Andrew’s July 2024 Blog

9th July 2024
I am a bit of an election junkie.

I write this, my final blog, on the morning after the UK General election. I have stayed up all night watching the extraordinary results coming in, as I have most elections since the first one that I remember in 1970, when I was just 12. In recent years, some of those elections have fallen during my Mission travels and I will always remember watching one in Toronto, Canada and one in Durban, South Africa. I have also much enjoyed seeing and experiencing the politics of the 55 countries I have visited since I started in maritime ministry. We need no reminding that our incoming government here, as do yours in whatever countries you call home, face a world which is perhaps – no, definitely – more unsafe, turbulent and fragile than was the case when I arrived back in February 2013. It will not be easy for the UK’s new government, as it has not always been easy for all of us over these last 11 years and more. Above all, for all the reasons we are very familiar with, it has been extraordinarily difficult for seafarers and their families.

Although we all hope and pray otherwise, I fear that further dangers lie ahead which are likely to impact seafarers first and hardest. I know my successor and our teams around the world will remain watchful and flexible to respond at speed to whatever crises and needs arise, just as our teams have done so amazingly throughout the pandemic, the Ukraine War and the Red Sea crisis.

On this UK election morning, however, there is here a dramatic sense of new starts and handovers, of the end of the old and the arrival of the new. July is our Secretary General handover month. My successor arrived on 1 July and will fully take over on 1 August, with me withdrawing into the background until my final retirement date at the end of September. Having spent much time with him in the last few days, I can say with great confidence that Mission leadership will be in excellent, and warm, hands. I know you will all welcome and support The Ven Dr Peter Rouch as he sets about getting to know the global Mission. More importantly, he will quickly discover the great strengths of our front line and IHQ, teams, of our incredible chaplains, staff, volunteers and supporters. It is they, it is you, who have sustained our work with such compassion, care and often heroism since 1856. I have loved working alongside you all through such challenging but exciting years in our common service of seafarers and their families. I will never forget you all. It has been such an honour.

When I overnight in London, as I did once this week, I usually stay in a wonderful old monastic foundation, although now comfortably rebuilt – The Royal Foundation of St Katharine. It is also the place where we have held many meetings and conferences in recent years, including some of the annual Regional Director Conferences which we set up in 2014. It has a chapel where I have enjoyed participating in many services of Morning Prayer. There in the centre of the floor is a large compass rose with four points – north, south, east and west. Around it there are written some words of St Augustine which have really resonated with me. They read “We come to God not by navigation, but by love”.

With our Trustees and colleagues, I have done a great deal of “navigation” since 2013. I have done my best to keep the Mission in the very best waters, although I have no doubt that the steering will sometimes have been shaky! Navigation is important. Love without effective navigation would not leave seafarers and ships in a good place! However, the quote reminds us of the overriding importance of love. Love for seafarers. Love for their families. Love for one another. Christians believe that it is God who is the source of that love, that in loving we reflect the very best of God and that in love we discover God. Whatever your own faith, and while we are unashamedly a Christian mission, I have loved the immense diversity of the Mission and the huge breadth of our teams, supporters and partners. I believe we are absolutely united in a commitment to love. “Ubi Caritas Deus Ibi Est”. Where there is love, there is God. It is a wonderful phrase on which to reflect.

May The Mission to Seafarers always prioritise a profound love to those we serve, expressed in the extraordinary diversity of holistic ways for which we are so well known. And may we prioritise also and always that profound love for those with whom we work alongside.

May God bless you all.

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