In a field at the corner of Indiana 43 North and Indiana 225 in Battle Ground, about 50 people waited Sunday for the blessing of the land to begin. The sun warmed their backs as they faced east toward the future altar.
Four men wearing long black robes and gold vestments approached. They began singing hymns in a Byzantine chant, which was practiced throughout the rite. Bishop Gregory of Nyssa led the proceedings, blessing the land by sprinkling holy water on the grounds and the people.
He also led the congregation of Saint Alexis Orthodox Church in burying the “cornerstone”in the ground for the altar. Men, women and children took turns digging up soil so a symbolic stone could be laid. A cross was placed over the stone.
“The Orthodox Church tries to sanctify every aspect of our lives,” said member Ashley Purpura, 27, of West Lafayette. “To build a new church foundation starts with asking (God’s) blessing.”
Once the new building is constructed, the altar will face east, a tradition that has ties to ancient Jewish worship. The construction has been eight years in the making. But eight years is nothing in the eyes of a church that is part of a 2,000-year-old faith tradition.
Although the new façade of the church will be a fusion of American and traditional Eastern Orthodox architecture, the interior of the church will have the same historical and symbolic design as the current building, which is located in Lafayette.
“We hope to be more accommodating,” said Rev. Gregory Allard, the church’s priest. “This (current building) is not serving us as it once did. We hope people will investigate the Orthodox Church.”
Saint Alexis Orthodox Church is part of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A., which has 81 parishes in the United States and Canada and 8,500 members. Although originally founded by immigrants from countries such as Slovakia, Poland and western Ukraine, the diocese currently consists of people from various ethnic backgrounds.