Receiving a Church’s Bountiful Gifts

Sep 28, 2009

by the Rev. David M. Rider, President & Executive Director

On Sunday, September 27, I had the privilege of visiting one of the Seamen's Church Institute's (SCI) remarkable church supporters, Christ Church Ridgewood in Ridgewood, NJ. There, I led an adult forum, preached, and appreciatively received nearly 400 knitted scarves, caps, and vests for this year's Christmas at Sea outreach to seafarers.

At the adult forum, I discussed Church missionary societies in the 1830s, including SCI's origins on the docks of lower Manhattan. I quickly fast-forwarded to today's ministry of ship visiting and our hospitality center in Port Newark, along with SCI's justice and advocacy work via its Center for Seafarers' Rights (CSR). Parishioners had many questions about the current upsurge in piracy hijackings, and I explained CSR's initiative to promote guidelines for the medical and mental health evaluation of merchant mariners and their families during and after piracy events.

After I preached at the 10:15 service, Christ Church Ridgewood's rector, the Rev. S. Elizabeth Searle, thanked volunteers for their labors of love in support of the Institute. She blessed the colorful knitted gifts that beautifully surrounded the church's pulpit, also asking God's protection on all who would wear them in the cold months ahead. Gladly, I expressed SCI's appreciation, too, and promised parishioners that the gifts would quickly find their way into Christmas boxes bound for Port Newark.

This year, some 40 Christ Church Ridgewood knitters have created 670 knitted objects, about half of which were sent to SCI over the summer. The knitters gather regularly on Saturdays, including parishioners and neighbors of all ages. All agreed that knitting creates a wonderful sense of internal community while serving those beyond themselves. Recently, the group did the math and estimated that 670 gifts represent more than 5 million stitches. Talk about a labor of love!

Each year, 4,500 SCI volunteers around the country knit and pack gifts for more than 17,000 mariners in Port Newark and the inland river system.