Saturday, November 25, 2017

Bad news for 'those in peril on the sea'!

A similar boat from UK
Wow - there has been a mighty bust-up in Jersey between the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) and the crew of the volunteer lifeboat in St Helier. As a result, the whole team there resigned, hoping to set up an independent rescue service. In a spectacular reaction to that, the RNLI removed their £3 million lifeboat, despite it having been paid for by appeals in Jersey! Already 2 lives could have been lost when a private boat being delivered to Guernsey hit a buoy and sank in minutes. Thankfully, the Jersey fire brigade was able to launch an inshore rescue rib and pluck them out of their dinghy, but it will only be a matter of time before the winter weather threatens the lives of others at sea.

I cannot take sides in that dispute as I have no idea of the causes and complaints of either party. Adequate cover is being given from the RNLI in Guernsey and similar in nearby France. What I do know is that this kind of split is not unusual in churches. Volunteers feel unappreciated and under-consulted about plans or change, and division and disunity can result. There can be personality clashes, inter family rivalry or misunderstanding, wherever busy people are giving their time free of charge in addition to work and the needs of children. Leaders sometimes take volunteers for granted (again – no inference here that this is what happened in Jersey) and can become weary of what they perceive as a lack of commitment among their volunteers.

William Booth had a dream. The founder of the Salvation Army saw in his mind a picture of the raging sea in a mighty storm.  People had been cast into that maelstrom and were starting to sink and drown. Then a group of what he called ‘Christian soldiers’ were leaning out from a large rock grasping the hands of those whom they could save. Lifeboats are not entertainment. They save lives and without them scores of people would have been lost around these islands’ waters and elsewhere. Eternal life without God is far worse than the immediate threat to those in peril on the sea.

Jersey cannot be without an all-weather lifeboat for long. Already both sides are preparing to replace the lost rescue vessel. If we as Christians don’t get our act together and start working as one, souls will perish without hope as a result. Please – RNLI and the Jersey crew – please at least recommence talks, as the potential cost of this dispute is too high. And 'Christian soldier' – let us do our volunteering and our leading in a culture of mutual honour, where respect and gratitude, with encouragement, prevent the kind of disputes and divisions that can cause the loss of precious souls. Because you - and they - are worth it!