An Epiphany celebration is to be held for the first time in St. Augustine on the Atlantic coast of northeastern Florida on Thursday.
The Greek Orthodox community in the town, which is the oldest continuously-inhabited European-established settlement in the United States, has secured the approval of the authorities for the ceremony, which will include the throwing of the Holy Cross from the most central point of the town, the Bridge of Lions, into the water.
Father Maximos Politis, pastor at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church told the Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) that he wanted to establish the ceremony as an annual event in the town starting this year.
“Driven by the similar ceremony that takes place in Tarpon Springs, I made the proposal to the Ecclesiastical Council, which accepted it with enthusiasm. Then we got the permission of the authorities, who decided that it would be good to establish the Epiphany celebration as an event that concerns the whole city and not only just the Orthodox Church,” Father Maximos said.
Epiphany celebration at St. Augustine
He added that as this is the first time the event will take place in the town, the ceremony will be rather simple.
“We will throw the Cross with a ribbon and we will collect it, releasing at the same time a white dove. We will not allow the presence of swimmers as we have not checked the waters,” he explained.
St. Augustine, founded on September 8, 1565, by Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Florida’s first governor, has a population of about 15,000.
The small Greek Orthodox community
Father Maximos says that there are up to 80 registered people in the Greek Orthodox community of the town.
“We also did a survey, through a private company, to find out how many Orthodox Christians there are within 25 miles of the Church. We were told that there are about 3,000.
“We want to reach out to them to let them know that there is this church where they can find a response to their religious needs and therefore we assume that there will be an increase in membership,” he adds.
Fr. Maximos says that the goal of the small Greek community is for everyone who comes to settle in the area to find a hug. “A hug, a welcome that will help them integrate into the society of the region. For this purpose, we have volunteers, who are ready to help all those in need.”
He adds that in 2022 the Church will begin offering hagiography classes as well.