Honorary chaplain, Fr Jeremy Hellier on his experience as a volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic

10th August 2020
I came across Mission to Seafarers in 1976 when I was a Curate in Felixstowe. Inspired by the Chaplain, I have enthusiastically supported the Mission for 44 years. Currently, I work on Sundays and Mondays in Royal Portbury and Avonmouth Docks near Bristol.

As a volunteer, I wasn’t going to be furloughed in lockdown so I remained available, and in touch with various seafarers electronically. Regular visits to the foot of the gangway have been made to deliver items and care packages. I have maintained weekly contact with a cruise ship laid up in Avonmouth. Sadly, the company has gone into administration, but we are doing all we can to support the crew, We opened our ecumenical Seafarers Centre again recently with a system in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

My Ship Visitor App shows 40 contacts in the last 30 days. These have been in response to specific requests, and also a “drive by” ministry. Although not able to use the centre vehicle now I use my car equipped with magnetic MTS stickers. The logo is readily recognised and visits much appreciated. Stopping at the foot of the gangway usually allows a conversation with those on duty, and I can check on their needs. Some Masters have planned ahead and emailed specific needs before arrival. This is a practice to be encouraged and means we can be ready to meet their requirements.

Our recent visit from HRH Princess Anne, our patron, was very warmly received. Her depth of understanding and encouragement were much appreciated. The needs of seafarers have continued to be highlighted to churches and other supporting organisations. I have attended as many virtual church coffee mornings as I can manage! Donations and gifts have continued to be sent to us and despite all the difficulties our Christian ministry of love and care continues.

Fr Jerry Hellier, Honorary Port Chaplain, Royal Portbury and Avonmouth

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