Monday, 6 February 2012

For Those In Peril On The Sea

Walsall Faith Advertiser Living Faith Article 26 January 2012

At the time of writing this article, there is one item dominating the news, the tragic sinking of the cruise ship Costa Concordia.  What makes this tragedy even more heart breaking is that it appears to be solely down to human error. The Costa Concordia was the world’s 26th largest cruise ship, able to accommodate 4,300 passengers and 1,100 crew.

In the same week the Costa Concordia sank, five fishermen lost their lives when their trawler sank in the Irish Sea.  These tragedies remind us of the dangers that people face working at sea.  On average 230 ships are lost every year, with the loss of over 2000 lives. 

Before I became a vicar I worked for ‘The Mission to Seafarers’. My job was to visit the crew who worked on ships that came into the Port of Auckland in New Zealand, and offer practical, emotional and spiritual support.

Over 90% of the goods brought into the United Kingdom come by sea, and yet we rarely think about the people who transport these goods to us, and the hardships they face.  The expression ‘out of sight, out of mind’ could well be applied to seafarers.  Constantly on the move, living and working in dangerous conditions, small multi-national crews, far away from their loved ones, life for most seafarers is very tough. 

In the parable of the Sheep and Goats Jesus commends those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, look after the sick, and visit the prisoner.  He said “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40).  This is at the heart of what it means to love God and love others.  It was for this reason that the Mission to Seafarers was established in the 19th Century by the Revd John Ashley. 

Although seafarers may be out of sight, they do not need to be out of mind.  Please remember in your prayers those who work at sea, far from their homes and loved ones, and those who seek to care for them.  As the captain of one ship wrote, ‘We thank you for your prayers, which keep us strong to stand in the time of our need.’