The vital role played by seafarers and their families was celebrated by The Mission to Seafarers (MtS) at their annual ‘Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols’ which took place in London, with Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, President of MtS, among the guests.
The annual carols service was held once again at All Hallows by the Tower church in London, followed by a reception held at nearby Trinity House. The service and reception were well attended by many friends, supporters and volunteers of the charity, representing the shipping industry in the UK and around the globe, as well as the wider MtS family, with many more supporters watching the service online.
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is one of the highlights of MtS’s year and this year’s service, made possible by the sponsorship of Shell, Rightship and Ardmore Shipping, highlighted the commitment of seafarers and their families. The service also recognised the particular sacrifice made by seafarers at this time of the year, when so many will spend Christmas away from home, often thousands of miles from their families.
The service and reception also acknowledged the wonderful work of MtS’s teams, including port chaplains, ship visitors, seafarer centre staff and volunteers, as well as the donors and supporters whose generosity enable MtS to fulfil its goal of providing vital support to seafarers in need and delivering world-leading welfare services.
The Princess Royal, who was accompanied at the service and reception by Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, read the fourth lesson. Those present also enjoyed the music of the Lloyd’s Choir, who once again led the congregation with a selection of Christmas carols.
At the Trinity House reception, speeches were made by The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General of MtS, who expressed his gratitude for the contribution made by MtS teams, spanning staff and volunteers, for the meaningful difference they make to the lives of seafarers. This is the tenth and final Christmas service attended by Andrew in his role as Secretary General, ahead of his retirement later next year.
Speeches were also made by Graham Westgarth, President of the UK Chamber of Shipping, who shared his memories of the kindness that he received from MtS as a seafarer during his years at sea, before reminding all shipping organisations of the significant benefits of working with the charity through such initiatives as the Seafarers Happiness Index.
This year’s service and reception placed a special spotlight on Africa, including the needs of seafarers calling at ports in Africa. Revd. Cedric Rautenbach, MtS’s Regional Director for Africa, described the work of the region and its ambitions to expand its presence. He also spoke movingly of the power of support for the Mission’s activities and the difference this can make to seafarers’ lives.
Finally, HRH The Princess Royal, reflected on the importance of the personal interactions that can be delivered through MtS’ seafarer centres and ship visits. Her Royal Highness also spoke on the Mission’s future plans, including its growth in the Americas and elsewhere, highlighting the strength that comes from the Mission’s global network.
Speaking after the event, The Revd. Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General of MtS, said: “This was a wonderful evening that fulfilled our ambition of honouring all the men and women who serve at sea. We pay tribute to their commitment all year round, but it is particularly important to remember them at Christmas, when so many will be far away from their families.
“We also want to say thank you to every member of the Mission to Seafarers team around the world, including all of our staff members, volunteers and supporters in over 200 ports and over 50 countries. They are the unsung heroes of everything we do. In addition, we would not be able to do our job without the corporate support we receive from the shipping industry and many of its leading organisations. Working together, we can make a real difference in caring for shipping’s most important asset; its seafarers.
“We were once again honoured to be joined by our President, HRH The Princess Royal. Through her years of support for the Mission and her deep commitment to the cause of seafarer welfare, The Princess Royal brings an invaluable perspective to our work, and it was wonderful to hear her speak of the power of the Mission’s network to extend the hand of friendship to seafarers everywhere. We continue to be deeply indebted to Her Royal Highness for her ongoing support for the Mission.”
Organisations or individuals that would like to donate to The Mission to Seafarers this Christmas can do so at: https://www.missiontoseafarers.org/donate