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Fall 2019


is published biannually by the Communications Office of The Seamen's Church Institute (SCI).



Bruce G. Paulsen, Esq. Chairman, Board of Trustees

Welcome New Groups


The Rev. David M. Rider President & Executive Director

Your Questions Answered


The Year of the Mariner


Keep in Touch


seamenschurch.org 973.589.5828 Fall 2019 Volume 13/Number 2 The largest and most comprehensive mariners’ service organization in North America, SCI serves as a voluntary, ecumenical agency affiliated with the Episcopal Church. Founded in 1834, SCI affirms a basic precept of faith communities: welcoming the stranger, regardless of faith or background. Visit donate.seamenschurch.org/give to contribute online, mail your check using the attached envelope or call 973.589.5828 to give over the phone with a credit card.

If you are active on Ravelry, join the Christmas at Sea coversation! (Search under groups for Christmas at Sea.) Need help? Turn to your friends for support. Follow Christmas at Sea’s Facebook page to meet our warm online community of knitters. You may also view some of your fellow CAS knitters’ work, read messages from Program Manager Joanne Bartosik, and stay in-the-know about special CAS activities.


I can’t wait to hear what you think of our newly designed Knit Before Christmas. We listened to your thoughtful comments and suggestions and incorporated your good ideas into a new, fresh format, which we hope is both enjoyable and informative. We wanted to give you, our Christmas at Sea (CAS) family, a more global view of the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) and bring into focus how this program complements the broader work of the organization. CAS IS A DEEPLY PERSONAL AND CREATIVE PROGRAM. Many of you have special connections to mariners. All of you understand the unique culture of the maritime industry and how the men and women who embrace this atypical, often hazardous, and lonely lifestyle make our modern way of life possible. Whether you create one scarf or one hundred, or have the capacity to make a monetary gift, we are all part of this great big team effort. As manager, I may be the orchestra conductor, but you are the integral players making the music. You are essential to the success and longevity of CAS. As we accelerate into the Christmas season, and begin compiling our gift giving lists, I ask you to consider including SCI in your holiday plans. Your gift, whatever the amount, will make an immediate and significant impact on a mariner. When you support SCI you are directly supporting and uplifting a mariner; someone you will never personally meet, but someone who will never forget you and your generosity. Whether you knit or crochet, personalize Christmas cards or personalize a check; we are all part of this program we call CAS. I wish you and those you love the warmest of holiday seasons and a joyous and prosperous 2020. As always, with heartfelt gratitude,

Joanne P.S. For your convenience you can donate online at: https://donate.seamenschurch.org/give

Welcome New Knitting Groups! The Church of St. Jude, Wantagh, NY Church of the Nativity, Indianapolis, IN Deutscher Club of Clark, NJ First Reformed Church, Holland, MI Four Seasons at Harbor Bay, Little Egg Harbor, NJ Good Shepherd Lutheran, Somerville, NJ Lewes Public Library, Lewes, DE Lititz United Methodist Church, Lititz, PA Oakcrest High School, Mays Landing, NJ

Our Lady of Victories, Frenchtown, NJ Peconic Island Retirement Home, Greenport, NY Southport Presbyterian Church, Southport, NC St. Ann’s by-the-Sea, Block Island, RI St. David’s Episcopal, Glenview, IL St. James Episcopal Church, Riverton, WY St. Vincent Catholic Church, Margate, FL This list includes groups new in 2019 through 9/30.


YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED What yarn colors should I use for Christmas at Sea knits? We field this question at least once a week at Seamen’s Church! Because the majority of mariners are male, some of our donors assume that earth tones are really the only option; or maybe because it is a Christmas undertaking, red and green are the only appropriate choices. Nothing could be further from the truth! Christmas at Sea has two component parts. Under the "Christmas on the River" banner, one collection of knits is delivered to mariners working on towboats transporting goods on U.S. inland rivers by SCI Ministry on the River chaplains. U.S. law, according to the Jones Act, requires that vessels transporting cargo from one U.S. point to another U.S. point be U.S.-built, owned, and crewed by U.S. citizens. In a given year, some American mariners not only miss Christmas Day, they may have to spend the whole holiday season away from their families traveling on their boat.


In addition to being drawn to the traditional holiday hues of home, some Christmas on the River recipients have expressed the wish that their knits match the colors of their boat company. They feel the same affinity for their boat colorways that others might feel toward a favorite sport team or beloved alma mater’s colors. Others have expressed appreciation for something bright and sunny during the winter’s grayest months on the water. Concurrently, a second collection of knits is distributed to international seafarers who find themselves docked in the U.S. during the holidays, while their ships are being loaded and unloaded. A personalized Christmas card, a knit set and toiletries are packed into individual drawstring ditty bags which have also been hand-sewn and donated by SCI volunteers. The bags are packed into giant red “Santa Sacks” and delivered to individual seafarers on their ships by SCI chaplains and ship welfare visitors operating out of our International Seafarers’

Center in Port Newark. The Port of New York and New Jersey, which includes Port Newark, is the largest on the east coast and is poised to be the second largest port in the nation. Seafarers hail from all over the world — Egypt, Australia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, the Ukraine — so any color combination might be the perfect palette to remind them of home. Because international seafarers generally serve six to nine month-long contracts, the chances that they will spend the holidays in foreign waters, away from family and friends, are high. Bright pinks, vibrant yellows and blues, while a departure from the usual Christmas hues, might perfectly capture a crew’s culture, and be just what that group of mariners needs during this crucial time when they would naturally feel homesick. In other words, whatever colors bring you pleasure while working with your needles, we will have mariners who love them too! (See Captain Stephen Harris’ story on page 7.) In 2018, SCI distributed 16,535 knitted gifts created by 754 individuals and 151 groups to international seafarers (blue water) and U.S. inland towboaters (brown water), and the requests for the knits increases exponentially every year.

The only caveat on color that we ever give our knitters and crocheters is that they avoid white, cream and light pastels except as an accent color. A white anchor stitched into a red cap is about as good as it gets, however, large areas of light shades show grease and dirt. In our experience, mariners tend to hold onto their SCI knits for years and years. They favor colorations that will hide the stains.

What makes the CAS knits special and how does the program fit into the bigger picture at SCI? “Someone that I don’t even know made something useful and unique by hand just for me.” We hear some version of this statement over and over from mariners upon receiving their handcrafted knit during the holidays. The artisanal nature of the gift demonstrates a respect for the integrity of working with your hands — something our mariners engage in every day. In addition to the immediate relief from loneliness that the knits provide during a vulnerable time at the holidays, the gifts can also be an effective tool in forging long-


SCI’s Ministry on the River is the only program of its kind serving mariners working on U.S. inland rivers. As the program has expanded exponentially, so have the requests for knits! This year we plan to deliver 6,814 knits, 1,122 more than last year, to U.S. river mariners.

term relationships when delivered by SCI chaplains. Our chaplains and ship welfare visitors are vital members of a team of first responders to tragedy on the water. However, we are also robustly proactive and passionate about preventing that tragedy by actively building a system of support for the mariner. Delivering beautiful handmade gifts can open an important dialogue.

How else can I help? Mariners love to receive personal notes with their knits. If you send cards with your package, we ask that your signature include only your first name and last initial.

Is there a deadline to send in my knits?

We also invite you to join SCI’s Roper Legacy Society, named after SCI’s celebrated House Mother Janet Lord Roper, with a planned gift.

We collect knits year-round. We immediately start gathering for the next year as soon as one season is over, and the demand increases every year. If you are busy and your knit gift misses this Christmas season, please send it anyway! Your gift will give us a great jumpstart for 2020!

Any contribution can have a huge impact! With Mother Nature wreaking havoc on our inland rivers, this year has been particularly stressful on the mariners we serve. Your financial support allows us to respond to mariner needs without hesitation.

Eugenia (Vicki) S. is a 98-year-old CAS knitter from California.


Lisa S. from Nebraska has been sending CAS gifts since 2011.

CAS knits are delivered to seafarers calling on the Port of NY & NJ between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.


Captain Harris, one of the industry’s rising stars, was chosen as a presenter for SCI’s 2019 Maritime Training Benefit Luncheon held in Houston. He delivered a speech along with two other inland captains as part of our yearlong celebration of the mariner. Possessing the demeanor and deep baritone of a heroic sheriff from the Old West, Captain Harris shared the story of Christmas at Sea’s impact on his first Christmas as the leader of a boat. “That

The good part of working on the water when you are on for 28 days and then have 14 days home is that home becomes a vacation. Every homecoming is a party and a honeymoon rolled into one. But I wasn’t thinking about that my first year as Captain. I just wanted to be with my family and I felt so disconnected from them.”

For the sake of his crew, Captain Harris adopted a festive appearance beanie when the CAS packages arrived. He became part of ceremoniously read the Christmas cards Both of his children were young. At in the care package aloud to the group age two, his daughter was anticipating my uniform on while donning a CAS hat and scarf with Christmas for the first time, and excited the boat. I wore a candy cane in his mouth. By the third about opening presents. Captain Harris name in the cards, he was puzzled at had already missed his son’s eighth it every day until the coincidence. By the fifth name he birthday party on December 15, and spring arrived!” realized it wasn’t a coincidence. “My would still be working on the boat son’s second grade class had made during his wife’s birthday on those Christmas cards for mariners, December 29. and put them in the box not knowing their destination. The experience of discovering that the cards were from “Anybody who hasn’t been home during the holidays my son and his class is something that will stay with knows what it is like when you have kids. I went to a really me forever.” dark place. I started wondering if I was just selling my time. Was I carelessly relinquishing time with my family; something that is so sacred and precious to me? Facetime Years later, Captain Harris still remembers his hat from the box. It was a two-toned purple cap. “That beanie became and talking on the phone weren’t doing the job,” says part of my uniform on the boat. I wore it every day until Capt. Harris. “However, as Captain, I am responsible for spring arrived!” the morale on the boat. There was no one on the boat to confide in without jeopardizing morale. o7

Christmas at Sea The Seamen's Church Institute 118 Export Street Port Newark, NJ 07114 973.589.5828 seamenschurch.org




Stephanie de Rouge

Christmas at Sea The Seamen's Church Institute 118 Export Street Port Newark, NJ 07114

o You are important to us! Please feel free to contact me if you or your knitting group has a change of address, a new email address or any questions about knit or financial gifts. If you are in the neighborhood of SCI’s International Seafarers’ Center in Port Newark, I would love to meet you or your group! I am also happy to give a presentation, in person or even via Skype for those of you outside of the greater NYC area. I look forward to hearing from you! — Joanne (I may be reached at cas@seamenschurch.org or 973.589.5828.)

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The Knit Before Christmas Fall 2019  

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