And so, my year with The Mission to Seafarers came to an end.
As so often with these posts, I have to begin with some form of apology! This piece comes to you as more of a post-script. I had my last days with the Mission in July 2017, when I took part in the Mission to Seafarers’ annual service at St Michael Paternoster Roya and celebrated Sea Sunday with two congregations, St Mary’s Church in Maldon and the United Benefice of Horndon-on-the-Hill, Bulphan and Orsett (on the hill overlooking London Gateway). Since then, I have started my formal theological training in preparation to become an Anglican priest. I apologise for leaving the wrapping up of the blog for so long, and for not having more to say. I did have a fair bit planned…I have been keeping jotted remarks and thoughts, snippets of conversations with sailors etc. to put into a “Final Notes from the Quayside” post, but now it is January and I need to move on and write about other things.
The natural question, and the question which many people have been asking, is what have I learned. What did I get out of the year with the Mission? Was it all worth it?
And it is a good question! I would say that it was. Cynically, yes it was worthwhile because it gave me experiences to talk about and draw upon in my process of applying to train for ordination. I would not have passed through the interviews had I not had the experiences of the Mission to demonstrate commitment and generate talking points. But of course, I never regarded my work with the Mission as a box-ticking exercise, and the benefits range far beyond giving me the resources to pass the interviews. Apart from anything else, I can say with confidence now that I was not ready to proceed to ordination training in the summer of 2016, before I joined the Mission. I have now experienced a little of real life and real people, and had a glimpse of what the Church can do in the world. I feel I have learned important lessons in humility and service, and an awareness of my own limitations. I have seen that one of the real joys in life, one of the truest means of satisfaction in work, is not always to achieve something momentous, but to be able to be a help to someone in need, or a friend to someone alone.
I’ve also seen that it is in those moments that God happens.
Most importantly of all, I feel I have now really learned to cherish the unexpected. Things may not be what we expect. It is easier and more comfortable to keep to what we know, but in the end the real excitement and growth can come from doing things we never imagined ourselves doing. In our lives we are given chances to say yes to new things, to put down what we are doing (leave our nets in the boat) and follow. I had no idea what I was getting myself into with the Mission, only that the Church wanted me to get some experience of something different. I didn’t know what to expect. And to be perfectly honest, I was frightened. Quite often along the way I did feel All At Sea. But I am so glad that I decided to take that plunge, because the whole thing turned out to be more formative, more useful, more interesting and more amazing than I could have imagined.
As a final reflection, following this piece I have posted an account of my time in London that I wrote for the annual review of the Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest. I do encourage you to peruse it at your leisure!
Although I am finished with the Mission, I intend to keep writing, as I have found it both a useful way to collect my own thoughts, and also keep in touch with my family and friends. So the next chapter of my blog will begin shortly. I intend to keep a similar format and style. Thanks to you all for reading along with me in my year with the Mission. It has been a great comfort to know of a community of supporters around the world following my progress. I hope you will continue to read along, and find it interesting and amusing.
The new chapter can be found at www.becomingreverend.wordpress.com
See you there!