………. and we were in the Ipswich and East Suffolk Area Partnership.
Saturday 9th April began at the Port of Felixstowe and the Seafarers Centre where we met the URC Port Chaplain, Rev Ken Martin and members of the team who provide a vital service to seafarers from across the world.
Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port with over 4000 ships passing through its terminals each year and the Seafarers Centre has many facilities including a recreation area, a quiet room, a chapel and a bar. The centre also acts as a communication hub for the international maritime community offering the vital link in keeping family and friends in contact through mail, fax, email and internet services. With modern communication life is much easier for people separated in this way and one of the staff told of the pleasure of hearing a seaman singing a lullaby to his baby living on the other side of the world and the experience of hearing a small child squealing with delight seeing (over the internet) the Daddy who had been away from home for months.
Ken drove us round the secure area of the port where we were able to get some notion of the immense size of the container ships, the cranes which load the containers and the height of the loaded vessel. He told us how he and other ecumenical colleagues were able to board the ships and chat to the crew, give away Bibles in many languages where required or just to leave Christian literature. This is a ministry to God’s people where they are – there is no expectation that any of the recipients will come to church in the traditional sense of the term but there is also no doubt that God is in this place long before chaplains get there. What they do is to show that presence in ways which offer practical and spiritual support to individuals going about their daily work, albeit thousands of miles away from homes and families. It was good to hear that local churches support this work, Chaplaincy in a variety of situations is such a vital part of Christian witness and those who serve God in this way deserve a very special place in our prayers.