Our History

St. John Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church was designed as a monument and a testament to Christ and the enduring and eternal faith of the Armenian people. Just as churches which were built in the mountainous regions of Armenia and soared above their surrounding landscapes, St. John Armenian Church thrusts its golden dome skyward ninety-three feet above the ground, catching the eyes of all who enter its hallowed walls to worship God or visit in prayer, and depart to serve him.

The history of St. John Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of Greater Detroit spans more than 100 years and reflects the inspiring growth of a small, flock into a great and thriving community.  While there were Armenians in Detroit before the turn of the century, it was not until 1909 that an Armenian community as such could be recognized. The Detroit Armenian community, which numbered some 3,000 in 1915, has since grown to become one of the larger Armenian communities in the United States, with an estimated 30,000-40,000 members.

For many years the community could worship in their own tradition only periodically, at such times as an Armenian clergyman might visit Detroit and offer the Divine Liturgy in a church building borrowed for the occasion.  The Armenians had no church building, and from 1913-1931 it was necessary to accept the hospitality of St. John’s Episcopal Church (downtown Detroit), whose pastor offered their sanctuary for use by the Armenians on Sunday afternoons.

Through considerable sacrifices on the part of the community, a new church building was completed in 1931 on Oakman Boulevard, and it was consecrated by the soon-to-be-martyred Primate of our Diocese, His Grace Archbishop Leon Tourian.   As this sanctuary eventually was outgrown, it was hoped that a new church building project would provide space for several community buildings. Community leaders found the multi acre property at the nexus of Northwestern Highway and the Southfield Freeway.  

In September of 1961, a dedication ceremony took place. The new cultural hall was completed with a chapel, twenty-two classrooms, a large auditorium, a library, meeting rooms, offices, and a large well-equipped kitchen.  The vast undertaking of building the new church sanctuary was inspired and led by Mr. Alex Manoogian and Mr. Edward Mardigian, whose generous contribution to the entire building project was exceeded only by the time and effort they so selflessly gave in their determination to endow the Armenian community and the people of Greater Detroit with something of lasting value.  The dedication and consecration of “the church with the golden dome” was performed in a solemn ceremony on Sunday, November 20, 1966, by His Grace Bishop Torkom Manoogian, at that time, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, assisted by several clergymen and dignitaries. 

Following the construction of the new church, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Alex & Marie Manoogian School was built, which currently is a Detroit Charter School with grades Pre-K through 12.  In 1991 the Edward and Helen Mardigian Library was opened.   And in 1992, the Alex and Marie Manoogian Museum was dedicated and is open to the public by appointment only.  

St. John Armenian Church falls under the jurisdiction of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia, which is the spiritual and administrative center of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church.  It is currently the largest parish within the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.  

Today, St. John Armenian Church serves the spiritual needs of the greater Detroit Metropolitan area by providing many programs including spiritual, outreach, youth, elderly as well as social ministries to its parishioners.