On Sunday, I attended my town’s Blessing of the Fisheries. For a town that has depended on the fishing industry for centuries, this annual event has become an institution in Folkestone. The yearly ceremony has been conducted by the same church since 1896, and consists of a traditional blessing on the town’s fisherman and their endeavours over the coming year.
The ceremony began with a procession from St. Peter’s Church to the town harbour. I really loved watching the members of the church walk down the street to the harbour (which coincidentally local fisherman used to live on) to the sounds of the bagpipe player who lead the group. School children did their part as well, carrying flowers and banners to commemorate the blessing. Several gentleman were dressed in traditional English garb, although from which era I have absolutely no idea.
The procession came to a stop at the side of the harbour, where much of the town was gathered to join the service. The bishop (I assume he was a bishop, although I am not certain) stood in the front with his clergymen while the crowd sang sea-themed hymns. There were also a few fish related readings from The Bible, and prayers asking God to watch over the fishermen in the coming year and grant them a plentiful harvest.
O Saviour, whose almighty word
the wind and waves submissive heard,
who walkedst on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage didst sleep:
O hear us when we cry to thee
for those in peril on the sea
The Bishop then conducted a blessing on the sea, the harvest, the fishing boats, the equipment, and the men and women who would be on the water. He was given holy water by the clergyman from ornate gold containers which he then sprinkled towards the sea, boats, and nets.
After a final prayer, the procession started again back toward the church. I thought it was incredibly interesting to watch a ceremony so entwined with the sea. It was definitely the first fish-themed service I have attended, and the blessing itself was fascinating. England obviously has strong ties with the water, both historically and geographically, so it was a unique experience to witness this local tradition that likely isn’t found in many places in the world.
What traditions are unique to your town?