The tough life of seafarers was graphically outlined at Connor Diocesan Synod in a presentation by the Rev Colin Hall–Thompson, Senior Chaplain to the NI Mission to Seafarers.
And Colin urged parishes, however far from the sea them may lie, to support the mission and the seafarers whose lives it impacts on.
Colin opened his presentation with a dramatic DVD, filmed by seafarers themselves, which illustrated just how terrifying and dangerous life at sea can be.
And the power of nature is not the only difficulty faced by a seafarer, there is also the threat of piracy and loneliness as seafarers are cut off from their families for months on end, while a mix of different nationalities on board can be very isolating.
They have to deal with family crisis which may arise at miles away at home. Then there are the regular injustices – wages which are not paid, ships which are abandoned.
“Storms are just one of the many hazards they face. Our task at the Mission to Seafarers is to be agents of God’s loving care, practical, pastoral and spiritual,” Colin said.
He said the Mission visited ships, telling seafarers about facilities at the Flying Angel Centre in Belfast Docks, giving them information about health, money, practical things like Wifi and shopping, fellowship and friendship. “They may not have had a proper conversation in ages,” said Colin.
He said the Mission also offered prayer, prayer counselling and worship both on board a ship and in the centre.
“We offer them a place of release from the cramped and dowdy conditions they have been living in,” Colin added.
He urged Synod members to pray for the seafarers. “They tend to be a forgotten people yet we depend on them for 90–95 per cent of what we have,” Colin said.
The first Sunday in July is the date for the Annual Sea Sunday worship. But Colin said this could be held any time of the year. “It is a way of focusing on seafarers’ needs,” he said.
Other ways parishes could help would be to send donations of clothing for the second hand clothes shop, items like toiletries and bibles, fundraise for the mission, or simply hire its conference facilities.
Colin is available to come and speak at services about the work of the Mission to Seafarers, and groups are welcome to come to the port and see the Mission’s ministry in action.
Parishes interested in receiving the Mission to Seafarers’ local newssheet, ‘Sky Pilot,’ or the international supporters’ magazine ‘Flying Angel News,’ or wanting more information on the mission and the facilities available should ring 028 9075 1131 or email Doreen@missiontoseafarers-ni.org.