Bishop Philip Blesses New Ocean Liner in Southampton

Bishop Philip Blesses New Ocean Liner in Southampton

Bishop Philip was delighted to be asked to lead a blessing ceremony on board the new Cunard cruise ship Queen Anne, asking for God’s protection on all who work and sail on her, following a long-standing tradition for a new ship to be blessed and for prayers to be offered for the safety of crew and passengers. 

It’s a great privilege to perform the blessing here today.  I feel, in doing this, that I am standing in a long line of tradition of the blessing of ships and it’s an honour to be asked to do it.  I think it’s a recognition that seafaring, however big and beautiful a ship, still involves an element of risk and we need to seek God’s blessing and entrust ourselves to his care.  I am also conscious of how significant shipping is in this great maritime city of Southampton.  A huge amount of business is done through the container port and through the cruise industry.  It’s massively important to the city’s economy and to the city’s sense of identity and wellbeing, so I’m delighted to be part of that today.

Bishop Philip

The ceremony took place onboard, in the ship’s Commodore Club in front of a number of invited guests including the Lord Mayor of Southampton, local MPs, city council leaders, representatives from Associated British Ports and Cunard.

Lord Mayor Councillor Valerie Laurent said:  “The blessing of the ship is something very special because it makes everyone feel protected and appreciated and the ship will go forth blessed.  You can see that it means a lot to the staff from the atmosphere and the celebration here today.  I think it brings joy to people’s hearts.  It certainly does to mine.”

The Bishop of Winchester was given a tour of the ship before the blessing ceremony, including a visit to the bridge.  The Queen Anne made a grand entrance into Southampton last week with a water salute and crowds lining the waterfront to welcome her in.  Southampton is the home port for the Cunard fleet.  The Queen Anne is now the fourth ship in the fleet and can carry 3,000 passengers and more than 1,000 crew. 

Church services will take place each Sunday on board Queen Anne, led by the Captain in the large theatre.  There is also a special room available for private prayer and events such as weddings or the renewal of marriage vows.

The blessing of the ship took place just hours before she set off on her maiden voyage to Lisbon.  She will be formally named in Liverpool on 3 June.

Captain Inger Thorhauge, Cunard’s first female captain, said: “Everyone is excited to be off on our maiden voyage tonight, to take the ship out and to showcase her to our guests and to people around the world.  In true maritime tradition, the ship has to be blessed before going to sea in order to have the best of luck for us and so it means everything today to have the Bishop on board carrying out that blessing.”

The blessing ceremony was followed by the exchange of plaques between the ship, the Lord Mayor and the port authority ABP.

Alastair Welch, Regional Director of ABP added “The plaque ceremony started over 1000 years ago in Southampton and is now followed all over the world.  The port originally offered the keys to the city but now it’s a token of friendship, demonstrating  a commitment to look after the crew and the ship as best as possible while they are in port and to keep them safe.  The blessing ceremony too is part of history and many members of the crew have strong beliefs and so it’s great that the Bishop has taken the time to come and bless this ship and give it the very best start it can have for the future”.  

This is the first ship Bishop Philip has blessed: “I’ve been asked to bless many inanimate objects in my time, from a defibrillator to a refurbished railway turntable with the Flying Scotsman on it and the Cornwall air ambulance and it is an honour to be asked to do it.  Of course, when you ask a blessing on an inanimate object, you are really asking a blessing on the people who it represents and who stand behind it.  A ship, like this, at sea is a significant community of people and I want to pray a blessing on them as a community as well as on the fabric of the ship itself.”