July 12th is Sea Sunday, the day when the Anglican churches remember seafarers. The Church of England’s missionary society, the Mission to Seafarers, has been serving seafarers since 1856. Nowadays the majority of the work is carried out through centres at major ports around the world where a chaplain, who may be ordained or lay, visits seafarers aboard their ships and provides a welcoming centre, with a chapel, where seafarers can relax and contact their families.
Covid 19 has made this work much more difficult to perform. Almost all seafarer centres are closed and minibus transport severely restricted. Ship visiting tends to be limited to the head of the gangway but a new digital ‘Chat to a Chaplain’ service has been instituted.
This is at a time of great need. Many countries have tight lockdown restrictions and are very reluctant to allow seafarers to leave their ships when in port and when their period aboard of 12 to 24 months has finished and leave is due. Hundreds of thousands of seafarers have no option but to remain on board and continue working indefinitely. Conversely other seafarers, who were due to replace those crews, are caught at home and unable to earn to provide for their families.
In the cruise side of shipping many cruise liners are moored up with no way of returning their crews to their homes. Some cruise liners are migrating to the Philippines, where many of the crew originate from, but even if they get ashore, they are unable to leave Manila and get home.
The Mission and other agencies have been strongly lobbying the government in the Philippines to improve this situation and some progress is now being made. The Family Support Network, run by the Missions in the Philippines, has modified its minibuses and is now beginning to achieve the reuniting of seafarer families. From Michael Cartwright
Prayer for Seafarers
Loving God, you give us everything.
Hear us as we pray for seafarers who endure hardship, danger and discomfort to bring us the goods we use each day.
Keep them safe in the palm of your hand and bring them through sunshine and storm to their homes and loved ones.
Through Jesus Christ who stilled the storm
and called seafarers to follow him. Amen.