Andrew’s May Blog 2024

20th May 2024
I must admit, I do enjoy preaching

Although whether the many congregations I have preached to in my 18 years of maritime ministry would agree is a different matter! Over my time at both The Mission to Seafarers and the Fishermen’s Mission, I have preached in some incredible places, some grand occasions as at the Annual National Service for Seafarers in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, others more humble but nonetheless profound. I have preached at a Free Church of Scotland in the Scottish Outer Hebrides, where the minister asked me to remove any humour from my sermon (that was the first page gone for starters), in the remote Cathedral at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands close to the Antarctic, on a cruise ship in the far northern Arctic, and in countless other extraordinary places north, south, east, and west. It has been an absolute privilege to do so.

One evening this month, I was invited to preach at Canterbury Cathedral, still regarded by many Anglicans as something of a mother church of the communion. To ascend that famous pulpit is quite a thing and deeply humbling.  The occasion was the Sunday service of the ancient school that lies alongside the cathedral, King’s Canterbury, founded in the year AD 597 and allegedly the oldest consistently operating place of education in the world. Around 400 pupils, teachers, and assorted parents were there, and it was a great opportunity to speak about the lives of seafarers and their families and the work of the Mission. The passage for the day was Revelation 14 and of course, I took the sixth verse as my text. It is, of course, the foundational verse that our forbears chose back in 1857 and that became our globally recognised logo. “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people…”

Revelation is a difficult and complex book, full of the strangest symbolism and often the victim of misplaced or far-fetched interpretation. But maybe it is a book for our turbulent times, telling as it does of a world in turmoil, of war, famine, fire, disease, and death. It must have felt particularly relevant in these last few years for seafarers, as they are on the front lines of global instability.

We seem to be witnessing the breakdown of so many of those things that have held back, at least for a while, the worst excesses of our human community. These are fearful times in so many ways – just as those portrayed by the writer of Revelation. We can feel the breath of the horsemen of the apocalypse on our necks. And yet, this is not a book without hope. At its heart remains a God of love, the God of Jesus Christ,  who is both amongst us and beyond us. This God calls us to faith and to faithfulness, to the sustaining of the best in values, to the hope that there is light at the end of every tunnel, that there will be a time when there will be no more tears, when death shall be no more, and when mourning, crying, and pain will pass away.

The Flying Angel is sent with that good news. I often wonder about the choice of that verse for The Mission 167 years ago. It is a strange verse in a strange book. And yet the Flying Angel heading to the remotest parts of the earth is a marvellous image of our work and of our duties. Each of us, in our own ways, needs to be a Flying Angel, a bringer of love and hope in the darkness and challenges of our own contexts. At the Mission we continue to seek to be Flying Angels in ports across the world, through our wider programme and in all our encounters with seafarers and their families. It is always a privilege to see our Flying Angels at work and I hope it is an image that will continue to inspire far into the future.


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