MAKING A WRONG TURN
By Jim Lippert
I would like to share with you a journey, a journey I have been engaged in for the last eight
years. The journey began one day when I made a wrong turn off of Marshall Avenue and drove
in front of a building, having a sign posted out front, saying: St. Sahag Armenian Church. I
remember stopping my car on Dayton and just looked at the sign. I knew a little bit about the
Armenian Church and a little bit about the Armenian Genocide, but I did not realize that there
was an Armenian congregation located in the Twin Cities.
Out of curiosity I decided I would attend one service to witness and experience how my
Armenian brothers and sisters engaged in worship. Growing up in a Western Tradition I arrived
at the church well before the service began, picked up a Liturgy book, and took a seat. I
opened the book and was confronted with strange symbols, knowing it was a written language,
but it was all Greek to me and I thought I would not be able to follow the service in an
intelligent way. Thumbing through the book, to my great relief, I finally found the section
where English was recorded.
It began to get closer to the time when the service was to start, and yet I was the only one
sitting in church. I began to get a little worried. Then, slowly, individuals began to filter in and
the Divine Liturgy commenced. I stood in awe as the organ rang out and choir began to chant.
I did not understand a word that I was hearing, but it did not matter. I followed the Liturgy as
closely as I could. I was very grateful for the drawings of priest and servers found within the
Liturgy book because those drawings where my guide as to what part of the service we had
No, as I said, I did not understand a word, but yet I was lifted in mind and spirit. I remember
thinking that these Armenians had something beautiful, something special, and something very
holy. I had come for one visit and found myself in attendance the next week, and then the
week after that, and before I knew it weeks had turned into months.
At first I did not stay after service for the social hour. I was concerned that everyone would be
speaking Armenian, and I would feel out of place. That went on for some time, until a young
lady stopped me and invited me to the fellowship hall. To my amazement everyone was
speaking English, and I was very warmly welcomed. I felt at home, even though I was not
Armenian, and as time went on I slowly came to the conclusion that I wanted the Armenian
Church, and the Church of St. Sahag, to be my spiritual home.
You, my Armenian brothers and sisters, welcomed me with open arms and open hearts into
your midst. It did not matter that I was raised in a different faith tradition. It did not matter
that I did not speak Armenian. It did not matter that I was not Armenian. What mattered was
that I was a spiritual seeker, an individual who felt wounded and needed healing because of life
experiences, and you welcomed me and accepted me for just being Jim. You accepted me as an
ABC, an Armenian By Choice, and I carry that designation with gratitude and with pride.
There isn’t a member of our congregation who has not touched my life positively and helped
and aided me in my journey, through your kindness, compassion, and love. There are others,
who for one reason or another, no longer worship at St. Sahag. To these individuals I have
nothing but warm and loving thoughts. For they, too, have been, and are, very important to
One of the ministries I am engaged in at St. Sahag is to cut the lawn on a weekly basis. There
have been times, because of my age, when I feel I just can’t do it. I feel I do not have the
energy or the strength to accomplish the task. When I feel that way I kind of shout at myself to
get off my rump, drive to the church, and do what needs to be done. I get to the church, haul
out the lawnmower, fill it with gas, start the mower and say to myself: “One foot at a time.
That’s all. You just need to move one foot at a time.” Before I know it the lawn is cut, the job is
Why do I do this? After all, there are younger men in the congregation who could do the job.
Why do I sing in the choir, when I cannot read music? Why do I stand at the lectern and read
the scripture lessons, when there are others, I am sure, who are more capable than I? Why do I
shovel snow, paint, climb ladders, plant a garden, and a host of other projects in which I have
been involved? I do it because it brings me peace. I do it because it brings me healing and a
great deal of joy. I do it in thanksgiving for all that our congregation has done for me. I do it
because it brings honor and glory to God. Of all five, the last is the most important, because it
brings honor and glory to God.
As in all congregations St. Sahag comprises members who come from different faith traditions,
from different lands, from different life experiences, and from different cultures. We all have
different outlooks, different temperaments, and different thought processes, and that is okay.
What a boring congregation we would be if we all sounded alike, looked alike, and thought
alike. But whatever our differences may be we should never let them impede us from our
calling to be Christ’s disciples, Christ’s man or woman, Christ’s Mystical Body, which is the
Church. Our pray and our purpose should be that which our Lord prayed in the Garden of
Gethsemane: “Not my will, but thine be done.” Our aim and our purpose should be one, and
that is to bring honor and glory to God.
I have been on a journey these last eight years and each of you, in one way or another, have
aided me in this journey. I am thankful for each of you. I am grateful for each of you. My life is
better because of you, and all I can say is: “Thank you.” I made a wrong turn eight years ago,
but it was the rightest wrong turn I have ever made. You have all made my journey a little
easier. You have all brought me light and hope, at times when I could only see darkness and
feel despair. You have been the hands of Christ to bring me healing. You have been the voice
of Christ to bring me consolation and hope. Yes, eight years ago I made a wrong turn on
Marshall, but it was the rightest wrong turn I have ever made.
Soon we will celebrate the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will celebrate light
conquering darkness. We will celebrate love conquering hatred. We will celebrate hope
conquering despair, and we will celebrate life conquering death. Christ truly has risen from the
dead! Let us prepare ourselves so that we may truly celebrate the glorious resurrection of
Christ! Let us prepare ourselves and recommit ourselves to being the People of God, His sons
and His daughters, so that we may be a haven, a place of refuge, for all who seek, as I was
seeking, a place of peace, a place of hope, and a place to heal.
Yes, years ago, I made a wrong turn, but it was the rightest wrong turn I have ever made.