The Mission to Seafarers

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The Mission to Seafarers
Founded 1856
Type International organization
Focus Seafarers' welfare, advocacy, piracy, advocacy, counselling
Area served
Mission The Mission to Seafarers offers a friendly Christian welcome to seafarers visiting over 260 ports around the world. Whether caring for victims of piracy or providing services and friendship to those stranded in foreign ports, we are there for the globe’s 1.3 million merchant seafarers of all faiths, ranks and nationalities.
Formerly called
The Missions to Seamen

The Mission to Seafarers (formerly The Missions to Seamen) is a Christian welfare charity serving merchant sailors around the world. It operates in over 260 ports through a global network of chaplains, staff and volunteers to offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to seafarers through ship visits, drop-in centres and a range of welfare and emergency support services.


The Mission to Seafarers is a world missionary agency of the Anglican Communion and offers practical, emotional and spiritual support to the world's 1.37 million merchant seafarers of all ranks, religions and nationalities.

The charity provides its services through the chaplains that it appoints to centres and ports in 71 countries around the world. Chaplains, who are often supported by volunteers, are able to offer practical support with employment issues or personal needs, as well as emotional and spiritual support through counselling. Through its centres and staff, the charity also provides communications facilities, transport services and publishes a bi-monthly news digest for seafarers called The Sea.


The Mission to Seafarers has operations in over 250 ports across the world. In over 120 of these ports, the Mission has seafarers' centres - known as Flying Angel Centres - which offer communications facilities and rest and relaxation areas, and in some cases, accommodation. Sometimes, seafarers' centres are provided in ecumenical partnership with other organisations such as the Apostleship of the Sea. The rest of the charity's presence is made up of part-time or full-time chaplains, who offer on board support services to seafarers.

Its central office is in the church of St Michael Paternoster Royal, College Hill, London EC4R 2RL. This church, founded by Sir Richard Whitington was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren, and contains carvings by Grinling Gibbons.


Its formal creation was in 1856 through the Church of England although the MtS had its roots in the earlier work of an Anglican priest, John Ashley who in 1835 was on the shore at Clevedon with his son who asked him how the people on Flat Holm could go to church. For the next three months Ashley voluntarily ministered to the population of the island. From there he recognised the needs of the seafarers on the four hundred sailing vessels in the Bristol Channel and created the Bristol Channel Mission. He raised funds, and in 1839 a specially designed mission cutter was built with a main cabin which could be converted into a chapel for 100 people.[1]

In later years a purpose-built 75-foot floating Mission was operated on the Thames and was named John Ashley in recognition of the founder. It had a large recreation area below decks which included library and cinema facilities, a chapel, and accommodation for a crew of four: Padre, Skipper, Engineer, and Deck Boy. This vessel replaced and ex Admiralty MFV of the same name. The creation of this floating mission was the brain child of the Reverend Fred Leight, who devoted a great part of his life to the service of seamen and was awarded the MBE in recognition. This vessel served the many colliers which at that time often had to spend long periods stuck on buoys awaiting a berth. She also served a useful purpose during the seamen's strike in the 1960s when she ventured out into the estuary to assist vessels held at anchor there waiting the strike to end. On another occasion the John Ashley made a fund-raising "showing-the-flag" trip to Harwich, arriving in the teeth of a westerly gale. Other notable trips include one to take the then Minister of Transport to see what the Thames really looked like, one to take a party of London Bishops to enjoy a voyage along their waterside parishes, and on one occasion a stranded Trinity House pilot was rescued off a ship at Charlton Buoys, who, it so happened, was the brother of the then Skipper, coincidentally also named Charlton.

On Fred Leight's retirement this vessel was for some reason replaced with a 36-foot motor yacht which soon became known as Padre's private yacht, and indeed did not last long as there was little use for such a service on the Thames by then. The John Ashley had two main berths on the river. The western one was alongside the Alexander tug pier at Wapping and the eastern one was in the old lock entrance at Tilbury. The latter berth was where she usually took aboard the coffins or ashes of those wishing to be buried at sea, an alternative being the Gravesend Pier opposite.

Notable supporters[edit]

The Patron is Queen Elizabeth II and the President is Princess Anne. The mission's secretary general, the Revd Andrew Wright, is the Archbishop of Canterbury's official Spokesman on Maritime Affairs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Farr, Grahame (1954). Somerset Harbours. London: Christopher Johnson. p. 49. 

External links[edit]