by Jason Zuidema, ICMA
From September 27-30, 2022, ICMA held its annual general meeting and conference in Rome to discuss challenges and programs during the pandemic and war, but also the new opportunities that have been made clear.
The COVID-19 pandemic deeply disrupted the work of port-based seafarers’ and fishers’ welfare worldwide. Missions in ports worldwide had to pivot to gangway-only visits, personal shopping, package delivery, and learning how best to use new forms of communication. Viewed in the context of the last decade, however, this was not so much a complete change, as it was simply the acceleration of trends that were already happening.
The meeting in Rome invited ICMA members to share their experience and new opportunities. Presentations from The Mission to Seafarers, Sailors’ Society, The Seamen’s Church Institute, NAMMA, the Deutsche Seemannsmission, Stella Maris, the Suomen Merimieskirkko and the Stichting Pastoraat Werkers Overzee all emphasized the significant adaptation their societies needed to make in this challenging period.
Out of the pandemic new programs in digital chaplaincy, work with cadets, sailing chaplains, programs of working together, and renewed impact in discussions at IMO and ILO were discussed. Each of these showed that innovative solutions could be found to answer real need.
The outgoing ICMA chairperson, The Rev’d Canon Andrew Wright of the Mission to Seafarers said, “It is the first AGM and board meeting together combined since the pandemic. All of us have been through profound experiences together. Many have faced challenges. Our meeting was a fantastic opportunity to share experiences, learn from one another, and take a look together at some of the challenges we are going to face in the future.”
These comments were echoed by incoming trustee chairperson Sara Baade, CEO of Sailors’ Society, who noted, “Having an opportunity to spend time with other similar maritime charities is hugely beneficial for all of us to learn from others about their triumphs and mistakes. It is very practical – we are all coming out of the pandemic and battling similar issues. From a morale point of view, it is really exciting to hear about what others are doing as the next steps because we have all had to rethink what we are doing.”
Being in Rome, the seminar attendees had a wonderful opportunity to visit the sights of a beautiful city. Fr. Bruno Ciceri of Stella Maris helped organize a visit to the Vatican Museum and also St. Peter’s Basilica.
The International Christian Maritime Association is a worldwide association of 27 Christian charities dedicated to the service of seafarers, fishers and their families. ICMA’s members collectively represent 725 seafarers’ and fishers’ missions in 80 countries.