Andrew’s January Blog 2024

22nd January 2024
I spent Christmas doing my first ever chaplaincy to a cruise ship.

It was an absolute pleasure. I was kept busy with Christmas and daily services, as well as with those who sought me out for conversations of many different types. As ever, Christmas is a wonderful time for so many but also a time when people can feel particularly vulnerable. Memories crowd in and can lead to sadness. No surprise that many seek out the kind of community that can be found on a cruise at Christmas. It was a privilege to hear so many diverse stories. And there was plenty going on.

Alongside my work I still found time to learn bridge, discover line dancing and go to some lectures and evening entertainments. It was fun. We travelled up to Northern Norway, with some really rough weather on both outward and return voyages – which I have to admit I loved! Does that make me strange? I was also able to spend some time with our wonderful crew. At our furthest point north, far into the Artic circle, we disembarked to snowy ports with temperatures of minus 16 degrees and below – with some windchill as well. It took me back to my days working in northern Canada.

Marvellously, we did see the Northern Lights and what a spectacular sight they are. And then there was the crew. I took two Christmas services in the crew mess – and many asked for personal prayer afterwards. That was special. At such a time of year, it was an honour to feel part of that great community of seafarers who were at sea working over Christmas and to have contributed just a little bit perhaps to their lives. They certainly contributed vastly to mine as we were all so well and so kindly looked after by each one of them throughout those two weeks. I took a few woolly hats on board, together with some Christmas cards written by school children for seafarers – a great way of connecting a new generation with those who work at sea.

Throughout, I was deeply conscious of our teams across the world delivering Christmas presents in vast numbers to crew everywhere, visiting with particular vigour and significance through December and into Christmas Day itself. I know just how much this means to seafarers, so far from home at a time when most are enjoying close family time. It is critical work. As ever, though, such visits can be very mutual. Crew often brighten up our own days and Christmases, just as we hope we can brighten up theirs. They certainly brightened up mine. I thank them all.

As I write, our amazing President – HRH The Princess Royal – is spending a day with our team in Sri Lanka. Led by the formidable and dynamic Archdeacon Perry, they have had a particularly strong year. Apart from some outstanding ship visiting statistics, they have dealt with some testing cases, including of abandoned vessels. I received a very moving letter of thanks from the captain and crew of one of those ships. When I did my voyage on a container ship some years ago, we had many Sri Lankan seafarers on board. Columbo was one of the ports on their regular routing.

It must have been strange to be so close to home and yet so far removed. However, some were occasionally and briefly able to meet family in the port. In recent months, Mission to Seafarers Columbo – who enjoy a historic Centre building – have upgraded its facilities and included a room set aside for family meetings, with suitable facilities for children and so forth. I have seen the pictures and the work they have done looks really impressive. It is great that HRH will visit today, as she has done at so many of our Centres over the last 40 years. The family room is an example of the creative thinking we need if we are to ensure that our Centres remain relevant, cutting edge and vibrant in changing times.

It is one of the many challenges we face in this new year. We are in exciting times, and I much look forward to what 2024 will bring for MtS.

Happy New Year to you all!




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