Yesterday I preached at the Annual National Seafarers’ Service at St Paul’s Cathedral it reminded me that whilst as an island we have much to owe to those who occupy their business in great waters as an individual I have had only a tenuous link.
However, I now find myself as the Bishop of Crediton in the Diocese of Exeter – the Church of England in Devon. Devon has hundreds of miles of coastline, beaches that were used as for the Normandy landings in World War 2 and from which 3000 residence where evacuated and on which 600 were killed on April 28th 1944 by German u boats. It has a number of ports including the port of Plymouth, coastline used for industry and for pleasure having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world including UNESCO’s first UK world biosphere reserve.
As individuals and as a country we owe a lot to those who go down to the seas, our protection, goods for physical and industrial sustainability, our education and care and wellbeing.
The service this year specifically marked the centenary of the London Nautical School, one hundred and fifty years of The Royal Alfred Seafarers Society and the bicentenary of The Royal Yacht Squadron.
In marking the bicentenary of the Royal Yacht Squadron we were reminded of our need for leisure – for a balance to life which creates healthy individuals and communities. We marked an endeavour which builds character, skills, team work and the love of the sea.
The Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society was formed in 1865 as a result of seeing the need to provide for Merchant Sea men – worn-out sailors to whom we owe so much. Today the care and facilities that are provided are not just ‘good enough’ but filled to overflowing with compassion – facilities and staff who are excellent.
The London Nautical School was formed 1915 as a direct consequence of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912 and the need to improve seamanship. With a nautical and maritime ethos it now provides not just ‘good enough’ education but in the words of Ofsted ‘an outstanding learning experience for every pupil who walks through the door. They feel safe and well looked after.’
As a society we need to continue to grow our ability to be compassionate – to see the need, to be moved and to respond with generosity – no less than at a time when we see such a huge movement of people whose fear of the land is so great that they will put their children onto the sea.
We need to have the courage of those have venture on the seas to push back the boundaries as we offer our very best with compassion and generosity.
Let us give thanks for the work of the London Nautical School, The Royal Alfred Seafarers Society and The Royal Yacht Squadron.
A prayer of Sir Francis Drake:
Disturb us Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show you mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars,
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
and to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope and love.