When I first came to The Mission to Seafarers I reflected on that famous hymn “The Day thou gavest Lord is ended”. The second verse of that hymn goes
We thank thee that thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night
The picture is of a church across the globe, always active in prayer and service. Just as one part of the world slips into evening darkness, so the dawn is rising somewhere else. It struck me as very redolent of our own non-stop 24-hour global ministry. Just as one chaplain is packing up for the evening, so another is starting the morning rounds. Just as one Centre closes its doors, another is opening theirs! And all that is without the evening shifts of many, the night-time emergency response of others and the increased level of centres with some access 24 hours. It is an exciting and rather wonderful thought. The Mission to Seafarers never ceases to be on watch. The prayers of our teams and supporters never cease.
We are in the Sea Sunday season. Of course, while Sea Sunday is still officially the second weekend in July, many across the world choose to celebrate it at a locally convenient time. This is to be encouraged. In fact, it is very much in the spirit of the hymn above. Sea Sunday is always being celebrated somewhere at some time! I have had the privilege of seeing very many churches in action over the Sea Sunday period. On Sea Sunday itself and on the Sunday previous I drove 788 miles to five different services. All were different, all were wonderful. One was held outside with the local band – and a backdrop which included a newly constructed “Nelsonian” warship, an exact replica of one that fought at the battle of Trafalgar. One was at the packed and historic chapel at our South Shields Centre. Three were in very welcoming churches. It was great to be at every one and so good to see so many dedicated supporters.
As my theme I took the story of Noah. Buried in that story comes the lovely phrase… “and God remembered Noah”. I talked about the realities of the floods which seafarers and their families face; realities well-rehearsed in this column as in so much other MtS material. I spoke about the importance of community building in our work (just as Noah built his community aboard the ark). We seek to support the best in shipboard communities through our work with individuals and with the wider crews of which they are part – and not forgetting their families of course. Finally, I reflected on the rainbow sent as a sign of God’s promise at the end of the Noah story. Just as it symbolised hope for the future, so we try and keep hope alive amongst seafarers, a hope rooted in that love of God from which nothing can separate us.
Thanks to so, so many of you for the work you do in leading, inspiring and organising Sea Sundays – and of course to far more of you who participate in them and make them the great celebration of seafarers and their families which they should be.