This November will mark two years since Revd Dennis Woodward started his role as Chaplain to the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. While initially working as a Curate at St. Stephen’s Church in Tonbridge, his wife spotted the role in the Church Times, and with their desire to move back home, they decided to go for what Revd Dennis calls an “unorthodox journey back to his home country”.
The best part of his job is visiting ships in Europe’s biggest port, as it allows him to be at the forefront of providing aid and assistance to people who are in need.
“I like the missional model and hospitality side of what I get to do: the fact that I get to go to the people and serve them, rather than expecting them to come to me.”
Revd Dennis who describes his appointment as “God’s way of calling us back home” admits that even though he has had his fair share of challenges, as with any role, this is outweighed by the many positives which makes it all worthwhile.
For example, he recently embarked on two separate trips to the UK where he was able to travel to Wales and was hosted by MtS South Wales Port Chaplain, Mark Lawson-Jones, and to MtS Southampton where he was welcomed by MtS Port Chaplain John Attenborough.
While in Wales in June, he visited Alexandra Docks in the Port of Newport, where he was able to go onboard the Longdijk and meet the Captain who also happened to be Dutch. Revd Dennis recalls this to be one of the most memorable experience during his trip: “it was so encouraging to be able to support him in Dutch, which was unexpected for both of us”.
During his trip to Southampton in August, the busiest cruise port in the UK, he was joined by a special guest, the Rt Revd David Williams, the Bishop of Basingstoke. Along with Port Chaplain John, they were given a tour by the Master of the 368-metre UASC container ship, the Al Mashrab.
Revd Dennis says he is “grateful to have been given the opportunity to make these trips”. It was brilliant to deepen friendships, enriching to shadow other port chaplains, and a privilege to learn from them and pick up exciting new ideas which can be implemented at his own port, the Port of Rotterdam. It’s been a refreshing Summer!