Deutsche Seemannsmission Gathers to Strengthen its Network

by Dr. Jason Zuidema, ICMA

From 1-5 May 2022, the Deutsche Seemannsmission eV (DSM) gathered together its members in Germany and abroad for a World Conference under the theme “Begegnungen” (“Encounters”). The theme stressed the importance of learning about each other and being together.

The conference was an opportunity for DSM team members to meet each other for the first time since 2014, but also to welcome many new members who had not had a chance to meet because of the pandemic. The conference also was a perfect time to officially welcome a new General Secretary and also the lead chaplain of the DSM Hannover eV.

The opening ceremony took place on May 1 at the historic Ste-Katharinen Church in Hamburg. Before the ceremony, guests were welcome to meet representatives of the stations of the DSM in ports outside of Germany. The ceremony began with an official welcome from representatives of the government and the maritime industry and a greeting from the International Christian Maritime Association delivered by Hilbert Penninga, a member of the ICMA trustees from the Netherlands. The ceremony opened the World Conference, but also saw the official installation of Pastor Matthias Ristau as the new General Secretary of the DSM. In his opening remarks, Ristau highlighted that the diversity within the DSM was its strength.

Ecumenical partners welcome Matthias Ristau as new General Secretary of the DSM on May 1. Present: ICMA members Stella Maris, Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest, Merimieskirkko, Danish Seamen’s Church, Nederlandse Zeevarendencentrale, and SPWO.

On the second day, May 2, Conference participants headed by bus from Hamburg to the retreat centre in Bad Baderkesa, not far from Bremerhaven. With thanks for the invitation from the DSM, Jason Zuidema presented two sessions which looked at our common challenges in seafarers’ ministry and the opportunities for renewed service through the pandemic. Though programs are important, Zuidema underlined that human resources – our people – are our best strength.

May 3 was devoted to Story-Telling. Dr. Anja Timmerman, historian and business coach, helped participants understand the power of stories to inspire more engagement with our mission and vision. Read a full account of this seminar here.

The Installation of Pastor Uwe Baumhauer (right) as new Seemanspastor was presided by Regional Bishop Dr. Hans-Christian Brandy (left) and many other representatives of DSM stations.

The day concluded with a trip to Bremerhaven during which Uwe Baumhauer was installed as the new Seemannspastor for the Seemannsmission Hannover eV. His work includes oversight of the seafarers’ hotel and “Welcome” club in Bremerhaven, but also the missions in Cuxhaven and Stade-B├╝tzfleth. In his sermon, Baumhauer drew upon his many years of teaching religion to young people, to talk about the important role of the Church in public places like ports. After the ceremony, all guests were invited for a delicious dinner at the Bremerhaven seafarers’ hotel.

Matthias Ristau discusses the work of DSM with stations inside and outside of Germany.

Day 4 and 5 turned to the business of the DSM. Newly installed General Secretary Matthias Ristau spent time explaining the different joys and concerns the network is facing. He highlighted that he is available to all stations inside and outside Germany, and wants to be useful for the whole network. Workshops and discussions filled the last sessions, sharing ideas to increase partnerships and make the DSM an even better network for the benefit of seafarers.

Though the content of workshops and sessions was helpful, the great joy – as the conference theme suggested – was being together in person. Masks and daily testing made sure COVID-19 stayed away, so that prayer, discussion, and fellowship could remain in focus.

It was good to be together!

The conference centre in Bad Bederkesa