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On Thursday afternoon a meeting of the Society for sending missionaries to sailors on the Orwell and elsewhere, of which Captain H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh, R.N., K.G., is patron, was held at the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Ipswich, Lord Hatherley in the chair. There were also present :— The Revs. S. Garratt, J. H. Knapp, H. H. Streeton, G. V. Smith, Admiral Johnson, Rev. R. B. Boyer, B.A., superintendent of the Missions, Rev. C. A. Raymond, Rev. E. Oakley, Vice-Admiral C. H. Mason, Rev. Guys Tucker, Commander Dawson, and the room was well filled with other clergy and ladies.

The meeting was opened by singing and prayer, after which the noble Chairman called upon Admiral Johnson to read the report of the branch.

Admiral Johnson said he held the 21st annual report of the Missions to Seamen Society. Ipswich, he said, was only a branch, so that for that town he had no written report. The first missionary only came to Ipswich six months ago, and the last in August, and he had been very materially helped by the Rev. Granville Smith, and it was found that if the sum of £100 could be raised to send to the parent society they could have a branch. They now found, at least they believed, that this branch of the Society could not be carried on at an annual subscription of £200. The reader would have to have a kind of cutter in order that he might occasionally sleep on board, so that he might not be compelled to be home by a certain time. The reader would have a lad and a man to manage the ship, so that the expense would be greater than people would first imagine—at least at first; and he hoped the town would give the required sum annually. In helping this mission they would be helping other missions, for if they could only impress a good example on the men, they would carry the beneficial effects to the heathen and to others with whom they came in contact, instead of doing, as was unfortunately the case, setting the example of immorality and intemperance. He (Admiral Johnson) had collected the sum of £70 1s. 6d. during the present year, of which £50 had been remitted to Captain Dawson, as also another sum of £10. There was a balance of £8 6s. at the bank, and be had £1 odd in his pocket, making the sum he had mentioned. He believed the only outstanding debt against the Society was £3 3s., the boatmen's wages.

Lord Hatherley said, in opening, he might premise that he should not occupy them long, because they would have a statement from Captain Dawson, who had devoted all his life to the general working of the institution. But there were one or two general observations which, as the town of Ipswich was asked to subscribe, he felt no one could pass by. In the first place, it was astonishing that so little had been done where there was there was such very great need. The merchant seamen of this country alone numbered not very far short of a quarter of a million—say 220,000 or 230,000 people. These are lads and adults, all capable of hearing the Word of God if it were brought to them—capable of having their souls brought to the Lord Jesus Christ. What should we think of it if there was in a large town, say of the size of Leeds, net one single minister of the Gospel—not one single teacher to open the hearts of the inhabitants of that town to the words of the Gospel? Since it had been started, during the past 30 years, the Society had been assisted in its endeavours, and now has connected with its missions 15 chaplains, 50 honorary chaplains, 50 Scripture readers, and four or five lay helpers. What a state of things would there be if a town of the size his Lordship had described, without a single minister employed to diffuse the Gospel. So it would be amongst men at sea. The sum of £12,500 collected on behalf of the Society during the last year, his Lordship considered a paltry collection for such a mission. It was never intended by our Church that these men should remain in such a state as they were. (Applause). Let anybody look at that part of the Prayer Book which a good many do not do often enough, and he will see that the sailors and those afloat were not forgotten when those forms of prayer were consolidated. The service, morning and evening, is the same at sea as on land, but there were special prayers arranged for the merchantmen and others arranged to be used in her Majesty’s navy. His Lordship had just been reminded, he did not know that he knew it before, that it was one of the first of the articles which the ship has to learn, and the Government regulation of her Majesty’s ships, that religious services shall be conducted on those ships daily, by the chaplain, if there was one, or by the officers, in the absence of the chaplain. (Applause). Were we then, to leave the sailors in such a deplorable state as they actually were in? They were men to whose hardihood, courage, and daring we owed many of the blessings we possess, and if we could only make an effort to instruct those whom we so much relied on—the navy, “the first line of England’s defence”—nay, indeed, to instruct others, they could give a vivifying influence to the whole service. His Lordship was not finding fault with the service, God forbid, for all it had done. But it was not wonderful, neglected as they had been, that British sailors should very often—unfortunately too often—set a very bad example to those of foreign lands, to whom they should set a good example of English Christianity and civilisation. They should set examples of piety and godliness. “These men see the works of God, and His wonders in the deep.” They were continually in jeopardy of their lives, and might at any hour or any moment be carried off from this world to another, as was unfortunately the case in January last with no less than 200 fishermen at Yarmouth in one gale. What could be more painful to a man than the thought that those poor beings should be suddenly launched into eternity, without having been brought round to those better things, which, perhaps, they knew something of before they left their home, but which, in the course of their business they had not once been reminded of. To more strongly express these latter sentiments than his Lordship’s feeble words had done, he quoted briefly from a pastoral letter (in which the Rev. Prelate spoke in words of appreciation of the readers of the Mission to Seamen), in the annual report of the Society, from the Bishop of Gibraltar, as follows:— “The society has made great and noble efforts to provide for the moral and spiritual wants of our sailors. The life of sailors is one of peril in every sense; perils of their bodies at sea, and still worse perils of their souls on shore. While having greater temptations to resist than ordinary men, they have fewer props to support them in a virtuous course. Severed from hearth and family, they lose all their home influences which purify and soften the affections. Few churches on shore bid them welcome, and at sea there is no privacy for kneeling in secret prayer; in many ships no opportunity of public worship, no observance of the Lord’s Day; no outward acknowledgment of God.” That, too often, his Lordship said was the state of sailors at sea. and he hoped those words would stir them earnestly to take up the work of starting a mission to stamen at Ipswich, in the hope of keeping them in mind of the promises of God, and of maturing that instruction that they might chanced to have received before they left their homes. Fancy the instance, of which his Lordship knew, in which the crew had been afloat 22 months and had never had a single prayer, audibly, nor a single teacher or book, and still worse no Bible on board. It reminded him of a verse in the Psalms, “I have no place to flee unto, and no man careth for my soul.” What they wanted to do was a practical work; to say at once that they would find some one to whom the sailor might flee; to teach him to rise from them, their instructors, to Him who careth for them, and for us all. Here was the town of Ipswich to be dealt with—a port—and the Society might be the means of a deal of good were missionaries sent amongst the sailors who frequented the port. His Lordship said “frequent the port,” because if such was the case the sailors would carry the word of truth everywhere that they might go. The ministry would be carried to all whose with whom the missionary came into contact; they would go on board every ship in the harbour and see if any one of the sailors feel inclined to have private prayers, or to allow the missionary to conduct services for the whole of the crew. The ships would also be given “ships’ libraries” to carry with them, and much good would be effected in that way. Some say, “I should like to subscribe to Ipswich seamen; I don’t care to send my subscription to the London Society.” When Ipswich men were in port they most of them had a home, but others who were strangers were met with by those foul birds of prey who waylay sailors who are strangers. By helping even the sailors of Ipswich they were also helping and benefiting others, for wherever the Ipswich man went he took, let them hope, his influence for good with him. His Lordship hoped that, the further usefulness of the branch would be to ameliorate an evil aster that was permeating society very considerably— that evil was intemperance. (Applause.) The captains of many merchant ships in Ipswich had been seen, and were glad to allow morning and evening prayer to be used on the vessels. They also encouraged the reader to go on board their vessels. Farther, in some instances—more favoured instances—special opportunities were given, as his Lordship understood was the case on her Majesty’s ships, for private prayer, after the services had been carried out. If the sailors could be brought into a full communion with the Lord they might consider what amount of good the Society would have effected. Christian influence would give light to their minds, and touch them not to countenance anything that had the appearance of guilt. As Noah looked out upon the waters, so these sailors might look out when at sea, and think, now that the Lord was with them, their souls would, in the event of a disaster, be where they would, end where they ought to be.

Admiral Johnson here stated that in addition to the sum announced he had had promises of £120. (Applause.) 

Captain W. Dawson, R.N., general secretary, next addressed the meeting, saying he had been entrusted with the proposition of the following resolution :—
That the Mission to Seamen Society having met our local efforts by sending a missionary to labour amongst the shipping on the Orwell, it is desirable that Ipswich and Suffolk should endeavour to defray the whole expense, without burdening the sources of the parent Society, and that Admiral Johnson and the Rev. Granville Smith, the hon. secretary and chaplain appointed by the Society, be empowered to carry out the work.

—Commander Dawson briefly gave an account of his connection with the Society as a lay helper. He said he had heard that Suffolk people were very liberal, and that Ipswich had the reputation of being a very religious place, and that Missionary Societies were there very warmly supported, which be hoped was true. He had also beard that Ipswich people were very fond of the water, so fond of the water that they built a church on the water. This had been looked upon with anxious eyes by their missionary, who thought it might be made specially attractive to sailors; but that would be seen by-and-bye. He had also been communicated with as follows:— “Excellent work to be done at Pin Mill, where you will find at all times two or three ships; and the next day two or three more.” Yes, but these other two or three were probably fresh ones, and fresh crews, and so the work would spread. There was also a church at Pin Mill, he had heard, and that the Rector took a warm interest in the work of this Society. There was also the advantage of a number of vessels running up to Pin Mill for shelter in rough weather, which was all the better for the mission reader. The captain of the Challenger at Harwich, who be believed was present, had given permission to the missionary to go on board and conduct services, and he believed the gentleman was very well received on board that ship. He believed that the Ipswich reader had had a constant attendance of ten, but every soul was valuable in the sight of God.

The Rev. R. B. Boyer, in seconding the resolution, said that he believed the work begun by the Rev. Granville Smith and Admiral Johnson would prosper, as they bad begun in such a downright hearty manner, and with love and prayer.

The Rev. G. V. Smith said he and his colleagues had experienced much difficulty in making a collection, as they had to guess at who would subscribe. He should be glad if any ladies or gentlemen, who felt disposed to give anything, would kindly forward it to him or Admiral Johnson, who would also be glad of any books or tracts of any kind to distribute on board ship.

The Rev. Guys Tucker, who had been 36 years in the Navy, proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman, which was seconded by the Rev. E. Oakley, and his Lordship, after responding, announced that be had forgotten till then to tell the meeting that Archdeacon Groome had written to express his inability, through a previous engagement to be present at the meeting.

Transcript of "Missions to Seamen Society", The Ipswich Journal, 20 October 1877

Albums"Missions to Seamen Society", The Ipswich Journal, 20 October 1877 (includes transcript)

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