In Polomolok, South Cotobato, a formerly-Aglipayan parish has been in catechism for months, but recently their pastor has had a stroke, leaving them with no pastoral care at all. So, until a priest can be assigned, with the blessings of Moscow Patriarchate Archbishop Mark of Egorievsk and my own Metropolitan Hilarion, I have been invited to serve there as interim priest, traveling to this province by bus and trisikad to serve the Liturgy several times per month. Formerly the Aglipayan parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the newly-refounded Protection of the Theotokos Orthodox Church has had its first Divine Liturgy!
Until this weekend, I had not thought about how long a mass baptism takes. On Sunday, clergy and catechumens at Polomolok, South Cotobato gathered about 6:00am. Together with visiting missionary Father Kirill Shkarbul, I served proskomide (preparation for Communion) while people continued to gather. By 7:00 we left for the ocean and arrived before 8:00. Anointing 129 people by name, then wading out into the ocean and baptizing each one triply and clothing them in white, then lining up on the beach again to chrismate each one, took a very long time (and resulted in thoroughly sunburned clergy!) Finally back to the church, where we concelebrated a bilingual Divine Liturgy in English and Cebuano, washed away chrism, tonsured everyone, and finally all received Communion. The Liturgy ended around 3:00pm.
Over a hundred newly-Orthodox people were still enthusiastic after being hungry, thirsty, and hot all day, and then standing for over two hours for the Liturgy. Most members of this parish work at the huge Dole pineapple plantation which dominates the municipal economy. (Dole is the world’s largest producer of pineapples, with majority of its pineapple production facilities located in Polomolok. If you’re eating pineapple today, there is a very good chance it was harvested by hand by one of our newly-Orthodox members!) Plantation employees work long shifts 6 days a week with no vacation policy, with Sunday being their one day off. This makes me appreciate even more their spending all day on Sunday at their baptism and first Communion.
I was serving all day, so I only got a few pictures. I’ll post more when other people upload their own photos!
Colorful boats drawn up on the beach.
The people are assembling.
Many wore white for their baptism.
Setting up a table by the water. By the time we finished, the tide had gone out; after moving further and further to have enough depth of water for baptism, it was a long walk back the table!
Preparation for baptism. Beside Father Silouan is Father Kirill Chkarboul, a priest of the Moscow Patriarchate, visiting from Taiwan.
“The handmaid of God is anointed with the oil of gladness in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages.”
Two lines for chrismation!
Evening inside Protection of the Holy Theotokos parish church at Polomolok. The iconostas and ambo are new, and members are justly proud of what they’ve accomplished. Iconographers in Russia are beginning to paint a set of icons for the iconostas. Behind the doors, you can see a western-style statue of Christ that has so far proven to be quite immovably mounted to the concrete wall; change is slow but steady.
Back at the church – ready for the Liturgy.
Fr Kirill gives the homily.