Two centuries ago, Christianity played a very prominent role in English society and the country’s main seaports were well served by numerous organisations – including Sailors’ Society – that devoted themselves to the religious welfare of seafarers, conducting church services on board ships in port and distributing religious tracts to crews.
Today, our chaplains’ remit has widened to include caring for the social, mental and physical welfare of the seafarers we serve, but a faith in Christ is still what motivates our chaplains.
It’s reflected in our logo, which features the symbol on the Bethel Flag that was flown from the ships used by the seamens’ missions of old.
Bethel is a Hebrew word meaning ‘House of God’ and our logo, like the flag, bears the symbols of a dove and a star: two prominent signs of God’s guidance and safety since ancient times.
Seafarers used to guide their ships using the North Star at night so that they could tell whether they were going east or west, north or south. Similarly, in the Christmas story the Wise Men were guided by the bright morning star to the place where Jesus was born.
The star appeared in the sky at the time of Jesus’ birth, alerting the Wise Men, who studied the stars and had read in ancient writings that a new star would appear when a great king was born. They set out to find the new king and bring him gifts.
The Wise Men followed the star towards Bethlehem, where the ancient writings said that the king would be born. It seemed to stop and shine directly down upon the place where Jesus was. It had guided them to a place where hope resided.
As we bring our 200th year to a close may we keep following the star that guides us to the place where hope resides.
We know there is more for us to do as seafarers are still faced with an all-too familiar reality of ship failure, abandonment, loneliness and even piracy. But the work our chaplains have done for the past 200 years has provided joy, peace and hope to many seafarers and as we enter 2019 we are ever more committed to do the same and beyond.
Happy New Year from the team at Sailors’ Society.