The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Valley

January 7, 2013

Beaver Creek blessed

BEAVER SPRINGS —  The waters of Beaver Creek were blessed in an ancient outdoor ritual conducted by Snyder County’s only Orthodox Christian congregation.

The blessing, which took place at 11:45 a.m. at the covered bridge behind the West Milton State Bank branch, was led by Father Basil Biberdorf, of State College’s Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, and Reader David Smith, of Beavertown’s Orthodox Christian Chapel of the Holy Spirit. The chapel, the first of its kind in Snyder County, was founded as an outreach mission of State College’s Orthodox church.

“It’s our intent to make this a blessing for the entire community,” Biberdorf said.

The ceremony, which included about 15 members of the chapel, consisted of chanting, prayers and Biberdorf casting a wooden cross three times into Beaver Creek, retrieving it with an attached rope.

An icon carried by one of the parishioners depicted the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. Sunday’s ceremony served as a commemoration of that event.

“It’s a way for us to say God created creation good, and we accept that and that he uses it for our redemption,” said Smith.

“That’s why this is done all over the world,” added Biberdorf.

In Russia, some churches conduct the ritual on frozen rivers. In certain versions of the ceremony held near deeper water, said Biberdorf, it is customary to have someone dive in and retrieve the cross.

Beavertown’s Orthodox Christian Chapel of the Holy Spirit was founded in 2008, with services held in Smith’s house.

The church recently bought a parcel of land on Kern Street, where members hope to build a small chapel. The hope is to break ground on the project this summer, Biberdorf said.

In the meantime, Smith and his wife, Brenda, host their fellow worshippers at their home for weekly services.

The church has 28 members, most of whom live in Snyder County.

While providing a place of worship has its challenges, Smith and his wife don’t consider it a burden, he said. “There’s an intimacy this group experiences ... that comes naturally to holding it in a house,” he said.

“The church is more than just a building,” Biberdorf added.

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