Material for Worship on Sea Sunday, 19th July, 2020

Thank you to members of the Men’s Group for working together to prepare this resource to help us celebrate Sea Sunday and reflect on the work of the Mission to Seafarers: to Martin Wisher for the reflection, Richard Crockett and Martin Sproston for recorded readings and to Anthony Birch and John Hamilton for prayer pointers. Thank you also to David Sawyer for recording the tune for ‘Eternal Father strong to save’ so that we can sing along to it. The Ven. Peter Potter will be celebrating the eucharist in the church at 8.30 and 10.30 a.m. .

On 19th July we are celebrating Sea Sunday and think of the work of the Mission to Seafarers. As you read this, over 60,000 cargo ships are on the high seas, laden with phones and electrical equipment from China, dresses from Bangladesh, beef from Argentina, bananas from the Dominican Republic, oil from the Gulf and much, much more. Ships are the circulatory system of global commerce and their 1.25 million seamen its lifeblood. If ships were to stop, much of humanity would soon begin to starve or freeze.

Day and night, the Mission is on call for seafarers in over 200 ports around the world. Seafarers need help because they are often working in dangerous conditions, with no one else to turn to. The Mission’s chaplains send in stories about the men and women they support, and the Mission tries to tailor help to each and every one of them. In 2018 the Mission made 70,600 ship visits encountering 353,000 seafarers on board their vessels; 673,000 seafarers visited the Mission’s centres in 121 ports. They transported 439,000 seafarers in their vans and dealt with 726 justice and welfare cases. You can learn more about the pre-pandemic work of the Mission in this short YouTube video.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic merchant seaman have kept working, but they have been stuck on board. In a normal week around 50,000 finish their contracts and are relieved. The pandemic has cut that number to almost nothing. Over 250,000 mariners are stranded at sea. Most merchant seamen are from developing countries, in particular India, Indonesia and the Philippines. They start and end their contract in whatever port a shipping schedule stipulates. The ship management firms normally fly them out and back again, but most commercial flights have been grounded for months and many countries are refusing entry to non-citizens. Sailors are forbidden to disembark, and their reliefs are barred from entry.

The duration of seafarers’ contract is typically between four and six months on ships, followed by a period of leave. Shifts are typically 10-12 hours long, seven days a week – performing tasks that require constant professional attention. Seafarers spending extended periods on board are more at risk of adverse health effects, including physical and mental health issues. Thousands stranded on board ships have already expressed their exhaustion, fatigue, anxiety and mental stress. Seafarers stuck on land cannot take up their new contract and are not being paid with all the associated hardship for themselves and their families. Most of them are from countries with little or no social services or financial support.

The UK Government has taken a leading position with the International Maritime Organisation to have seafarers declared ‘essential workers.’ They hosted a virtual conference at the beginning of July with the aim to try to repatriate seafarers stuck on ships and enable other seafarers to travel to take up new contracts. It is not clear yet whether this had led to practical solutions to help affected seafarers.

In this situation the Seafarers Mission has tried to help affected seafarers by setting up digital chaplaincy; listening to seafarers through the Seafarers Happiness Index App; loaning ships MiFi (individual Wi-Fi units) and giving out SIM cards to ease communication whilst people are unable to leave ships in port (less than 25% of seafarers have access to email). They have adapted the 121 Seafarers centres so that they can be COVID-19 ‘safe’ environments because seafarers now have limited access to shore-based facilities such as shopping centres and coffee shops. The Mission has been working with different Embassies to help to repatriate stranded seafarers. Chaplains are continuing to share the love of Christ to individuals in their anxiety, loneliness and depression.

Our two readings were chosen for their nautical theme however they contain a much stronger message applicable to all. Psalm 107.4-32 (read to us by Richard Crockett) is a song of thanksgiving for the steadfast love of the Lord. Our souls can be in very dry places, not knowing the refreshment of God’s presence or human friendship (vs 4- 9). We can be in depression and despair where every aspect of life can be hard work (vs 10-16). We can be sick at heart through our sinful ways (vs 17-22) but if we cry to the Lord in our trouble He promises to save us from our distress, to lead us into good things, to bring us out of despair and gloom and to heal us.

We can be going about our daily business on the sea of life (v22) with plans made for 2020 when without warning a pandemic storm strikes and our lives are thrown into turmoil. We don’t know when the storm will end. Will there be a second wave of infections? Will the economy recover, will our jobs be safe? We can be at our wit’s end. But if we cry to the Lord, He promises to bring us out of distress. God may not stop the pandemic, we may have more to go through, but He does promise to give us gladness and his peace and to bring us to our desired haven (v 30). ‘Let those who are wise give heed to these things and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.’ (v 43).

How can we be so sure of these promises? Our second reading (Matthew 8.23-27, read to us by Martin Sproston) tells us why. This is a familiar story of Jesus and his disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a gale arose, and the boat is being swamped by the waves. Jesus is asleep when the disciples cry out to Him to save them. What did Jesus do when he woke up? First he asked them why they were afraid – you of little faith? Then he rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a dead calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and the sea obey him?’

Jesus calms the storm by Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

We can trust God’s promises because Jesus came as fully man – the perfect man. He understands what is means to be human, he understands our limitations, our emotions. He understands our hopes, our fears. He experienced the stresses and pressures of daily life, of living in a family. He knew sadness and the loss of loved ones. Yet ‘who is this man, that even winds and the sea obey him.’ He is perfect Man and the Lord of creation. He has the power to deliver us out of distress and bring us to our desired haven. Let us thank Him for his steadfast love.

Eternal Father strong to save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
It’s own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst it’s rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid it’s angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoe’er we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
William Whiting

A prayer of lament based on Psalm 107
We are lost, wandering and confused, lead us into your straight way.
We are in misery and despair, bring us into your joyful light.
We are sick at heart and hungry, feed us with your steadfast love.
We are tossed by life’s storms, bring us to our safe haven in you.

Prayers of Intercession
Pray for sea workers who work thousands of miles away from their families.
Ensure that they can keep in touch with home . . .
Maintain their income during this difficult time . . .

Pray for people who fish on inland seas, such as the Sea of Galilee
Be with the crews in boats when bad weather hits . . .
Help control the effluent flowing into these sealed areas of water . . .

Pray for the ministry of Mission to Seafarers
and for chaplains who minister to sea workers and their families all over the world

Pray for those known to us who are suffering in mind, body or spirit
We name them now …

Heavenly Father, you have promised to be with us in the storms of our lives. We ask that you give us courage and wisdom, a heart for you and for all your children.
In the name of your son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen

As part of our worship today and in response to God’s steadfast love please take the opportunity to give your money offering to the Mission to Seafarers using this link: or by posting a cheque to

The Mission to Seafarers Scotland,
109 Avalon Gardens,
Linlithgow Bridge,
EH49 7PL