Benefice Sea Sunday, 8th July 2018

A short address by David Templeman, All Saints Church Hinton Ampner.  Forms part of this year’s Sea Sunday Benefice

  1. Tomorrow morning I will hoist sail and set off across the Channel, the busiest shipping lane in the world.  The tide is right, so is the forecast.  Listening to it, and reporting it, is an essential ritual of the sea and the safety of those upon it.  90 % of the world’s trade is conducted by sea and in Command of each of those ship’s is a Captain who knows the loneliness of that command.  His crew will be of every possible race, colour and creed and probably one of the thousands of seamen and women whose lives are touched by The Mission to Seafarers at their 121 Flying Angel Centres in some 200 ports across 50 countries.
  2. This year’s Sea Sunday theme is Abandonment.  It’s what sea farers do metaphorically, every day across the world, abandon their families as they set off on their lonely voyage.  In my case several times for several months.  Once to be met by my daughter on my return with, “You can’t sit there that’s mummy’s chair.”   The very first words I had heard her say!
  3. I even asked Graham, our recently departed Padre, to join me tomorrow.  His reply and I quote, “Abandonment is absolutely the right word.  Me swanning off sailing, leaving Tracy at home in a vicarage, in a strange town, unpacking boxes, does not work for her!” Ask too any Naval wife!
  4. Mathew 25 sums it up well.   “Whatever you did for the least of those you did for me”.  That’s how Abandonment and Loneliness is overcome at sea.  It’s also how “The Mission to Seafarers” and its Chaplains have brought hope and succour to some 1.6 million seafarers from Admiral and Captain, through those who serve them and equally importantly their families.
  5. Only last month I sailed to the Scilly Isles, 350 miles by sea from Gosport.  Departed the mainland at Newlyn, still a thriving fishing port with fish loaded into Lorries 24 hours a day, every day to feed us.
  6. We passed the Scillonian taking passengers and stores to St Mary’s.  Much like in the Falkland Islands and every oceanic Island, large or small.  The only way bulk goods can be transported.
  7. The following day she rescued a yacht and its crew.  The yacht had been dismasted.  Heard on Channel 16, but unreported along with so many incidents and accidents at sea.  Far over the horizon away from the eye of the world’s press.  A straightforward rescue.  The Scillonian turned back for that tiny craft, she was late arriving in St Mary’s but no complaints from passengers or crew.  That’s the code of the sea!
  8. Each churchyard in the Scilly Island’s contains poignant reminders of abandonment at sea.  We call it shipwreck.  Take Admiral Cloudesley Shovel he drove his fleet ashore there mistaking his longitude. The locals stopped fishing for months.  Why bother when every beach and cove contains precious flotsam and jetsam.  Today it is time to recognise this jetsam as an environmental danger.  No longer do we have the luxury of casks of rum and brandy floating on our seas.  Abandonment has taken on a new, and potentially much more destructive meaning, as we fill the oceans with bilge oil, plastic and the detritus of modern living.
  9. Or take St Martin’s where there is a grave to a shipwrecked sailor, the inscription now non PC.  That grave is still tended by today’s seafarers and epitomises all of us, who go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and sky.  It reads:  “To a young Negro boy, shipwrecked, whose name is known only to God.”  Or take St Agnes where there is a memorial to the Cox’n of the Lifeboat who saved all the crew except the Captain of the ship and himself.  Those lists goes on and on.
  10. Regrettably even today there is another Lloyds List, but not one of heroes.  It’s the one of ships and their crews deserted by their owners.  Despite the best efforts of the likes of Plimsoll and Wilberforce, with the support of the Royal Navy, and more recently The International Maritime Organisation and despite the humanitarian work of Dr Paul Burt and the others described in your pew leaflets, whom Gillian described so movingly.
  11. The Scilly Isles is a microcosm of sea faring communities throughout the world.  Each tiny community figuratively abandoned to the sea, but not entirely. Jesus shows us the answer to abandonment.  The answer to rejection and abandonment is companionship, relationship and love.  In this way the loneliness and estrangement that comes from being abandoned is overcome.   Each and every one of those shipwrecked and deserted men matter to that seafaring Island’s community.  On the Scilly Islands “Community” matters for survival.
  12. At a time of National and International disunity Community matters here too as we sail into the uncharted waters of Interregnum.  As the Royal Navy hymn so eloquently puts it, “Oh Hear us when we cry to thee”.  Protect us, The Upper Itchen Benefice.  Guide those who select our next Padre.  Bring all our parishes and their parishioners safely into harbour.

Amen

July 2018

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