The Mission to Seafarers has been in Sydney since the early nineteenth century. The Reverend Ian Porter talks in this interview about his personal background and beliefs, the Mission’s long history in central Sydney and the pastoral care it has offered to seafarers around the globe. In the excerpt below Ian outlines the Mission’s beginnings in England and its arrival in Sydney.
It [the Mission to Seafarers] began in the Bristol Channel when a minister, name of John Ashley, was on holiday with his family and he was a keen sailor, and at that stage I think there were a lot of ships, the old hulks almost, in the Bristol Channel and the son said to him “Dad, who cares for the men on the ships?” and he had never considered that. It was at the time, I think, of a lot of revival in England with Wesley, George Whitfield and people, and the Church was really rediscovering its social obligations and there were revivals breaking out everywhere all through England and Wales and Scotland, all over the place, and this was a neglected area. All the ports often developed similar ministries around the Empire. So today there’s over three hundred Mission to Seafarers’ places around the world and there’s twenty or so of them around Australia. When it came out to Australia in about 1820 it wasn’t the Church of England that was involved at all. They were called Non-Conformist churches, like the Congregationals and Methodists, etcetera; they often had a much more evangelistic and social concern. So they started up and it was down at the bottom of Erskine Street [near the wharves in central Sydney].