Beach Church reaches out to sailorsBy Cal Zehr For Mennonite Weekly Review
STOCKING ISLAND, Bahamas — The sun has not yet broken the eastern horizon. Two women play flutes in songs of welcome as 130 worshipers sit expectantly on the warm sand, overlooking the vast expanse of the North Atlantic.
It is Easter Sunday, and this is the annual sunrise service of Beach Church of Stocking Island in the Bahamas.
Stocking Island sits nearly astride the Tropic of Cancer about 300 miles southeast of Miami.
The church is the product of outreach to the “cruising” community that arrives in these beautiful islands each winter aboard their seafaring boat homes.
Many boats have children aboard, and on any Sunday morning these young ones can be found in the trees, beneath which the church holds its services.
Beach Church began about seven years ago, when a small group of Christians arranged with the owner of a local eatery to use his restaurant as a worship and gathering place each Sunday morning.
Today, John and Pam Gray of Willow Springs Mennonite Church in Tiskilwa, Ill., lead the congregation, which at its height has had more than 150 worshipers.
Gray, associate pastor of Willow Springs, spends nine months of the year with his wife aboard their sailboat, Daisy Belle, anchored in Elizabeth Harbor adjacent to Stocking Island.
The island has no electricity, fresh water or other services most North Americans take for granted.
This lack of amenities doesn’t hinder the crews of as many as 400 boats from coming to these beautiful waters each year, where they enjoy the weather, pristine waters and camaraderie of a the cruising community.
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