NAMMA Conference 2021 Introductory Remarks – August 10, 2021
Deacon Paul Rosenblum, President, NAMMA
Good morning. It is a great pleasure to see you all today and welcome you to our annual conference. Certainly, I would rather be speaking to you in person, and I’m sure that all of you would rather be gathered in a room somewhere, anywhere really, where we could meet in person, face-to-face, able to share handshakes and hugs and meals, but the virtual world is still the reality for gatherings of all sorts, and our conference is, unfortunately, no exception to that. I hope and pray that this is the last time we need to gather this way for our annual conference. Nevertheless, we are here to enjoy this opportunity to talk and share and learn from our speakers and from each other. And for that I am grateful. Thank you all for being here.
I would like to thank the Program Committee for their work in getting this conference organized and off the ground on rather short notice. When Jason and I had the first meeting with them, we had to determine the logistics for the conference and of course, its theme. And almost immediately the word COVID came up. I can’t remember who said it first, but it was likely in all of our minds. And that makes sense. Everything that we do, in our ministry and indeed in all aspects of our lives, has that word hanging over it. It is inescapable. Sad to say, but it looks like it will continue to be a shadow over us into the foreseeable future. As we talked more about how to approach the subject, we agreed that we wanted to be sure that this was not just a time for all of us to sit around and lament about all of the troubles that the seafarers have faced and will continue to face, and wail and gnash our teeth about all of the difficulties we experience in our efforts to minister to them.
I don’t really need to say this, you all know it to be true: This pandemic and the disturbances it has brought to the maritime industry and our work within it is really fertile ground for lamentations. We could spend all of our time together these two days doing just that, grumbling about how we can no longer have the meaningful fellowship that comes from sharing meals with crew or chatting with them in the van on the way to the mall, fretting about how we cannot pray with so many of them as frequently as we would like to, moaning because the lack of shore leave has adversely affected their well-being, bewailing the policies that shipping companies and government authorities impose that make it difficult to provide the care we would like to give to the seafarers, and, because I am now running out of synonyms for lament, simply regretting the many other disruptions to their lives and ours. But we cannot fall into that trap. It accomplishes nothing. It does no good, to the seafarers or to us, to focus on these disruptions that are really out of our control. That is not to say that we should not be concerned with them. We need to raise our voices to advocate for the welfare of the seafarers. But it can really be self-defeating to focus too much on these issues because we can become distracted by them and fail to do what we can do. I for one, find myself doing that far too often, and have to remind myself that I need to focus on what is under my control, the day-to-day acts that we all do to help the seafarers, that make their lives, and ours, better, one small act of kindness at a time.
And there is much good to talk about there: Gangway visits with goodie bags and gifts, not just at Christmas but every day; shopping trips to Walmart and other stores to buy the supplies the seafarers need when they cannot go themselves; online shopping to help them get needed items; a moment of prayer with the one or two crew members on gangway duty, asking them to pass the prayer on to their shipmates. And now, the essential provision of vaccinations that not only provide physical protection against the virus, but provide emotional relief, even joy, too. All of these and so much more. The mechanics of our ministry may have changed, but the essence of it remains the same.
And so, the theme for the conference: “Leading and Learning through Uncertainty.” A positive approach to the current pandemic disruptions. Looking back on what we have experienced, not just to rehash it, certainly not to lament, but using our experiences to explore and share what we have learned about our ministry that might help us as the pandemic continues, and into that longed-for post-pandemic world. Using the lessons learned to lead us into the future. That is our goal these next two days. I am looking forward to hearing from our speakers and panelists and from all of you.
May Christ’s peace be with you all this day and always. Amen