The Rev. Marjorie (Marge) Lindstrom’s routine is a little different to that of the average Episcopalian priest. On top of her clerical collar, she dons a fluorescent vest and tucks a hard hat under her arm. Walking out of SCI’s International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark, NJ, an orange strobe light transforms her car into a high visibility vehicle, suitable for driving through the busy and often perilous port environment. But most people would not describe what she does as “routine.”
“Once you’re on board ship, you respond to what you find there,” Marge explains. There is the business side of things to manage: providing phone and sim cards, and even portable wifi hubs to crews anxious to contact friends and family. Other practical services include offering transportation for seafarers to nearby shopping malls so they can buy necessities and gifts for loved ones back home.
Moreover, Marge brings emotional and spiritual encouragement to every visit. “Perhaps a crewmember is worried about somebody at home and just wants to talk about it. Someone might want you to pray with them. Sometimes I’m invited to eat with them. Each day is different when your focus is on the people you serve,” says Marge. And being flexible is absolutely necessary for SCI chaplains. According to Marge, it is important not to board any ship with a pre-set agenda, but rather take cues from the mariners themselves. Her role is, in her words, a “ministry of presence”.
Starting her career as a Learning Disabilities Teaching Consultant, Marge was soon called to ministry. Her father had been an SCI chaplain, and therefore it was no surprise when Marge found herself drawn to the port. She describes being an SCI chaplain as “working on the cutting edge… these are the open walls of church, and being able to minister and serve in this kind of environment can only be a positive thing.” It isn’t always easy, and Marge has had to deal with her fair share of inclement weather, language barriers, and the ever-difficult task of comforting seafarers who have experienced the loss of a crewmember.
The rewards, however, are great. Marge has loved the chance to meet people from all over the world, and some of her dearest memories are of the hospitality shown to her by mariners. “I’ll miss that camaraderie – just being out there in the diversity of cultures. It has fed my soul, and I will bring that with me wherever I go”.
As Marge sees it, being an SCI chaplain is an honor and a privilege. She says that the most valuable aspect of her work has been to make “the people on the fringes – and that’s what the seafarers are – visible. Giving them the dignity that they deserve as a human being so they’re not just a commodity on board ship. It has taught me a lot, and it will always be a part of me.”
SCI is grateful to Marge for her ministry over the past eleven years. On behalf of the extended SCI family, we thank her.