Celebrating Sea Sunday - justice and peace for seafarers

by Ijeoma Ajibade last modified 05 July 2017 04:44 PM
Celebrating Sea Sunday - justice and peace for seafarers

© Adam Hollingworth /Mission to Seafarers, 2013.

05 July 2017

Sea Sunday is celebrated by churches all over the world. Many churches will celebrate it on the 9th of July but many more will celebrate it at different times during the year.

Sea Sunday is the one day of the year when churches honour and pray for seafarers. It is a day of celebration and praise but also a day to reflect and be grateful for the work seafarers do.

In the UK over 90% of everything we need comes to us via the sea. From the bricks used to build our houses to the fuel in our cars. Just like many countries all over the world we all depend on the labour of seafarers.

But the maritime industry is one in which justice and peace are vital.

Seafaring is a hidden world. It is generally invisible to mainstream society, especially to those of us who do not live in coastal areas.

Yet the people who work on these ships are our neighbours and it is important that we remember them and respond to them with the love of God. If we can do this we will be helping to ensure that seafarers are treated justly, enabling them to experience the peace of God in the difficult work that they do.

In 1856, a priest was struck by the need for peace and justice in the maritime industry and seafaring world. Revd John Ashley was on holiday near the Bristol Channel. As he looked out over the Channel, he saw hundreds of sailing ships at anchor far from shore and he realised that the seafarers working on those ships had no one to minister to them.

He recognised that he needed to love these seafarers in a practical way and to ensure that they were treated justly by their employers and that their spiritual and physical needs were met. Revd John Ashley became a chaplain for seafarers, devoting his life to ministering to them.

Today, 161 years later, his visionary work continues through the Mission to Seafarers, which is the organisation that I work for.

It is the world's largest Anglican maritime charity. We provide help and support to seafarers who face danger every day to keep our global economy afloat.


Life at sea is often lonely, difficult and dangerous, with long anti-social hours and the risk of piracy, or shipwreck, or other accidents. Seafarers find themselves far away from home, often sailing to countries where they don’t speak the language. This can make them feel isolated and vulnerable, and in need of peace.

Without seafarers, our lives would be greatly diminished. The Mission to Seafarers works in over 200 ports in 50 countries, caring for seafarers through our network of chaplains, staff and volunteers.

Mission to Seafarers seeks peace and justice for seafarers by visiting seafarers on their ships, and by welcoming them to our centres which we have in various ports around the world. At these centres seafarers can relax in comfort and safety and have a break from their ships. We also provide transport to and from the ports to the nearest town or shops.

It surprises me that in the 21st century there are still so many ships that don’t have access to the internet. This means seafarers can find it difficult to maintain contact with their families. When they arrive at our centres they can use the free Wi-Fi and other recreation facilities.

But it is not just physical and social needs that we respond to, we also respond to spiritual needs. We provide spiritual support and guidance through our ordained and lay chaplains and through our chapels, and we provide bibles and other Christian literature in different languages.

We also respond to situations of injustice especially where seafarers are abandoned in ports or where they haven’t been paid. We act on their behalf by campaigning for justice within the shipping industry.

We are inspired by a vision of the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the love of God for the world.

This year we have produced a wonderful video that highlights our work and the people we serve. The Bishop of Hull, Alison White, took time out of her busy schedule to help make the video for us:

We are asking churches all over the world to join us and celebrate Sea Sunday either on the 9th of July or on any other Sunday during the year, so that seafarers around the world will not be forgotten.

We have a wonderful Sea Sunday pack that contains everything you need to celebrate seafarers. The pack includes sermon notes and suggested bible readings, children’s booklets, information leaflets, and posters. Please visit our website: www.missiontoseafarers.org/sea-sunday to download our materials.


The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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