‘The sense of holiness of the sea and the shore is inescapable’ – Church column

The Rev Jenny Gaffin in her new stole, which depicts the sea
The Rev Jenny Gaffin in her new stole, which depicts the sea

By the Rev Jenny Gaffin, vicar of Hayling Island

Since moving to live on the south coast nearly a decade ago, I’ve come to realise just how deeply my life and faith, and that of others, is shaped and changed by the sea.

Whether sitting on the beach on a dark night straining to catch glimpses of light on the waves, or watching the sun rise over the water, or laughing as the windsurfers and kitesurfers perform their acrobatics, the sea can take us through the whole range of human emotions.

It can also lead us deeply into faith – I’ve heard it said that there are no atheists out at sea in a storm, and I find my faith in a creator God renewed when I see the sheer beauty of the natural environment.

That sense of God’s presence is reflected in the fact that so many of the most famous Bible stories take place on the sea or the seashore: Jesus calling fishermen out of their boats to become his disciples, walking on water, calming the storm, meeting his disciples on the shore after his resurrection.

The sense of holiness of the sea and the shore is inescapable. On Hayling most of us have some kind of connection with the sea, whether it’s through leisure pursuits and sailing clubs, or the Royal Navy, or boat building, or the Coastguard and RNLI.

The water connects us and I am very proud to be an island vicar. That’s why I invited artist Yvonne Bell to make for me a priest’s stole that depicts Hayling and the sea around it.

As priests, we wear a stole – a kind of scarf – at important services including baptisms, weddings and funerals as well as for Holy Communion services. We wear it to bless and give thanks for people’s lives, in times of sadness and grief, times of change, times of joy.

On Hayling, with our deep connection to the water, we offer our particular prayers and blessings upon all who venture out onto the sea.

We gladly delight in times of fair weather, and we offer our most particular love, prayers and what practical help we can to those caught up in the rough times.

If that’s you – we are here!

Go to haylinganglicans.com