USA Today commemorates the fortieth anniversary of the loss of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, with all twenty-nine lives aboard. The ship sank in a fierce storm, dubbed “the Witch of November” in “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” a song by Gordon Lightfoot about the Lake Superior disaster.
In Detroit, the Mariners’ Church blesses the fleet each March and tolls its bells in November for lives lost on the Great Lakes. The church and its bells are mentioned under the name of the “Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral” in the song.
On its website, the Mariners’ Church notes
People around the world know about Mariners’ Church of Detroit from those famous lines in Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
But you may be surprised to learn that Mariners’ was unique in many respects long before that song was written. Old Mariners’ was:
Founded by a woman…
Julia Anderson’s will established Mariners’ in 1842 and specified a stone church (built for the ages) with “forever free” pews. It’s now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Incorporated by an act of the Michigan legislature…
Mariners’ is the only church in Michigan honored by this distinction, bestowed by Act 142 of 1848.
Mariners’ is different in that it was founded as, and still is, a non-diocesan, self-perpetuating parish especially for sailors, but not exclusively so.
Describing itself as a House of Prayer for all Peoples, the Mariners’ Church adds on its home page:
We are an independent, faith based church, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
You will be guided in worship by the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. It directs us to a faith which is based on our God and his Son Jesus Christ. Growth in our faith is the most important tenet of our worship.
The Edmund Fitzgerald sank on November 10, 1975. The Mariners’ Church tolled its bell Sunday for all who had lost their lives on the Great Lakes and their tributaries, and all who had lost their lives in military service to their country. The fortieth annual Mariners’ Memorial Service is hosted by the Great Lakes Maritime Academy today at noon in Traverse City, Michigan.
Photo via Mariners’ Church on Facebook