Learning and Fellowship: NAMMA Training 2024 in Houston, Texas

Article audio (courtesy of Don Sheetz)

Maritime ministries have evolved significantly over the past generation, a transformation further underscored by the impacts of pandemic, technological developments, and political instability. Professionals engaged in seafarers’ welfare and ministry must continually refine their skills to effectively navigate changing circumstances. This NAMMA Introduction to Seafarers’ Welfare and Maritime Ministry course offers a comprehensive overview and discourse on critical aspects of seafarers’ welfare and maritime ministry. While primarily tailored for newer chaplains, ship visitors, and volunteers, it also serves as a valuable resource for experienced practitioners seeking to enhance their proficiency.

Organized by the North American Maritime Ministry Association (NAMMA) in collaboration with local hosts, namely the Houston International Seafarers’ Center, this course bears the endorsement of the Stella Maris – United States region and the International Christian Maritime Association (ICMA). The course attracted 22 students from various NAMMA and ICMA members, with notable participation from organizations such as the Danish Seamen’s Church, The Mission to Seafarers, The Seamen’s Church Institute, Stella Maris, and NAMMA members at large.

Distinguished speakers, including Dr. Jason Zuidema, shed light on vision and mission within the maritime context, while Fr. Ian Hutchinson Cervantes provided insights into ICMA activities in Central and South America, particularly addressing challenges in the Panama Canal region. Representatives from the Danish Seamen’s Church, Stella Maris, the Norwegian Seamen’s Church, and The Mission to Seafarers shared valuable perspectives on their respective societies. Additionally, visits to the Seafarers’ International Union and workshops conducted by industry experts from entities such as the United States Coast Guard, the West Gulf Maritime Association, BIMCO, and Moran Shipping Agencies enriched the learning experience.

Workshops on ecumenism, the historical evolution of maritime ministry, and strategies for enhancing service delivery to seafarers were integral components of the course. Dcn. Dr. Jeff Willard led a session focused on refining ship visiting skills, emphasizing the importance of attentive listening. Furthermore, Douglas Stevenson led a workshop on understanding and implementing the Maritime Labour Convention, drawing from his extensive experience at The Seamen’s Church Institute.

A significant highlight was the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the training program, where more than 530 students have benefitted since its inception in 1974. Notable figures like Rev. Andy Krey, a participant from the inaugural class, graced the occasion, marking a milestone in the program’s history.

The course also featured insightful lectures by Jennifer Koenig on storytelling for seafarers’ ministry, Dana Blume on best practices for organizing fundraising events, and Kevin Walker on seafaring as a sacred way of life. Each day commenced or concluded with moments of prayer and spiritual upliftment, with Rev. Lowell Chilton leading a special Ash Wednesday service.

Gracious hospitality provided by hosts Dana Blume and the Houston International Seafarers’ Center, encompassing meeting facilities, transportation, and sumptuous donated meals, added warmth and comfort to the learning environment. Culminating in a Texas BBQ feast, the course served as a time of profound learning, camaraderie, and encouragement to persevere in maritime ministry endeavors.


NAMMA members receive a print copy of The MARE Report, NAMMA’s annual magazines for seafarer’s welfare professionals