Blessing of the Boats
By Lindsay Peyton
The Rev. Ryan Stratton is a firm believer that pastors should not be confined inside church walls and that prayer should not be kept behind closed doors. That’s why, on a recent Saturday, he could be found marching down a dock, armed with a squeeze bottle of holy water, ready to pray for families waiting in their boats. The 5th annual Blessing of the Boats took place at the Scenic View Motel and RV Park on Lone Star Lake on May 28.
“One thing I don’t want for people to say is ‘Come to our church,’” Stratton said. “Church can happen anywhere. We can worship, and we can pray anywhere.”
Afterall, God is everywhere, the pastor continued. Being out in the community conveys Christ’s omnipresence. “Christ goes to the people in scripture,” Stratton said. “It’s definitely important for the church to go out like this.”
Stratton was appointed pastor at Lone Star UMC and nearby Bradfield Chapel UMC in Daingerfield in January. A few months later, former pastor Chad Mitchell informed Stratton of the Blessing of the Boats. He and his wife, the Rev. Kara Mitchell planned to attend.
“I’d never done it or heard of it before,” Stratton said. “I talked about it with the church, and they told me, ‘Everyone goes out, and it’s so much fun.’ I was like, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Lone Star Lake was built after World War II, the pastor explained. “Since 1950, people have been using it for recreation,” he said.
For the Blessing of the Boats, Stratton said that the Marina owners provided music and snacks.
In addition to leading the boat owners in prayer in front of the marina, Stratton visited each watercraft to bless them and the lake itself. “We went around and said a prayer for everyone,” Stratton said.
Then, he boarded a boat and went for a ride with his children. Stratton said that is important for community members to have opportunities to meet pastors and church members. “People of God are relatable,” he said.
Stratton added that the event provided a way to demonstrate the importance of prayer in all aspects of our lives. “Paul says to pray all the time,” the pastor explained. “What better way to show that than to model it?”
Stratton was excited to join in the Blessing of the Boats for his first time and looks forward to returning in the future. “I get to carry on a tradition of the church, going out to pray in public, over the air and water – and that’s really cool,” he said.
He also hopes that when the boaters take to the water, they remember the power of prayer covering them on the lake.
“They put their faith in Christ, they put their faith in He who controls the water and air,” Stratton said. “There’s a seed of faith that I hope was planted.”