As I have harboured a deep and abiding distrust for all forms of organised religion for a number of years, I find it surprising that I not only admire one or two small offshoots of a particular religion, but that I can commend their activities as strongly as I am able to! I refer of course to that admirable institution, the Missions to Seamen, and it’s compatriot organisation, the Apostleship of the Seas. I have only good memories of the “Missh”, as both institutions were broadly lumped together by the crew and officers of the myriad ships who sailed the oceans and entered the ports where one of these two outfits waited to give a friendly welcome to a stranger in what was sometimes a very strange place! In the days when Britain had a sea-going presence, with large numbers of ships with either an all-British crew, or British officers and Chinese/Asian/Arabic deck and engine crew, the life of an English-speaking sailor was often made easier by a friendly face, an accent which was immediately placed and a cup of tea or coffee which was proffered without any ulterior motive! The Mission dances, where vulnerable men could mix and mingle with friendly females who weren’t holding a price list behind their smiles still live high in my memory, as do the many priests and padres who staffed these outposts of what has become one of the most recognised world-wide charitable organisations in modern times!
The idea behind this truly beneficent organisation, founded in 1853 by an anglican vicar who discovered that no-one was visiting the huge numbers of ships which anchored in the Bristol Channel or in Avonmouth docks, and proceeded to do just that,as he felt it his duty to visit those who had been ignored by others! He commissioned the building of a cutter, named her ‘Eirene’ and visited over 14,000 ships at anchor over a fifteen year span! Those were the days when an individual decided to do something, and went ahead and did it! Both the Missions to Seamen, and the Apostleship of the Seas thrive today, although the calls by British-flagged ships are rarer than hen’s teeth, but since the call felt by both organisations is ecumenical, they continue to welcome seafarers of all nations!
I hardly ever quote from matters religious, but am willing to make a change in my blogging behaviour for this occasion; as I now quote:-
“O hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea. “