Story last updated at 2:17 p.m. Thursday, April 25, 2002

Russian Orthodox bishop blesses Homer chapel
by Joel Gay
Staff Writer

The new Russian Orthodox church being established in Homer has a name, and as of last weekend some of the trappings that it needs.

St. Mary's of Egypt was the name selected for the new congregation by the church's top official in Alaska, the Right Rev. Nikolai, bishop of Sitka and Alaska.

Last weekend, he, the Very Rev. Archpriest Simeon Oskolkoff and other church officials were in Homer to celebrate the holy day of St. Mary of Egypt and bless the chapel's new Book of the Holy Gospel and chalice.

"It was a very spiritual feeling," having the church leaders and congregants packed into the new chapel, said parish council secretary-treasurer Grace Poindexter.

On Saturday, they held evening vespers, and Archbishop Nikolai blessed the chapel's new Bible and chalice. Both now will remain in the chapel sanctuary, she said. On Sunday they read the Divine Liturgy, followed by a feast of the patron saint.

"It was a big occasion," Poindexter said. "We're growing just a wee bit at a time."

St. Mary's of Egypt was named for a woman who had left home at the age of 12, and by 17 was a "harlot bent on seducing men," said congregation member Andrea Macauly. After sailing to Jerusalem, she found she could not enter the church, and was rebuffed by invisible forces. Three times she tried and three times was unable to enter, Macauly said. Crying, the woman looked up at an icon of a virgin and realized she would have to give up her sinful ways to get back in the good graces of the church.

She did repent, Macauly said, then spent 40 years in the desert, praying and fasting. She was seen floating above the ground, and walking across the River Jordan. When she died she was called St. Mary of Egypt.