Interreligious homecoming for Hunley crew



NORTH CHARLESTON  When the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley rose to the surface from its resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston Harbor the morning of Aug. 8, it was completing a journey begun more than 130 years ago.

And, after arriving at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center at the former Charleston Naval Base to begin perhaps a decade of restoration work, an ecumenical service provided the final ceremony to honor the nine members of the Hunley crew, whose remains are inside the submarine.

Taking part in the ceremony was Msgr. Lawrence McInerny, pastor of Stella Maris Church; the Rev. Edward Counts of St. John’s Lutheran Church; the Rev. Alvin F. Kimel Jr., Church of the Holy Communion; and the Rev. James A. Holmes of Washington United Methodist Church.

The event consisted of Scriptures, specifically Psalm 130, a lesson from St. John, a prayer of consecration, a litany for the departed and a sprinkling rite or aspersion used in funeral services.

“It’s an honor to be here,” said Msgr. McInerny before the ceremony. “This is a reminder that this (the Hunley) is not an artifact. It is a tomb and has been a tomb for more than 130 years. It is a solemn occasion.”

The monsignor added that the tale of the Hunley “is a beautiful story of history, valor, and solemnity. It appeals to everyone.”

At Stella Maris Parish, bell ringers were the harbinger of the news that the recovery barge carrying the Confederate submarine was entering Charleston Harbor, as crowds lined the beaches at Fort Moultrie to witness a part of history.

Deacon Michael Osbourne of Stella Maris coordinated the bell ringing of churches on Sullivan’s Island for the occasion. “We were the lookout,” said Msgr. McInerny. “The sentiment expressed by everyone was one of gratitude.”

A formal funeral service for the sailors whose remains are still aboard the Hunley will be conducted at a later date, perhaps a year. Currently, interment is planned at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.

Republican State Sen. Glenn McConnell spoke briefly prior to the religious service. “We are committed to dealing with the remains with the deepest respect,” he said. “This ceremony has no precedent, this blessing of the Hunley.”

At the close of the 15-minute reception, a bugler, a Confederate re-enactor in a white period naval uniform, blew taps.