This time last year I wrote that the Brexit negotiations were swirling back and forth – and here we are, 12 months on, a lot more fed-up but no nearer to a resolution. And how will it all end? Who can tell at this stage but, as last year, one thing is certain? No matter what the outcome, it will still be a fact that some 90% of things we could not live without – including food, fuel, medicines, raw materials, clothes and household goods will continue to be transported by sea.
It is difficult to find something new to say about the Seafarers who do this essential job without which our Country would grind to a halt. For much of the time they are out of sight and out of mind. The core job itself does not change much, but the conditions and circumstances can vary considerably. It’s a lonely and dangerous job, and all over the world, thousands of seafarers are abandoned on ships every year without pay, and often with no water, fuel and food. “Life’s storms” come in many different forms for the seafarer, and most seafarers want help or advice with simple practical issues such as how to get in touch with their families. They often speak of the challenges of their life at sea, the effects that long periods of separation from their families have on their relationships, and the stress, strain and unhappiness caused by distance. Add to this the inherent dangers of life at sea and you can understand that theirs is not an easy life. Pirate attack, shipwreck, abandonment, serious injury or bereavement are ever-present worries, and many have spiritual needs as well.
Sea Sunday, which this year falls on Sunday 14th July, is the one day of the year set aside for churches to remember seafarers. It is a wonderful opportunity to remember and pray for the people who work on our oceans, sailing ships across the seas often in difficult circumstances, bringing us the goods we need and materials for industry. As well as raising money to help those who work at sea, the day is celebrated with services, parades and ship blessings all around the world as a sign of respect and recognition of the work that the world’s 1.3 million merchant sea farers carry out every day.
As a Mission agency of the Church of England, the Mission to Seafarers – an international Christian organisation entirely funded by voluntary donations-provides vital welfare services to those who risk their lives at sea. All its Chaplains are trained for the vital welfare services to those who risk their lives at sea. All its Chaplains are trained to listen; they spend much of their day hearing about the challenges and worries of the men and women who serve us so valiantly at sea. Their work is often quiet and undramatic, but sometimes just listening is not enough and teams of caring Christians and volunteers all over the world offer the hand of Christian fellowship, and a safe haven for sick, lonely, exhausted and troubled crew of all ranks, nationalities and beliefs in 200 ports in 50 countries. Support is provided 365 days of the year, every day of the week, and helps to ensure that crew in port can quickly contact their families and, when disaster strikes, actively help to get them home safely.
The Mission depends on your valuable contribution to continue its important work, and your support is very much appreciated.