Mariners’ Church of Detroit was founded in 1842 as a unique mission and parish to the seafaring community of the Great Lakes, and we have never lost our calling in this regard. Although few working seamen now debark at the foot of Woodward Ave., Mariners’ has retained and even expanded its special ministry to those connected to life and work on our great freshwater seas.
Mariners’ holds several dedicated services each year that honor and benefit the maritime community. At the ceremonial opening of the waterways each Spring, Mariners’ hosts the annual Blessing of the Fleet. Shipmasters and sundry officials, maritime businessmen and other lovers of our Lakes, come together as we ask God’s blessings upon all the people and maritime endeavors before us. We pray for safety and protection, and for divine favor without respect to people’s background or circumstance. Those departed the past year are memorialized as well.
Each Fall, at the “closing” of the waterways, there is the Annual Great Lakes Memorial. Sailors who have died on each of the Great Lakes, during the current year and in perpetuity, are memorialized by the ringing of the great brass “Octarara” bell, along with prayers and petitions from all. (This ceremony has been closely linked with the Edmund Fitzgerald ever since its loss with her crew in 1975, and naturally, it continues to be remembered alongside all other shipwrecks and loss of life at this Fall memorial.) This occasion is indeed a Maritime Memorial Day. Unbeknownst to many, there have been some 20,000 shipwrecks on the Great Lakes since colonial times.
Further ministry to the maritime community includes: mutual support of the Navy League, including a service set apart for special recognition; chaplaincy to area maritime groups such as the Propeller Club, Shipmasters, area Boating and Yacht clubs; and sponsorship of the Sea Cadets, a fantastic ministry to young men and women–which is something (very) roughly like a “Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts for the Sea.”
We maintain a focused awareness that our Lord ever is the Lakeside Christ who faithfully comes to us in the literal sea-storms as well as the internal storms of life, declaring, “Peace, be still!” At our “Maritime Sailors’ Catherdral” you will find that every Sunday and Thursday service throughout the year begins with the Mariners’ Hymn,
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!