Blessing of the Marketplace is back and in person, brings hope

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

After blessing people through car windows and laying hands on cars last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 200-plus in attendance at the 18th Blessing of the Marketplace on Wednesday at the new Destin High School agreed it was good to be back under one roof and in person. 

“I think having it in-person today in a facility like this shows that the Destin community is getting back to normal,” said Shane Moody, president and CEO of the Destin Chamber of Commerce. “Even though we were open for business this time last year, locals were still concerned about big gatherings. I know we were at the chamber.

Okaloosa County Commissioner Mel Ponder prays for his assigned group during the 2021 Blessing of the Marketplace at the new Destin High School.

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“But seeing this kind of gathering today gives me hope that we’ve finally crossed to normalcy,” he added.  

The Blessing of the Marketplace is one of about a half-dozen events included in Destin’s Week of Blessings put on by the Church of Destin. 

"This is a great event and I’m glad the chamber has always been a part of it since its inception. Our volunteers are helping to serve lunch. … It’s always good to be part of something like this,” Moody said. 

Mike Parker, one of the founders of the Week of Blessings some 18 years ago, was just thankful for the little things. 

Church of Destin Pastor John Skiles gives a blessing during the 2021 Blessing of the Marketplace at the new Destin High School.

“It’s a blessing just to sit next to somebody and shake their hand … or hug people. That’s a blessing,” Parker said. 

Mel Ponder, an Okaloosa County commissioner and co-founder with Parker of the Week of Blessings, said he was glad to hold the event at the new Destin High School. 

“I’m absolutely loving it at the high school,” Ponder said as folks were gathering outside the school before the event. 

“It’s such a signature day because the high school launches this fall and is still going through its build-out process, and for us as the Church of Destin to have the first real gathering in person, unlike last year, is monumental to come together," he added. "But to do it at a starting point, before the school opens, to not only bless the workforce but the working community of Destin … it’s very exciting for me personally. I love it and it’s a great day for the city.” 

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As people entered the school, they were given a Chick-fil-A food box.  

"I feel we live in one of the most blessed places there is,” said Pastor John Skiles, president of the Church of Destin.  

“We are here to pray for you and bless you,” Skiles told the crowd gathered in the auditorium. 

Chick-fil-A provided food for the 2021 Destin Blessing of the Marketplace held at the new Destin High School.

Pastors and people from all backgrounds, from Baptist to Pentecostal, were represented. 

“Isn’t it a beautiful thing to see the body of Christ together. I love that we can do this today,” Skiles said. 

Father Caleb Miller of Immanuel Anglican Church brought a brief message naming the greatest blessing: Jesus and faith in him. 

Then pastors prayed for the various types of businesses in the area, from the Sheriff's Office to Realtors, from hair stylists to teachers and everything in between. 

Pastor Eric Partin of Shoreline Church even made mention of Okaloosa County Tax Collector Ben Anderson being at the service. After the event, Anderson said he was glad to be a part of the blessing. 

“I would probably say the foundation of everything we do has to begin with God and Christ,” Anderson said. “Everything builds upon it. In government, we’re here to serve and serve people but serve people from a godlike way.”

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No one was left out on the blessings, as Graeme Cowgill, associate pastor at Shoreline, prayed for the miscellaneous.  

Cowgill said when he hears miscellaneous, he thinks of the DVD bin at Walmart. But then he went on to say “nothing is random” and “miscellaneous is not left over.” 

When it was all said and done, Destin High Principal Christine Cruickshank said “it was amazing and amazing to have it here.”  

“To see a community come together. I had visualized it but it was much different than what I had visualized. … It was absolutely amazing,” she said. 

The Blessing of the Marketplace was the first community event held at the new high school. 

“We want people to know that the school can be used for community,” Cruickshank said.