Local church blesses Rock RIver

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ROCKFORD, Ill (WIFR) -- Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church held a ceremony to bless the Rock River Sunday at the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum. Blessing the river is an old tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Rock River blessing

The focus of the ceremony is Epiphany, which is the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan. Members of the church mark the sacred day in January by blessing local water.

Sunday church leaders explained the importance of bringing the tradition back to Rockford. They say the city expressed a desire to transform. They say blessing the river can help.

"With Orthodoxy we consider transform to be a change, but transfigure to be truly a transcendent, to invite God to the equation," says Father Jonathan Bannon. "And so we thought this is a way to pull people together, share a tradition and ask God to bless all people."

Orthodox Christians made their mark in Winnebago County 90 years ago. January 19 marks the seventh time the blessing of water at the Rock River is celebrated outdoors.