Mariners’ Church of Detroit holds memorial service for lost sailors

The ringing of 10 bells echoed through the Mariners’ Church of Detroit on Sunday to commemorate 30,000 men and women lost in shipwrecks on the Great Lakes.

The annual service took place 46 years after the Great Lakes’ most recent shipwreck. On November 10, 1975, the SS Edmond Fitzgerald, dubbed “Fitz”, was on its way to Detroit when a storm stopped it on its way. All 29 crew members died.

Rev. Jeffrey Hubbard, who led the Mariners’ Church for its fourth year memorial service in Great Lakes, said: “We live in a society that depends on the work and service of people of whom we are often ignorant. During the COVID pandemic, the term “essential workers” came to the fore in everyone’s mind, and these men and women are essential workers. “

“In our daily lives we are not often aware of their work,” said Hubbard. “We may not give in often, and yet they are always out there working for us.”

Parishioners listen to Rev. Jeffrey M. Hubbard during the Great Lakes Memorial Service at Mariner's Church on Sunday, November 14, 2021.  The memorial service commemorates the dead among the roughly 6,000 shipwrecks in Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario.

Along with nine rings for sailors lost in the dangerous waters of the Great Lakes, the church rang the bell for the tenth time to commemorate military personnel, Hubbard said.

According to the pastor, Mariners’ Church was founded 179 years ago as a regional chapel for seafarers and as a haven for the city of Detroit.

Both U.S. and Canadian officials waved their flags to commemorate the shipwrecks on Sunday. Last November, people from Canada were unable to attend due to border restrictions, Hubbard told the Free Press, but the Church waved the Canadian flag in their honor and sang its national anthem. The service was also broadcast publicly via livestream on Facebook.

Resident historian Kathy McGraw told the Free Press that the Fitzgerald is known as the largest shipwreck in Great Lakes history in terms of ship length.

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“In terms of loss of life, there were a few others who had a few more … but at the Edmond Fitzgerald it was a total loss,” said McGraw.

But the Fitzgerald shipwreck is not only known for its size.

Singer and songwriter Gordon Lightfoot recalled the tragedy in his ballad “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.

“Everyone who grew up in Detroit knows this song,” said Hubbard.

Lightfoot ends his ballad with a reference to Mariners ‘Church: “In a musty old hall in Detroit, they prayed in the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral / The church bell rang until it rang 29 times for every man that Edmund Fitzgerald / The legend lives on from Chippewa further down by the big lake they call ‘Gitche Gumee’ / Superior, they say, she never gives up dead when the November storms come early. “

A recording of the memorial service on Sunday is available on YouTube.

Contact Minnah Arshad: [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @minnaharshad.

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