Bless the ships in which we sail

By The Revd Canon Andrew Wright

Taking part in ship blessing ceremonies, especially when they are named, always a privilege. An old Captain once said to me that “seamanship can only get you so far, after that there is only God”.

Seafarers are perhaps among the most religious, or at least the most spiritually sensitive, groups in the world. No surprise. After all, they live closer to the elements than most of us.

The ever-changing winds, weathers and seas cannot easily be shut out by doors, windows and walls. They impact on every moment of the waking and sleeping life of a crew. That can bring a very special sense of God and of utter dependence. It may be that the ever more visible impacts of climate change will bring that sense to others.

As I write, we are seeing it in the searing and record-breaking temperatures in Europe and far beyond and in the changing patterns and intensity of rain, storm and flood across so many parts of the world (with a special impact on a number of the main nations from which seafarers are drawn). How I hope that will lead to global action on the necessary scale.

At The Mission to Seafarers, we are also considering what further actions we should take. This is the context of ship blessings which can mean so much to seafarers, not least after a tragedy on board. It is one thing Mission chaplains are always happy to do.

Such blessings are a recognition of our need of God, of his love, of his forgiveness, of his guidance, of his blessing. They are a necessary and healthy recognition of our own fallibility and weakness. After all, as the old Celtic prayer says: “O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

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


A prayer for seafarers

O Lord God Almighty, let your blessing be upon this ship and upon all those who will serve and sail in her.

May the strength of God pilot them. May the power of God preserve them.

May the hand of God protect them. May the way of God direct them.

May good success, your protection and the guardianship of the Holy Angels always be with them.

In times of danger be their help and defence and bring them safely into port.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.