On Thursday afternoon (17 December), a packed St John’s Church in Tilbury enjoyed a celebration of Christmas carols and readings.
This was the third annual Christmas service which has proved so popular that it’s had to be moved from the Tilbury Seafarers’ Centre in the docks into the more spacious surrounds of St John’s.
That meant there was enough room for the Thameside School Choir from Grays to attend. The school and the Seafarers’ Centre have developed a good relationship through assemblies taken by Port Chaplain Paul Cave of the Sailors’ Society. The choir enthusiastically contributed two vibrant carols, It Was On A Starry Night and the Calypso Carol.
The welcome was given by Mr John Hughes, Chairman of the Trust that runs the Seaarers’ Centre.
Tim Sentance and his mum Anne also did a gentle ambient-jazz version of Silent Night, Tim playing a sensitive and occasionally improvised saxophone. At the end of the service they did a lively version of Winter Wonderland.
The talk was given by Rev Ray Trudgett of the Mission To Seafarers, one of the Chaplains. he got some of the children from the choir to help him in ‘making’ a Christmas cake (right) – on the each layer were the letters that go to make up the word PEACE.
Another participant was Jorn Hille, Port Chaplain for the German Seamans’ MIssion. Originally from Hannover in Germany, Jorn is working in the docks right through the Christmas period. Fred Merry of the Seamen’s Christian Friends Society also read a lesson.
Paul Cave (left, outside St John’s) led everyone in prayer towards the end, but not before he had thanking all those who had helped in giving woollen items and toiletries to go in the 2200 or more parcels that had gone to seafarers. He told the children that some of those parcels would be opened in the docks in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil!
Finally, Fr Patsy Foley of the Apostleship of the Sea gave a touching poetic blessing over all present, before refreshments were served in the back room.
The organisers of the Carol Service would like to thank Fr Tim Coding and all at st John’s for their warm hospitality.
Why is the work of the Port Chaplains so important?
Paul explains why in this excerpt from a recent article in City Mission’s Changing London magazine.
“Loneliness and isolation is what [seafarers] suffer from most. The most susceptible is of course the captain: if he has got a problem, he is not going to share it with anybody on the ship. I’ve been privileged to to have very close contacts with many captains, and to be able to offer support at times when they have needed it. For example, a Romanian captain that I know well had a particular problem one day when I visited his ship. I sat with him in his cabin and we simply talked and shared together. When I was leaving, having spent some time with him, he said, ‘Paul, it was God who led you to my cabin door today’. I saw him recently at his home in Romania, and he remembered that occasion. When I visited the Philippines two years ago, one of the people we went to see was a ship’s captain I knew. His wife said that out of the 17 years they had been married they had only spent 3 years together. This is a stark indication of the life and sacrifice of many seafarers.”
Please pray for Paul and the network of Chaplains in ports around the world who are bringing the gospel into the lives of seafarers.
Pray for the spiritual life of Christian seamen who maybe away from church and fellowship for months at a time.