summer our son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Oksana Cox, asked whether their
14-month-old daughter could be baptized in Ten Mile Lake. Of course, Sarah and I
agreed, not knowing just exactly
what we were in for. Our daughter-in-law, Oksana, who
grew up in Slavgorad, in
it happened that on Sunday afternoon,
was a hot, still day, perfect for swimming, and for a baptism. About five in the
afternoon, with several other Fernhurst families gathered for the occasion, Fr.
Andrei and Nikolai, with the help of a TV tray, arranged a lakeshore altar,
complete with candles, icons and scripture. Next to it they raised a stand to
hold a silver censer. Father Andrei, in priestly regalia, Nikolai, Tom, Oksana,
Tanya and Tanya’s godmother Nadya formed a close circle in the path on the ice
berm under the trees in front of the guest cabin, just a few feet from the
water’s edge. In a soft voice, Fr.
Andrei began to read the Orthodox baptismal service, in English, from a loose
leaf notebook. Because Orthodoxy is profoundly Trinitarian, he repeated each
part of the service, with only slight variation, three times. Occasionally he
lifted his eyes to Tanya and her parents, and once in a while would touch Tanya,
and blow gently on her to symbolize the touch of the Holy Spirit.
what seemed to be an almost interminable reading, Fr. Andrei looked at me and
said, “Now we begin the baptism.” What
we had heard him read to this point were only the preliminaries! While Nikolai
lit the incense in the hanging censer, Fr. Andrei began reading again. At one
point he handed his notebook to Nikolai, walked to the water’s edge, knelt
down and three times scooped water up in his hands and gently blew on it while
he pronounced words of blessing. It was only after another twenty minutes or so
that he handed off his notebook, and motioned Oksana toward the lake. Fr. Andrei
in his ankle-length black robe and gold and silver embroidered stole, and Oksana
in a simple white ankle-length dress holding Tanya (wearing nothing at all) in
her arms, stepped down the short sandy path to the water. They walked out along
the side of the dock until the water was about waist high. Speaking the
baptismal words, Fr. Andre immersed both Tanya and Oksana three times.
Remarkably, neither Tanya nor her mother made any complaint, not even as much as
climactic moment having passed, the three returned to the shore. Oksana changed
her clothes and dressed Tanya in a beautiful white baptismal dress and bonnet.
The small circle of priest and family formed again and Fr. Andrei read the
concluding liturgical words. The service had lasted an hour and thirty minutes.
What followed, of course, was a feast — hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad,
coke, etc. — and swimming, picture-taking, opening of baptismal gifts and
socializing among the gathered family and neighbors and guest parishioners.
have never heard of another baptism in Ten Mile Lake, let alone by Orthodox
rite. It may be that Tanya’s
baptismal immersion, along with the blessing of the