St. John’s Episcopal Church stands just across the street from Comerica Park, home to the Detroit Tigers; so it’s only natural that faithful sports fans should gather there to pray for the team.
That’s become a tradition, in fact. Today, on the eve of Opening Day, Rev. Steven J. Kelly led his congregation of more than 70 parishioners and sports enthusiasts in prayer for the home team.
The Detroit News carried the story of the tradition:
Some were familiar faces to the Rev. Steven J. Kelly, who gave the blessing after a 20-minute program that included prayers, Scripture, hymns and, at times, a majestic organ accompaniment. The church, at Woodward and the Fisher Freeway, is within a block of Comerica Park.
“Fourteen years ago I saw a sign outside the church which said, ‘Pray for the Tigers here,’ ” explained Kelly after the blessing. “I asked someone if we actually did that. They said, ‘No’ and I said, ‘Why not?’ ”
Kelly’s blessing has had few changes over the years: It asks God to grant players the grace to work to the best of their abilities and together toward a common goal.
He asks that they be protected from injury, then puts in a word for the manager, owner Mike Ilitch, for workers ranging from vendors to the front office and for the fans themselves.
“I’ve had to change the manager’s name a couple times over the years but everything else is basically the same,” Kelly said after the blessing. “I ask that players provide a good example both on and off the field as well.”
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By the way, St. John’s Episcopal has an interesting history (in addition to its role as the Detroit Tigers’ unofficial prayer sponsor). When the Gothic Revival church was built 156 years ago, it was outside the city limits and was surrounded by orchards, farms, and only a few homes. In the mid-1930s, the city of Detroit decided to widen Woodward Avenue because of the increase in automobile traffic. St. John’s was in the way, and may have been torn down; but the determined congregation decided to instead move the church. In 1936, the tower was dismantled stone by stone, the entire church was rolled back sixty feet, and the tower was rebuilt.
Today, with the north side right next to the freeway service drive, the church is within walking distance, not to a residential area but to Comerica Park (home of the Detroit Tigers), Ford Field (home of the Detroit Lions), and the Fox Theater.
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Oh, and did you know that the Tigers have a Catholic chaplain, and that Mass is said at Comerica Park on weekend game days? Read about that story here.
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