Waiting until Christmas to open presents delivered weeks in advance can be a challenge, but a group of seafarers vowed to do just that when 31 packages of warm winter clothing and other gifts donated by St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough arrived in New Haven, CT where merchant marines were in port for a day.
Most people may not think about the shipment of such things as rebar and scrap metal, or even how home heating oil and imported wood get to their final destination, or the sailors whose efforts are a vital part of the process. Seafarers from all over the world are an integral part of bringing these, and other products for New Englanders into New Haven, CT. Seafarers are often isolated and lonely, sometimes without the means to contact family frequently, or purchase needed items while in port. Typical contracts put most at sea for 10 months a year, and they remain a largely forgotten population at the holidays.
Seafarers International House serves this population, and the people of St. Stephen Lutheran Church, Marlborough, have responded for the past seven years by providing Christmas gifts of satchels filled with hand-knit hats and scarves, hooded sweatshirts, shirts, socks, cans of nuts and Christmas cards. This year, church members Melanie Whapham and Judy Kellogg of Marlborough traveled to New Haven to meet with Port Chaplain Ruth Setaro and deliver 31 satchels.
The visitors had the opportunity to meet some of the seafarers. “A crew from the COSMOS was in port for the day, leaving for India,” Melanie said. “These merchant marines will be the best color coordinated sailors on the seas.” The hand knit items matched wonderfully with the purchased sweatshirts and shirts, she noted. Chaplain Setaro said the sailors were very grateful for the packages. “They were so excited to get these gifts and promised they would wait until Christmas to open them.”
The need for additional warm, hand knit hats continues, and less than 2 weeks after an announcement in church, 30 more hand-knit hats had been donated.
Seafarers International House is an ecumenical mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to seafarers and sojourners, as well as people who are distressed, disadvantaged, and displaced. For more information, check out https:/www.sihnyc.org.
Seven Lutheran chaplains support the Seafarers Port Mission. When requested, they will board merchant marine ships to provide pastoral care and counseling. During the holidays, chaplains distribute the packages to ships that port in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia and southern New England that will be out at sea for Christmas.
For more information about the church, visit www.saintstephenlutheran.com or the church’s Facebook page. Saint Stephen is a member of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (www.elca.org) . The church is a Reconciling in Christ congregation, inviting people of every gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, marital status, or class. Parishioners come from Marlborough, Hudson, Berlin, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, Shrewsbury, Sudbury, Stow, and Bolton.