Blessing of the Fleet

May 18, 2013


Blessing of the Fleet

By:  Maria Solorzano

This past week a small fishing town in Maine became the center of controversy.  The South Bristol School has enjoyed giving it’s 8th graders an unique experience.   For the past sixteen years the 8th graders travel to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath to learn boat building.  Once the boat is completed they launch the boat in their home town with a ceremony that includes the age old tradition of Blessing the Fleet.

The Blessing of the Fleet is a centuries old tradition that began in Mediterranean fishing communities.  It is a tradition that is still practiced to this day all over the world.  The tradition varies from community to community.   It usually consists of speeches, songs, and it  includes a member of the clergy saying a basic blessing over the vessel for it’s safe return.

Unfortunately, that will not be happening this year and the 8th graders at So. Bristol School will miss out on this educational experience.  Apparently, someone anonymously complained to the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  This group out of Washington, D.C., with all its power and money, sent a “cease and desist” letter to the principal stating if they continued with the blessing  portion of the ceremony a lawsuit would be filed.

This act has truly angered most of the community, including myself.   This anonymous complaint is a cowardly act.  The threat of a lawsuit in my eyes is bullying.  Everyone knows, with the state of the economy and the financial state of most towns that schools cannot afford to fight ludicrous lawsuits.  The Blessing of the Fleet ceremony is in no way a form of proselytizing.  Proselytizing is an attempt or an act to convert.  This ceremony involves nothing of the sort.  Most people, whether religious or not, respect and enjoy the tradition.

This is about preserving our traditions and our culture.  Mark Preston of So. Bristol, said it best in an interview with Lincoln County News. “I think they’re misunderstanding what’s happening here,” he said. “In my mind, it is not a religious exercise, it’s a traditional exercise.”

“To me, it’s simply a celebration of the tradition of South Bristol’s seafaring heritage,” he said. “This town has been a seafaring town since its inception. The town evolved as a result of fishing and boat building.”

“I see it as a rightful, traditional exercise, a celebration of the cultural and traditional heritage of this town,” he said.   Groups like Americans United are trying to white wash our history, culture, and traditions.  This is not going to preserve America, these kinds of acts are destroying America.

Furthermore, I would like to address the anonymous complainer.  Your act was truly cowardly.  You would be better respected had you addressed this at a school board meeting and allowed the town’s people to have their say.  Instead you chose to snitch to a group with power and money to bully the community into doing something the majority does not want to happen.

In my personal opinion, I don’t think all is lost.  I think this could be fought if people in the community would work together to save a piece of its rich heritage and history.   We could contact the American Center for Law and Justice.   If local lawyers were willing to work pro bono on this, wealthy community members willing to help pay legal costs, and the hard working community members willing to give time and energy to write letters, protest and take a stand against this war waged at small town America and work together to save a piece of ourselves, our history and our traditions.



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