Among the chaplaincy sectors highlighted by the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab is seaports, vast places that are almost entirely hidden from most peoples’ sight and yet crucial to the global economy. Chaplaincy to the thousands of seafarers visiting ports each year is one of the most unique sites of the profession.
A recent documentary from the BBC, Sea City, explores these ports in detail, including the work of port chaplain Rev. Roger Stone, a Roman Catholic deacon working in the Apostleship of the Sea. Stone’s ministry was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II on the New Year Honours List 2018 with the Order of the British Empire Medal. The Apostleship of the Sea article announcing Stone’s recognition gave this overview of his work:
A permanent deacon, Roger served in the parish of Billingshurst with Pulborough in West Sussex for four years before coming across a job advertisement for a port chaplain with AoS. Despite not knowing anything about the world of seafarers and shipping at that time, he decided to respond to the advert, seeing it as a chance to embrace new challenges and do something different. Seven years on, Roger is a familiar face with the local port and shipping community, and more importantly, has become a friend and confidant to the many seafarers he has supported and assisted in one way or the other – many of whom regularly keep in touch with him via Facebook and WhatsApp.
Roger has had to deal with some very difficult situations. On several occasions he has supported seafarers following the sudden death of one of their colleagues including serving crew on a cruise ship after a very young seafarer had taken his own life. All through 2013 and 2014, Roger and his team supported a group of abandoned seafarers from two ships detained in Rye and Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex after the company they worked for fell into financial difficulties. AoS raised emergency funds for the crew to send money home to their families and provided food, internet access and phone cards so they could contact their anxious families.
You can read more about seaport chaplaincy here.