David Graham-Service gave a talk on the work of the Mission.
Piracy, shipwreck, abandonment and separation from loved ones are just a few of the problems merchant seafarers face. Around the world, The Mission to Seafarers provides help and support to the 1.5 million men and women who face danger every day to keep our global economy afloat.
The Mission to Seafarers Scotland work throughout Scotland caring for seafarers of all ranks, nationalities and beliefs. In Scotland there are over 90 ports and although the Mission to Seafarers’ do not have a permanent presence at every port they can be contacted by phone, email or facebook any time day or night.
They deliver their service through one full-time Chaplain and a band of ship visiting volunteers who are all accredited by the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB). Through their network of Chaplain and Volunteers they offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to seafarers through ship-visits and at their seafarers’ centre in Grangemouth. In addition they are supported by many other volunteers throughout the country who knit woolly hats, deliver talks and Sea Sunday addresses.
The Mission to Seafarers has its roots in the work of Anglican priest, John Ashley who in 1835 was on the shore at Clevedon with his son who asked him how the people on ships in the Bristol Channel could go to church. Recognising the needs of the seafarers on the four hundred sailing vessels in the Bristol Channel, he created the Bristol Channel Mission. He raised funds, and in 1839 a specially designed mission cutter named Eirene was built with a main cabin which could be converted into a chapel for 100 people.
His work inspired similar ministries in the UK, and it was decided in 1856 that these groups should be formally organised under the name The Mission to Seamen Afloat, at Home and Abroad. In 1858, this name was changed to The Mission to Seamen, and the organisation adopted its Flying Angel logo, still in use to this day and finally about 8 years ago changed its name again to the Mission to Seafarers.
As shipping transitioned from sail to steam methods, there became a need for places for seafarers to go while they were ashore, as ships could now dock at quaysides because they no longer had to anchor at sea waiting for a favourable wind. In response, the Mission gradually opened centres so that the men and women could be offered light refreshments, reading and games rooms, good cheap accommodation and a chapel.
The Mission now operates 121 centres around the world. Today in Britain we import some 80% of everything that we have, virtually ail of it comes by the sea and it is expected that over the coming years this figure will only go up.
Imagine getting on a ship in summer in the Philippines, dressed in shorts and t-shirt. Soon you find yourself transiting freezing Arctic waters with only your overalls to keep you warm.
Seafarers often set out on new contracts not knowing where their ship will end up or travel through, and they may need to stock up on warm clothes to see them through some of the chillier parts of the globe.
They are always grateful for gifts of warm knitted items which the chaplains and volunteers can pass on to seafarers in need.
All of the hats they receive from their supporters are connected by the theme of love. The hats are made from the love of knitting and out of love and concern for our seafarers.
Every stitch of the hat is a testament to the care and skill of those who knit. The hats are given out to seafarers who, are spending months away at sea, in order to provide for the families they love. The ship visitors, in turn, go on board vessels in order to share the love that is expressed for us all in Jesus Christ.
During the year a steady stream of hats in a variety of colour and design are handed out.
This cruise ship season they gave out over 100 hats to each ship that visited the Port of Rosyth, to the crews. In 26 weeks well over three thousand hats were given out. This is where many of the hats that are made for women go. A large number of the crew on a cruise ship are women.
Out with the cruise ship season, they work with the crews of the Gas and oil tankers and the bulk carriers that visit the ports at Braefoot Bay and Grangemouth.
What they do at Rosyth, Braefoot, South Queensferry and Grangemouth is replicated at ports throughout Scotland
At Christmas, they give out 650 hats in parcels to seafarers across Scotland.
One of the most moving things is when a seafarer picks up a hat and asks,” How much? “ They then tell them that, “there is nothing to pay. This hat is a gift of love from the knitters of Scotland”. Their smile, in response, always lights up the room. Click the links below to download the knitting guides for each