13 March 2010

The 82nd Annual Blessing of the Fleet

Sunday, March 14, 2:00 p.m., at the Fisherman's Memorial site, Fisherman's Terminal in Ballard.

For the past 81 years, the ministers from Ballard First Lutheran Church have been blessing the fishing boats that go to sea at the beginning of the halibut season. This wonderful tradition was started in 1929 by the Rev. Olav Haavik, a Norwegian immigrant minister. He ministered to the fishermen and their families, many of whom lived just blocks from the canal. This Norwegian immigrant considered a boat to be his first pulpit. That said, the ceremony is not a Norwegian tradition. It is important, however, to the owners, the wives, the families and survivors of the hundreds of fishing vessels that head to the Puget Sound and Alaska each year.

For the past 21 years, Rev. Malcolm Unseth, Jr. has been "blessing the fleet." He was a member of the Norwegian Commercial Club and was instrumental in the development of the Seattle Fishermen's Memorial, and served as Chalplain to the Seattle Fire Department. Just weeks after the 2009 blessing, Rev. Unseth, age 82, went to meet his Savior, having lost his battle with lung cancer. He will be missed, but the blessings will continue. This Sunday afternoon, the service will be conducted by Pastors Erik R. Wilslon Weiberg and Laurie A. Jones, both of Ballard First Lutheran. They will give prayers of thanksgiving for the fishing community, remembering the risks they take each day in order to provide seafood for our tables, and pray that the families of the fishermen will continue to be healthy and protected during their time of separation. Those who went out to sea and never returned will also be remembered.

Come and join your fellow Norwegian-Americans at this unique Seattle tradition. Cookies and coffee will be served.

"Fleet will be blessed at Fishermen's Terminal in Ballard" (Seattle Times, 2009)
"Under the Needle: Lutheran Church transitions with a changing Ballard" (Seattle P.I, 2008)
"Mixed blessing for Fisherman" (Ballard News Tribune, 2006)

Luci Baker Johnson

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