ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford area churches came together Sunday afternoon to bless the Rock River.

The event has been put on by Christ the Savior Orthodox Church and Saints Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church for the past 10 years.

“As a young priest, about 10 years ago, I remember seeing these photos in Orthodox countries of people throwing the cross and I’m like, ‘Uh, come on let’s do that!’ and it’s not, usually not just your church. It’s a Pan-Orthodox experience,” said Father Jonathon Bannon of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church.

“Yes, Father Jonathon began this beautiful tradition here in Rockford 10 years ago, and he graciously invited all the Orthodox churches in that time to help to participate to make it a more communal thing, which is great,” added Father Anthanasios Papagiannis of Saints Constantine and Helen Orthodox Church. “We are very thankful for what he has done with this tradition.”

“Important to remember that, for some people, it’s their first river blessing, and so it’s exciting. It’s also exciting every year, because we don’t know whether or not the river is gonna be frozen,” Bannon concluded. “Sometimes, Priests might consider, ‘well, nobody is coming,’ right? So, we always know God is present and it is always a blessing when there is a lot of people, so it is a blessing with or without.”