Warren Ohio Orthodox Churches Bless the Mahoning River

WARREN, OHIO [TRIB-TODAY] - The Orthodox Christian churches of Warren held a blessing ceremony on Thursday for the waters of the Mahoning River as part of the Feast of Theophany.

The Orthodox Christian churches in Warren participating at the event held each January included St. Demetrios Orthodox Church, St. John the Baptist Church and St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.

With a light snowfall during the blessing, about 50 people - including members of each congregation, community members and city officials - gathered by the river near the Warren Community Amphitheatre, where the Revs. Ken Bachofsky of St. Nicholas, Ed Brisbine of St. Nicholas, Costa Valantasis of St. Demetrios, Jonathan Cholcher of St. John and Gregory Thompson of Holy Transfiguration Church in Steubenville conducted the ceremony.

Brisbine said the ''blessing of the waters'' reflects on when Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist. Blessing local waterways gives a blessing for all, he said.

''The water is also blessed within each church and taken to homes where the homes are blessed with the holy water,'' he said.

Cholcher said the water at each church is blessed in addition to the waters of the Mahoning River.

''If there is a local water source, such as a river or lake, typically we also bless that water. It is essentially a blessing for the entire community. We do this in order to exalt what Christ has done for us,'' Cholcher said.

''Our purpose today is to be here with Christ and to be a transformed person to live in the life that God has given to us. We see the waters going by and the journeys that they make. As we see these waters, we consider our own lives and where we have been, where we are and where we are going,'' Cholcher said.

Resident Joyce Bender, who attends St. John the Baptist, said she was pleased with the turnout.

''It is nice to have people from the Orthodox churches coming together for this event,'' she said.

Thompson, who lives in Champion with his church 90 miles away in Steubenville, said he was glad to be part of the event with the local parishes.

For the ceremony, members of the different congregations sang hymns recalling the baptism of Christ and how the Jordan River was made holy through the presence of Jesus. Special readings from the Old and New Testaments were held. Special prayers were also held for today's people and society that God would bless them. A prayer was also held for the waters to be blessed.

Bob Coupland