Port Contact: Rev Norman Gilbert
Country: United Kingdom (GB)
Welcome to Pembroke
SCFS has been represented in Pembroke for many years and it has been my privilege to fulfil the role of Port Chaplain for the last decade or so. Most of the ships visiting the port are involved in the oil industry, either smaller coastal tankers with around 14 crew members or much larger international tankers, with up to 24 on board. I am a full time Pastor with my local independent evangelical mission but I always find time to visit as many ships as I can each month to take the message of the Gospel to seafarers. Christmas is a particularly busy time and I often distribute 250 or more lovely presents, each one individually prepared and wrapped by members of my church.
Building a rapport
Nowadays the seafarers I meet in Pembroke are predominantly Filipino and Russian, with Scandinavian officers, but Indian, Polish, Korean, Spanish and Chinese crews also come into the port. I always get a warm reception when visiting ships and any clothing and literature I bring on board is gratefully received. In fact, I often find that I am able to distribute far more bibles and tracts among the crews on the ships than I am to those I meet on land. Most importantly, I find that the men are very open to the message of Christ’s love. My predecessor always wore his collar when visiting ships and I have continued this tradition. The reason is simply to let the crew see who I am and to differentiate myself from figures of authority who may be onboard, such as inspectors or representatives of the Port. Collar or not, I love striking up a rapport with the men and having a bit of ‘craic’ with them. On one occasion, a captain was bemused to find me locked in a clinch with one of his crew members, as I attempted to show him the principles of a rugby scrum.
One of the challenges I face is that it can sometimes be difficult to meet the crew when I’m on a ship. Modern shift patterns mean that the men work six hours on/six hours off, so quite often they may be sleeping when I’m onboard. Another factor is that coastal vessels are turned around very quickly, usually in 24 hours or less, while larger vessels remain in port only a little longer, perhaps two to three days maximum. None the less, the job of reaching seafarers with the message of the Gospel continues and I it gives me great joy when I am able to bring a crew member home to meet my wife and family and to share a meal with us.
I must take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to the many church members and individuals who buy the items for the seafarers and who knit the woolly hats and jumpers that go into the presents each year.
God Bless and thank you for visiting this page.