25 May 2017
Clerics in choppy waters
Chaplains of the Sea
BBC World Service
On the evidence of Chaplains of the Sea, Noel Coward’s Mrs Worthington, long ago counselled not to put her daughter on the stage, should be advised to give the merchant marine an equally wide berth. According to Mark Dowd’s excellent documentary (17 May), the 1.5 million seafarers currently employed on cargo ships endure some of the worst working conditions on the planet, with nine-month contracts a staple and time ashore limited to snatched three-hour furloughs.
Then, in a depressed international market, there was the prospect of your employer going bankrupt and your boat being detained in some far-flung foreign backwater. All this took the role of the port chaplain, whose role Dowd patiently investigated, far beyond its original job description of spiritual adviser. Without exception, the representatives of the Anglican Mission to Seafarers, the Catholic Stella Maris organisation and the zealous Episcopalians employed on the eastern American seaboard acknowledged that they were primarily social workers.
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