When Steven Willows became the Apostleship of the Sea port chaplain to Immingham, the first thing that struck him was how big some of the ships were and how small the number of crew.
“I remember being shown around the galley, the engine room and the bridge and just being in awe of these ships. When I heard of the amount of time the seafarers spent on the ships and the need for a way to communicate with their families back home, it began to sink in how I had been taking for granted the ease of communication with my own family,” he said.
10 July is Sea Sunday, when the Church asks us to pray for and support the work of Apostleship of the Sea, whose chaplains and ship visitors provide pastoral care and spiritual support to seafarers.
Steven was a community support worker for adults with autism before becoming a port chaplain. He admitted that his knowledge about seafarers was very limited before joining Apostleship of the Sea. “It was something I had not really stopped to think about. Since then, I have learnt a lot about the industry and still keep learning something new regularly.”
Not all ship owners are good employers, he has discovered. “It always surprises me when there are seafarers that have not been paid for months. It just makes you wonder how the family back home have managed for maybe two or three months without money coming to them.”
The most rewarding part of his work is being able provide help to seafarers, he said. “Most of the time you do not see the crew again, so you don’t know the end result. It’s amazing that what seems like an ordinary conversation with someone can mean something extraordinary to them and make a difference to their day. Out of all the corporal works of mercy, welcoming the stranger is the one that stands out to me as the one we do on a daily basis and it is always rewarding.”