The Mission to Seafarers annual Christmas carol service in celebration of seafarers

19th December 2022
The Mission to Seafarers welcomed HRH The Princess Royal for annual Christmas carol service in celebration of seafarers

The Mission to Seafarers’ ‘Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols’ took place on Tuesday 6th December 2022 at All Hallows by the Tower, London, followed by a canape and drinks reception at Trinity House. Once again, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, President of The Mission to Seafarers was in attendance and read the eighth lesson. The event was sponsored by Shell (Gold), Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Silver) and RightShip (Bronze) and celebrated the heroic work of seafarers as well as that of Mission to Seafarers teams across the world.

Over 200 people were present, representative of much of the shipping industry as well as of the Mission’s army of wider supporters. At the heart of the event, as always, were seafarers and their families, and a recognition of the challenges they face. These challenges are always highlighted by the Christmas season when separation from family and friends can be most acutely felt. This year the ongoing impact of the pandemic, which continues to affect shore leave, has combined with the hardship created by the Ukraine conflict to create a very special resonance. That current war has caused hardship for so many crew –   Ukrainians, of course, Russians too and indeed those of other nationalities, including those who remain trapped on their ships in the ports of southern Ukraine.

This Festival event is one way of marking all those realities and giving these incredible crew some further visibility. It is also an opportunity to highlight the work of Mission teams across the world. They too have faced enormous challenges in recent years and have often had to learn to work and serve in entirely new ways.  A focus on fulfilling personal shopping requests for crews has been just one aspect of this (US$ 3 million worth of shopping was recorded by MtS teams in 2021 – a result of 19,700 shopping trips). This has been one way of meeting an urgent need in these difficult times. A renewed focus on reaching out digitally to seafarers has been a further priority for teams, locally and internationally. We were very glad to have representatives of the Mission’s East Asia Region, as well as many from Europe.

In addition to HRH, The Princess Royal, the following read the lessons.

  • Samuel Swire, Chairman of China Navigation Company and MtS Trustee
  • Rebecca Newdick, Founder and CEO of Safer Waves
  • Katherine Trauth, Senior Vice President, Shipping & Maritime, at Shell International Trading and Shipping Company Limited
  • Graham Westgarth, Chairman of V.Group
  • Ruth Campbell, Joint QVSR/Mission to Seafarers Port Chaplain at the Ports of London Tilbury & London Gateway
  • Patrick Ryan, Sustainability Director and Head of Club Secretariat of UK P&I Club
  • Simon Bennett, Sustainability Adviser at Swire Shipping
  • The Very Revd Andrew Tremlett, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral and MtS Trustee

Intercessions on behalf of seafarers everywhere were delivered by Nina Edy, Senior Digital Communications Officer at MtS, and the blessing was delivered by The Revd. Katherine Hedderly, Vicar, All Hallows by the Tower, and Area Dean for the City of London. The festive event was a celebration of songs, hymns, and readings and was generously supported by the wonderful music of Lloyd’s Choir, with a selection of classic Christmas carols interspersed amongst the lessons and prayers.

At the Reception, speeches were made by Her Royal Highness, by Canon Stephen Miller (East Asia Regional Director and Senior Chaplain in Hong Kong) and Soon Kok Toh (Singapore Chaplain). These highlighted the work of both seafarers and The Mission to Seafarers, with a special focus on MtS East Asia and its teams.  Stephen Miller and Soon Kok Toh spoke movingly about the Region’s dynamic and diverse work across seven countries, including its major Family Support work in the Philippines and Myanmar.

Also speaking was Mr Fred Kenney, Director of Legal Affairs and External Relations Division at the IMO. He highlighted the core areas on which the IMO is focused in relation to improving life for seafarers – ending the scourge of abandonment, the criminalization of seafarers and learning the lessons of the pandemic especially in relation to crew change.

The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General, The Mission to Seafarers, commented on the event:

“This was a wonderful occasion. We were delighted to host so many for this year’s annual Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols as we honoured shipping’s most valuable asset, its people. Amidst continuing unprecedented stresses created by world events, seafarers and their families are faced with many uncertainties and hardships. This made this year’s event particularly poignant.

All Hallows Church and Trinity House were both superb and appropriate venues for us, in 2022 as last year. Our thanks go to both for their kindness and hospitality. It was a particular pleasure to welcome representatives of our East Asia Region, and thanks go to Regional Director Stephen Miller and Singapore Chaplain Soon Kok Toh, both of whom made excellent speeches along with Fred Kenney of the IMO, who has also been a strong friend and supporter of our work. As ever, our readers were drawn from across the sector and the Lloyds Choir sang with their usual brilliance.

As well as a focus on seafarers and their families, this Festival is also an opportunity to thank our extraordinary teams across the world, who continue to do magnificent work in testing circumstances, often with highly creative responses to very different times, particularly as shore leave issues continue. “

“We were extremely honoured to have welcomed our President, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, amongst our other distinguished guests, to deliver one of our nine lessons, to join our celebrations in-person once again and to share her own perspective during the reception. During this last year she has once again given us towering support, not least with visits to ports in the UK and the Netherlands. She has also visited representative MtS teams in Australia. We remain deeply grateful to her.

It was wonderful to see so many people at the event, drawn from right across the shipping industry and far beyond. Altogether it made for a memorable occasion but one with a deep resonance, reflecting the extraordinary nature of the times, and the seafarers who through it all continue heroically to keep world trade moving, to the benefit of us all.

Those wishing to support the work of The Mission to Seafarers can donate here.


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