Father Sama rules over a small church outside Tbilisi, but he is no mideval sinister Father. When he pulls out his shiny new Nokia with all the xtras, you'll understand.
an orthodox Father.

Text and photo
Eistein Guldseth, 2004
    The baptizing ceremony holds beautiful moments.i  
HE ORTHODOX CHURCH holds a strong position in Georgia. Both political and religious. Without the support of the church it is in reality difficult to rule. But the church never takes direct part in politics. It advices in “difficult questions”. Still, a leader without backing from the church will have problems. Close to 90% of the Georgians are orthodox, and could also be considered firm believers. Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II
is much more than a religious icon for the Georgians. His concern for his people have been seen on numerous occasions. Once when the Russians rolled tanks into Tbilisi in 1989, he was out in the streets with the people trying to block the tanks access. Several Georgians were killed. (bilde av ham fra Sameba). So he has won his respect by taking part in events rather than just commenting on them.

For me orthodox priests was something new.
I have seen them, but never spoken to one. My first chance came in 2004 when I was invited to a baptizing. A holy ceremony the proud parents asked me to photograph, an undisputed honor. So they squeezed us into a couple of Lada Nivas and off we went to a tiny, old church some kilometers outside Tbilisi where the well respected and liked Father Saba resides. The parents had specifically asked for him to perform the rituals. Father Saba resides here together with two younger men hoping to become orthodox priests under his guidance. You might think that an orthodox priest is rather rigid in his approach to mundane activities like snap shooting inside churches during serious rituals, but Father Saba was no sinister and medieval kind of priest. His black robe hides no melancholy, condemnations or dark secrets; if you disregard the brand new and shiny black Nokia with all the extras. A good sign!

God loves photographers too.
Encourage of his Nokia, I decided to ask him if he would allow me to photograph inside the church during the ceremony. Now Father Saba immediately recognized me as a foreigner, and started speaking German. He spent several years studying literature in Frankfurt; he told me. He also knows his philosophy, and a lot about Norway. Impressive, taken into consideration my obvious prejudices thinking that all education they got were reading bibles and hole writings! I then asked him about my planned photo session during his ceremony, and his laconic answer was: “God also loves photographers”. I think I saw a smile inside the beard.

The ceremony.
Baptizing is a rather complex ceremony, and there are things  to be discussed. Father Saba always listens, and have some advice to the bewildered sons and daughters approaching God with their offspring. There’s a lot of walking around symbols, women wear scarves on their heads. Then the child is painted with small dots of something, washed in a holy bowl, and finally blessed. After the ceremony, father Saba withdrew to his chambers with a glass of wine to celebrate another Georgian choosing the narrow path.


Then Father Saba retracts to his chambers.

Father Sabas church.


There's always advices to be given.

Facing God.

During the ceremony.