Do you remember MTV Unplugged? It started in the 1980’s and still continues today. Musicians and bands perform some of their songs without electrical or synthesized amplification. Songs are just played with a piano or acoustic guitar — simple, but refreshing.

I had an unforgettable celebration of the Divine Liturgy (Badarak) in Nashville, Tennessee last month and “Badarak Unplugged” was the best way to describe it. Perhaps the Badarak celebrated in Nashville was, in the truest sense, the way it was meant be celebrated.

The beauty of this perfect Badarak was that it was less than perfect and rather rough around the edges, yet one of the most moving, spiritual Badarak celebrations I’ve experienced as a priest. There was no spiritual pretense about all those who gathered in the rented Episcopal Church on December 18th at 1pm. The feeling was raw, energy was fluid, and the spirit excited.

The Sunday started off a brisk 20 degrees, with hints of ice sparkling the roads and sidewalks, but that didn’t stop the diverse group of believers to participate in the anticipated monthly Worship service. Children were present and actively participated in the Badarak and came forward toward the Altar for a special children’s message about St. Nicholas and the true meaning of Christmas. The only two Altar servers toggled between the languages of Armenian and English, offered the litanies, chanted scripture and offered incense. The choir, made up of many diverse ages, sang like angels and led the faithful in offering praise to God. To say that this gathering was inspiring is an understatement.

The Badarak celebration is the expression of our sacrifice and works that we, as God’s faithful, offer back to our Creator in His consecrated sanctuary. When we gather in God’s home to celebrate Badarak, together, we construct and give back to God the fruits of our work — communal prayers, faith and love for God. This is exactly what happened in Nashville, Tennessee on December 18th.

The Nashville Armenians came together to make the Badarak of the Armenian Church happen. Their monthly gatherings are something not taken for granted. It takes effort and desire and God bless them for their pursuit.

May all of us never take for granted our Badarak, prayers and worship of the Armenian people and nation – it should never be seen as a privilege, but rather a gift.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; enter into his presence with singing” Psalm 100:1-2