Sea Sunday is here again. The second Sunday in July. Of course, many across the world for a whole variety of reasons choose to keep a different Sea Sunday. There are no problems with that. It is a moveable feast! It remains, however, a wonderful opportunity to bring seafarers and seafaring ministries to the heart of the life and thinking of local churches. It is great that so many still make it a priority.
In London, we have brought our Annual Service at St Michael Paternoster Royal into Sea Sunday week and it has enjoyed something of a revival. It was great to see a good crowd there this week, including a number of our chaplains past and present.
Last month I spent time at the Africa Regional Conference and visited four MtS teams in South Africa. The Africa Region faces many challenges and I was delighted to see the progress they have made against a difficult background. A number of exciting things are happening and new opportunities are springing up in a region where seafarer need is often very great.
It is always good to meet seafarers during port visits. In South Africa I had some particularly memorable encounters. One particularly dramatic one was with some crew from large deep sea fishing boats visiting Cape Town. One man from the Philippines, and he is not untypical, told me he had been on board for three years, without a break. He intends to do five as he has been promised a bonus, one that is likely to be further delayed …..if it ever comes! Wages for such fishing crews are low and conditions on board can be appalling. Certainly they were on this man’s vessel. For him, the Centre, and its ship visitors, represented an absolutely essential lifeline in a pretty grim world. Truly something to illuminate darkness.
Of course, compared to normal commercial shipping, fishing is relatively unregulated and there are unusual amounts of exploitation. Many ships provide high standards for crew. Even they, however, profoundly value the Mission’s in-port and onboard support, as well as its fledgeling family support networks. I have seen how much it means time and time and time again.
There is no better opportunity than Sea Sunday week to pause for thought, to remember the men and women who crew the ships that serve us all. And there is no better time to remember those many Mission teams around the world who work so hard to address their needs and share God’s love in so many different ways. Wonderful!