Pier Damage Forces Blessing Event Relocation

OCEAN CITY — The St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church this week got approval from the Mayor and Council to hold its annual Blessing of the Waters ceremony on the beach at 90th Street in January after the original plan to host it at the Inlet pier was derailed because of damage to the structure caused by Hurricane Sandy.

For years, the St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church in Ocean City has held an annual religious ceremony to bless the waters of the ocean off the coast of the resort. In the annual ceremony, priests lead a procession of their congregation to a designated area on or near the beach for a prayer service after which a blessed cross is tossed into the ocean.

The blessed cross is then retrieved by swimmers after a short period of time and the ceremony continues. After the ceremony, the congregation leaves the beach and heads to a luncheon afterward. The plan this year was to hold the annual ceremony at the Inlet and the event included tossing the blessed cross from the pier into the ocean about 10 feet off the shoreline. The swimmers would then retrieve the cross.

However, significant damage to the Inlet pier caused by Hurricane Sandy in late October forced organizers to change the plan. The famous pier, which dates back over 100 years, was one of the first casualties when Hurricane Sandy arrived in the Ocean City area late Sunday night, October 28, and into the next morning as heavy surf and high winds battered much of the eastern-most section of the pier.

The battered end of the pier is still clearly visible, the most obvious symbol of damage caused by the storm, but plans are underway to completely restore it before the next summer season. However, the damaged pier forced St. George’s officials to move the annual Blessing of the Waters ceremony. It will now be held on Jan. 12 and will be based out of the church and the tossing of the blessed cross into the ocean will take place on the beach at 90th Street.

“After the damage to the pier during the storm, we had to alter the plans for the Blessing of the Waters ceremony,” event coordinator Michael Vasilikos told the Mayor and Council on Monday. “The event is now going to be held on the beach at 90th Street. I believe this is the closest beach access within walking distance to the church.”

After brief discussion about the town’s commitment to the annual ceremony, which has been conducted in Ocean City for several years, the council approved the special request. The ceremony is set for Jan. 12 from roughly 12:30-2 p.m.