On March 1, the Rev. Michael Christopher Nation begins work at the Seamen's Church Institute (SCI) as a chaplain for Ministry on the River, the nation's only full-time pastoral care ministry on the Ohio and Lower Mississippi River systems. Operating from Vicksburg, MS (where Nation served as rector of a local parish for over 9 years), the new SCI chaplain ministers to mariners working in the Lower Mississippi River region. He succeeds the Rev. Michael Hammett who left SCI last year.
Living and working in the city of Vicksburg has wrapped Nation up in the maritime industry. On the Mississippi, Vicksburg functions as a hub of river commerce with several river transportation companies operating in the area. Not surprisingly, Nation already knew about SCI. In fact, his former charge, the Church Of The Holy Trinity in Vicksburg, functions as part of a network of churches committed to helping the Institute called River Friendly Churches.
An effective communicator, Nation hosts a local AM radio program called "All About Vicksburg" in which he interviews city leaders, uncovering happenings in the area. Similarly, in his new appointment as chaplain, Nation seeks to engage with the river community. He says he has committed himself to learn a "new language" so that he can communicate skillfully with those he will call his new colleagues.
To help him get started, Steve Golding, President of Golding Barge Line (GBL), recently took Nation on board the M/V Melody Golding, GBL's flagship. Nation watched and took mental notes eagerly. "I'm putting my listening skills to work," he said, "picking the brains of people in the industry to find out more about my new job."
Speaking about what he has seen thus far, Nation noted, "I think it takes a unique person to be a mariner," describing challenges of the dangerous work and being away from home and family.
Nation brings 15 years of pastoral experience to the job, including coordinating the local American Red Cross's request for chaplains after Hurricane Katrina. He says that he has a "natural interest" in the transportation business, growing up with parents working in the trucking industry. Nation looks forward to the convergence of these skills in what he calls the "front lines of ministry" as a river chaplain with SCI.
SCI's President & Executive Director, the Rev. David M. Rider, says, "We believe that it takes a unique person to be a river chaplain ... just like Michael said ‘it takes a unique person to be mariner.'" Rider believes Nation's talents and enthusiastic outlook hold great promise for SCI's ministry to mariners on the Mississippi River. "With many gifts, Michael will skillfully help us serve the maritime community with the pastoral care on which they have come to depend."