Sunday, July 6, 2008


On Sunday, July 6, the members of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Lansing worshiped on the Mississippi River. The church’s regular Sunday service was held aboard a Mississippi Explorer Cruise boat, captained by Jack Libbey.

This was the first time Our Savior’s has chartered a boat for worship. The group embarked from the Mississippi River Explorer Cruise dock next to the Red Geranium on Front Street. The cruise took them both north and south of the port. Sunny weather and a large turnout made for a spectacular trip.

“The worship cruise was wonderful!” declared longtime member Mary Schweitzer. This sentiment was echoed by the whole group.

Two people were baptized in the river during the course of the service. Captain Jack pulled the vessel up to a sandbar so Pastor Laura Gentry, the baptismal candidates, sponsors and a number of other passengers could disembark. The others observed from the boat. There, Danielle Gabel and her 10 year-old son, Cameron, of DeSoto, Wisconsin, were both baptized by immersion. Their sponsors are Melanie Wittman, Carl Magnusson and Jessie Mason.

“The whole experience was amazing,” said Gabel of her baptism. “It was an emotional, happy day. Cameron was just glowing with joy. I can feel that we have really been embraced by a loving church and that is so inspiring to me.”

Gabel and her three children became members of Our Savior’s the prior week along with Eddie and Rose Bartz, Randy Bunn, Perry Johnson, Carl Magnusson, and Ruby and Paula Rathbun. A special new members reception was held for them at the church on June 29.

Randy Bunn commented, “I am so glad I joined Our Savior’s. I’m a shy person but they made me feel like I’m part of the family.” He also enjoyed the worship cruise. “That was the first time I had ever attended worship on a boat and it was awesome. I love the Mississippi. That’s why I moved to Lansing. Having worship on the river and witnessing the baptisms really helped me reflect on how I can move forward in faith and do God’s will.”

Also aboard the Independence Day weekend cruise were three staff persons from Sugar Creek Bible Camp of Ferryville, Wisconsin. The camp sent the college aged staffers along to serve as musicians. Together with Pastor Gentry, they provided dynamic accompaniment for the service with guitar, drum and percussion instruments.

After the service, Captain Jack took the group further downstream to enjoy the river while coffee and donuts were served. The musicians played hymns and patriotic songs during this fellowship time.

Pastor Gentry has performed 75 baptism in her 10 years of ordained ministry thus far but said this was the first time she’d been asked to baptize in the river. “Lutherans don’t usually use a lot of water in baptism, but they certainly can. We believe God’s power is the same no matter how the baptism is done. I think it was very exciting for our congregation to witness a different kind of baptism to remind us of the various ways in which the Holy Spirit works.”

At the end of the cruise, Pastor Gentry said to the congregation: “Many people ask me what heaven is like and I say, ‘I don’t know but this river gives us a pretty good idea.’ So being able to worship and to baptize out here on this glorious day was a true delight for me. Thank you to Captain Jack Libbey and to the church council for making it possible and to all of you for being here!”

Members of Our Savior’s are hopeful that taking a worship cruise on the Mississippi will become an annual tradition.

Below is a slideshow from the cruise. Photos by Burnell Smith.