 (the church at this stage was called the White Church). By 1915, the number of the communicant members of the church was 320 member while the number of the regular followers was 1500 folower.
Following the cease fire in 1918, the people in Kessab started to gather in their ruined town again. They adopted self-defense methods and had skirmishes with the neighboring Turkish villagers.
In 1929, the annual meeting of the Syrian-Lebanese Armenian Evangelical Union took place in Kessab. The church remained without a permanent pastor until 1929-1939, and the previous construction on the church remained incomplete.
During 1930-1932, the Reverend Yeghia Kassouni served in the church. In 1931, the church numbered 27 communicant members. However, in 1947, the number of the Armenian Evangelical community in Kessab was reduced by more than half due to the repatriation process.
In 1966, the General Assembly of the Union took place in Kessab again from the 12th to the 17th of July, where they discussed the issue of the incomplete church house construction. During 1967-1968, they worked hard on the project and the construction was completed in 1970. Benevolent friends and the people of the community never saved any effort or assistance to accomplish this task, but the success of this job is mostly due to the endeavors of the Reverend Ardashes Kerbabian.
Sometime between 1967 and 1969, the church donated part of its land to the Christian Endeavor Union to be used as a summer camping resort.(KCHAG)
In 1970, from the 7th to the 12th of June, the 38th General Assembly of the Union was held in Kessab and the inauguration of the White Church took place.
Between 1977 and 1980, Reverend Soghomon Kilaghbian served in Kessab, and in 1978, the 125th anniversary of the church was celebrated in a glorious way.
In 1993, the 140th anniversary of the Armenian Evangelical Church was celebrated. This special anniversary celebration was accompanied with a glorious worship service under the patronage of the Near East Armenian Evangelical Union.
In 2003, the church held a highly memorable worship ceremony for its 150th anniversary.
The church, guided by its faithful stewards, continues to perform its mission through the Sunday school, youth, young adults and the bible study groups, who all strive to keep the church in a living and potent position by focusing on growing internally as well as cooperating with the other churches in the area.