New babies feature strongly in the lives of our Chaplains and port volunteers – and only occasionally their own! One of the most regular stories I hear is of seafarers who meet their new son or new daughter for the very first time through Skype or something similar in one of our Centres.
This is the magic of that internet, which remains one of the most important services we provide! Such moments are profound and intimate – and I know how proud and privileged our port teams feel when they are able to share them. Such moments, however, are also uncomfortable reminders of what it means to be thousands of miles away from home for very long periods of time, so far from family and friends. How easy it can be to feel isolated and, when there are domestic problems of one kind or another, so powerless to help and support. Such moments are frequent reminders, amongst many more, of the vital importance of our Mission to Seafarers ministry and of the services we provide.
The internet, as we all know, has become absolutely essential in the lives of seafarers, increasingly so as it becomes more readily and cheaply available on ships. There is still a long way to go in the development of on-board WiFi but it is happening and perhaps faster than many thought possible. This will pose many challenges for us and is one reason why we are partnering with the North American Maritime Ministry Association in the Mare project, designed as it is to help us understand how we can best use the internet in supporting seafarers. Many chaplains are already maintaining contact with seafarers electronically. “Digital chaplaincy” no doubt has a big future!
We are at that time of year when the Church celebrates the festival of Candlemas. This remembers the occasion when Joseph and Mary take the tiny infant Jesus to be presented at the Temple. There the old man Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and declares that this day he has seen “the light that will lighten the Gentiles” and the one who will be “the glory of thy people Israel”. New babies are often bringers of hope and light but none more so than this one. It is that hope and light, shared in so many different ways, which is at the very bedrock of our Christian purpose.
Andrew Wright – Secretary General