I have just written a piece for The Sea, aimed at seafarers beginning Lent. I thought blog readers might be interested, especially as this is going out on Ash Wednesday. It is my attempt at a theology of woolly hats. Feeble perhaps, but well intentioned!
“The Mission to Seafarers, along with a number of its colleague societies, continues to give out very large quantities of woolly hats to seafarers, as it has done for so many years. We have an amazing army of knitters all over the world who rejoice in doing this as a sign of their care and concern for all who work at sea. They want you to know that you are not forgotten. We box them up and send them to ports everywhere. Judging by the speed with which they go, they remain very popular with seafarers who take them in huge numbers. I love seeing so many worn whenever I go on board.
A while ago, we received some negative comment. It was suggested that giving away woolly hats suggested criticism of the way in which companies looked after seafarers. This is absolutely not the case. Of course, woolly hats are often very practical for seafarers, but we share them as an expression of love and care to crew. They are simple and concrete reminders that many people ashore continue to recognise and value the work done at sea by so many.
You will probably be reading this in the season of Lent, a time when we are especially encouraged to think about the big questions of life, including the spiritual ones. So perhaps there is a “theology of woolly hats” which can help our thinking. Firstly, they are all so rich in variety and colour, reflecting the God who values every single human being in all our rich diversity.
Secondly, each hat is the result of an act of thoughtful creativity, reminding us of the God who created land and sea, who we see reflected in so much around us every day. Thirdly, each is the result of careful attention to a pattern that turns a mass of strange wool into something magnificent. That speaks to us surely of the God who calls us to walk in his patterns, his ways, which can bring beauty in the midst of life – ways of neighbourliness, of faithfulness, of responsible living, of self-sacrifice.
And finally, as gifts of love from afar, these hats speak of the God of the universe who loves each of us without reserve – indeed the closeness of those hats as they fit snugly and warmly on our heads reminds us that the God shown in Jesus Christ is up-close, personal and always within reach.
Here’s to woolly hats!”