Being a good watchkeeper

Are you there to watch over your colleagues at sea?

By The Revd Canon Andrew Wright

The Gospels paint a vivid picture of that last night before Jesus was arrested. The Last Supper is over. He is with his disciples among the trees of the Garden of Gethsemane. It is the quiet before the storm. Jesus’ arrest is imminent, and he is troubled and distressed. “My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death.”

The night is dark. The day and the evening have been long and testing, as has the whole week. They must all have been shattered. Jesus is trying to prepare himself for what lies ahead and is in prayer with his Father. “Take this cup from me”, he prays, “yet not what I will but what you will.”

Although he steps aside for his prayers, he does not want to be completely alone. “Stay here and keep watch,” he tells his disciples. But when he turns to them again, he finds them all asleep.

One thing seafarers know is that they cannot fall asleep while on watch. Whether on land or sea, we all need people to keep watch with us. Life is often fragile and difficult, and we need people who look out for us. It is what we try to do at the Mission, for crew and their families.

We all need to be wakeful watchkeepers for those around us. We all need to recognise when people need help and support – even if they are difficult characters. That is part of what it means to love.

When it comes to your colleagues, are you a good watchkeeper? One poet wrote of listening to the sounds of the sea at night. “And the thought comes of that other being who is awake, too, letting our prayers break on him, not like this for a few hours, but for days, years, for eternity.”

God never fails in his watch of love over us. We should not fail those who need our watch over them.

The Revd Canon Andrew Wright is secretary general of The Mission to Seafarers.

A prayer for seafarers

Thank you, Lord, for watching over us in love throughout our lives.

Even when life is difficult and hard you walk with us, as you do with our families far away.

Help us to keep watch with others, with our families, with our colleagues, and even with those we find hard to like.

For such is the love and care to which you call us.