Asbury Park, NJ – On a warm Sunday along the Atlantic Ocean, Orthodox faithful gathered to continue the traditional “Blessing of the Waters.” The day began with the Divine Liturgy of the Feast of the Cross, at the Paramount Theatre on the boardwalk of Asbury Park.

Thousands gathered from the coastal states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to be part of the annual tradition. Following services, families gathered on the boardwalk outside the famed Theatre where a bust of Patriarch Athenagoras was decorated with a wreath. A procession then followed, onto the beach waterfront, led by priests and altar boys from various churches from around the area.

As the crowd grew along the waterfront, Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey walked forward into the waters and following a short prayer. A white wooden cross was raised as the first of four groups of Orthodox youth were brushed into the center of the circling crowd. The cross was then launched into the ocean where the battle to locate and retrieve the cross took place.

Visiting Bishop Akunda of Kisumu and Western Kenya was given the honor of participating as well, as he lofted the cross to the next participating group. The four winners of each age group were rewarded with crosses and a trophy by his Eminence, Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey.

Families snapped photos of the historic tradition before heading over to the traditional barbecue on the lawn across the street from the Paramount theatre.