Last Friday I attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the renovated New Bedford Seamen’s Bethel now joined to the Mariners’ Home. According to the plaque outside the Home, “Whaling men spent much of their lives at sea. The ship was their home. Back in port, most of the poor, unskilled sailors knew no one in New Bedford and were essentially homeless until the next voyage.
The Bethel was to save mariners’ souls. “After months at sea, many whaling men were unable to resist the temptations of this port city. In 1832 the New Bedford Port Society for the Moral Improvement of Seamen opened the mariners’ chapel ‘to protect the rights and interests of Seamen, and to furnish them with…moral, intellectual and religious instruction.’
Adorning the walls of the Bethel are many plaques to remember all those lost at sea, whether during whaling or fishing. As noted on one plaque, “O God thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”
Inside the Bethel we find many pews and benches as well as the ship’s pulpit from which many sermons were delivered. I suppose Father Healey wouldn’t be inclined to place a prow on our ambo. We wouldn’t be harpooning – only casting our nets. In that way the renovated lectern would match the window at the rear of OUR chapel – my favorite window.
Deacon David Pierce