The Mission to Seafarers held its annual ‘Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols’ last week, in the presence of its President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.
The service took place at the Church of St Michael Paternoster Royal in London. The well-attended event, which was sponsored by Shell, V.Group, Fred Olsen and Everblacks Towage, was filled with a cheerful crowd of both familiar faces and new additions, with a wide variety of connections to the maritime industry.
The Revd Canon Andrew Wright, Secretary General commenced the service with a moving address, recognising the efforts of the world’s 1.5 million seafarers, many of whom will be spending Christmas away from their families and friends.
“With so much of our ‘Christmas’ coming from overseas in the form of gifts, food and decorations, the work of seafarers is arguably never felt as much as at this time of year.
“It is hugely significant that we take some time to recognise this fact, as well as the sacrifices they continue to make throughout the year,” Andrew said of the occasion.
“We are incredibly grateful to our guests, as well as everyone who has supported The Mission throughout the year – and especially to our President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Her enduring dedication and hard work continue to make a remarkable difference, and we were delighted to welcome her back to the Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols this year.”
Honoured by the attendance of Her Royal Highness – who also read the sixth lesson of the service on the birth of Jesus – the occasion was dedicated to the often lonely and dangerous working environments of those in maritime.
The event also raised £35,574 to support The Mission to Seafarers’ ongoing global efforts, spanning both practical and emotional support, for seafarers worldwide.
The service was supported by the wonderful music of Lloyd’s Choir, with nine classic Christmas carols interspersed amongst the lessons and prayers. Another particular highlight came all the way from South Shields in the form of the Hadrian Primary School choir. As home to one of The Mission’s most historic seafarer centres and with deep seafaring roots, it was especially fitting to welcome the children from the town. The children dazzled the congregation with their beautiful performance.
The service was followed by a drinks reception and canapes around the corner at the Skinners’ Hall. The gathering provided an opportunity for Her Royal Highness to meet with attendees, underlining the need to support seafarers all year round – but especially at Christmas:
“Most of you have different connections to the sea and will understand an awful lot of the problems that seafarers face, and I hope some of you have had the opportunities to go to some of the Missions around the world.
“Rather like here, there’s always a wonderful atmosphere in those Missions – and it is very much the open-door principle. The hospitality that’s offered does create that very special atmosphere, wherever you are in the world.”