Twenty years ago, I began visiting ships at Port Everglades. It was exciting boarding large container ships from all over the world, meeting the crews at break and answering questions about places to see in Ft. Lauderdale, services offered at Seafarer’s House at Port Everglades, and sampling the food the cook was preparing for lunch! It was at Seafarers House that I first learned of the program called Christmas At Sea, which is a major ministry project all over the world. If you have been a member of Bethesda-by-the-Sea for over a year, you hopefully know about our leading role in providing Christmas at Sea.
Christmas, along with the Christmas at Sea gift bag drive, gets all the attention, but it is the Day of Pentecost that is the most meaningful to me as a ship visitor. The Day of the Pentecost is a principal feast of the Church as it celebrates the promised coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church. The welcome that we receive on ships, the invitation for a Christian service, whether for a communion service from the reserved Sacrament or simple prayer for a safe journey, has its origin on the first day of Pentecost. The Christians we visit on the ships received the Gospel through the Holy Spirit working through missionaries long ago. I sometimes wonder who first proclaimed the Gospel in their lands; Saul called Paul and Apollos to the Greeks? St. Columba to the Scots? St. Anskar to the Scandinavians? St. Vladimir to the Russians? Names known only to God to the Filipinos? St. Barnabas to the Cypriots? The list goes on and on, and yet we too follow in their footsteps, proclaiming God’s deeds of power in ordinary ways. I have often thought of Ascension Day as one of goodbye and the Day of Pentecost as one of hello again. Ships arrive and leave. Some crews who call regularly at the Port of Palm Beach have built relationships; most mariners we will never see again.
As I approach another decade of life, with more past than are ahead, I look forward to what will come next. In this time of change in our parish, country, and the world, remember that the Spirit is active in all. May the rush of our present winds of change blow into us the very breath of Jesus Christ who breathed on the Apostles, giving them power from on high to witness in the way of Love. It is the Spirit active in our church which called both Father James and Father Burl to new ministries. The same Spirit will guide Mother Margaret and the other Associates, Bishop Eaton, the Vestry, and staff of Bethesda-by-the-Sea. It is the same Spirit within you who will strengthen your faith in this time of change. The Advocate is with us in all we do, and the Lord will not leave us Comfortless or Alone; this is God’s gift to us on that first Day of Pentecost.
The Rev. Clayton Waddell
Deacon for Port Ministry