Mariners’ Church Founding Tradition

When Julia Anderson founded Mariners’ Church, she left specific instructions in her will.    It was to pay special attention, of course, to mariners, who were transient and considered outsiders. At the time, it was customary for churches to charge a ‘pew fee’, which limited access for all those unable to afford it.

From the beginning, Mariners’ Church act of incorporation had prescribed that the pews “shall remain forever free from any assessment or rental”. In 1852, the trustees directed the church wardens to set apart for the exclusive use of mariners and their friends as many pews as might be necessary “for their ample accommodation” (History of Mariners’ Church of Detroit – 1848-1945, pg 11).  I’ve been so impressed by these early days since the first time I heard it!  The Founding Tradition of Mariners Church is rooted very deeply in hospitality.

In the first 10 years of the church, finances were very tight.  Even so, the centrality of hospitality was the attitude of the church then, and it still remains our attitude today toward others.  Of course our ‘maritime community’ today go far beyond those who navigate the waters.  We want to serve those in need today, and want all peoples to feel welcome and free to come to our church as they are.

Just as we have talked about the dinner table being a big part of loving and connecting with those who are searching for God, the time spend over food and conversation as a church family is critical to the health of our fellowship.

1 Peter 4:9-10 says,

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

In our Lenten devotional, by Henri Nouwen, we learned this week: “If there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it is the concept of hospitality. It is one of the richest biblical terms, which can deepen and broaden our insight in our relationships to our fellow human beings.”  (Show Me The Way, pg. 29)

I have chosen this topic today partly because I want to make a shameless ask for you and your family to be involved in providing food for our social hour, if you have not been part of it yet.  The army of people who have done this important work in the past has become smaller and smaller.  We have a faithful small group of people still doing an amazing job, and we want to show them our gratitude by not wearing them out!

I know bringing food and cleaning up afterwards is another added task to an already busy Sunday schedule, but it really is of utmost importance.  When we sit down together to eat, the act of breaking bread together is an extension of communion itself. It is sacred.

Our service doesn’t end with the preaching of the Word, or the playing of the organ. Our worship to God and service to one another extends into that time of fellowship, when we have the opportunity to exercise our calling in loving one another. Here is when you can bring your ‘gifts’ and receive the ‘gifts’ of others. Here is where we can learn of each other’s needs and prayer requests; can rejoice and mourn with one another; can welcome the visitor and nurture the church family.

So, let’s make the most of this time. We all have spiritual gifts to share with one another. Even a short interaction can be life changing.

“In the context of hospitality guest and host can reveal their most precious gifts and bring new life to each other.” (Show Me The Way, pg. 31)

As we rekindle and grow our ministry of hospitality, I want to ask all of you to be open to the ways the Holy Spirit may guide you to ‘be a blessing’ to others. As for those who are able, would you kindly pick a Sunday either after the 8:30 or 11:00am service to provide food for this important tradition of the church?  Being willing to be part of the hospitality team, once every month or two, would make a great difference in filling the gaps in our calendar.  Perhaps two families would partner together, and make the fellowship of hosting part of the fun.

If you are willing, please sign up outside Charlotte’s office or just reply to me on this email.  We can give you more of the specific details.  Although this is a simple and seemingly mundane task, I hope you see it as an important extension of our worship together.

When Julia Anderson gave away her money to ‘the building of a stone church’ in 1842, she had hospitality and service in her heart as she envisioned a vibrant church community. It’s our honor to carry on her legacy. As Mariners’ becomes more active in serving our city and those in need, let’s continue to gather at the Julia Anderson Room, and remember that our call to hospitality starts in that room and extends beyond.

This Spring/Summer we will have more opportunities to extend hospitality to our greater community.  As we have already started reaching out to Wayne State University students, and will be open to hundreds of thousands of people walking by our doors during the NFL Draft, the Indy Race, and the Marathon, we want to be a beacon of Light showing the love and care of our Lord to all people.

Blessings and peace,

Rev. Todd and Dr. Christiane