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Friday June 1 2018

Looking Back: Worship on the Ark Royal

Written in 1958 by Royal Navy chaplain the Rev E Rowton-Lee

THREE hundred or more of the ship’s company of H.M.S. Ark Royal belong to the Church of Scotland and Free Churches.

In addition to daily prayers, usually said on the flight deck, in which we all join together at the beginning of the day, a very active Church life flourishes.

On Sunday, of course, there is Morning Service which is usually held in the ship’s chapel. It is usual for the chapel to be full on this occasion; and how good it is to hear the Lord’s song upraised: “The Lord’s my Shepherd”, “We cannot with our loved ones be, but trust them, Father, until Thee”; and of course “Eternal Father, strong to save.”

A weekly Communion follows each Sunday morning service to enable both watches to partake, for on no two occasions are the congregations identical.

When the chapel is not available for us a lecture space is used. This, however, when fully rigged is equally suitable for worship.

At sea the evening service is greatly cherished and is ever a time of much blessing.

Also, whilst at sea, daily prayers at 7 p.m. and fellowships on Wednesday and Saturday are regular features of our Christian day. These times are not “conducted” so much as “shared.” They are also the preparation period for times ashore when the lead is taken by the Church which is in Ark Royal.

The ship is equipped with a television studio, and each mess has its own receiving set – there are well over sixty such sets in use. A well established weekly feature when at sea is “Put it to the Priests.” Questions are sent in by all parts of ship and then put by a very apt Question Master to a panel made up of the two chaplains – three, when the Roman Catholic chaplain is on board – and one layman. This latter is nominated alternately by each chaplain. This programme has proved of immense value to the ship’s company.

When in port it is a delight to go ashore and join in the services and Church activities. All of us testify with gratitude and appreciation to the welcome that is universally extended.

We received at Lisbon the greatest kindness from Dr. Alan Davidson. He and his wife enabled us to see much of Lisbon and Portugal. This was the first of very many happy “tie-ups” with “shore side” churches. In Gibraltar we had the pleasure of a Sunday; and seventy strong we worshipped at St. Andrew’s. We were much helped by the ministry of the Rev. Peter McEwen.

One last visit was to Genoa and here, through the ministry of the Rev. Alexander McVicar, and the adequate provision of the Sailors’ Rest, our time was most enriching. Three coach tours had been arranged for the Church of Scotland and Free Churches congregation. The first along the Italian Riviera to the French border, the second to the Waldensian village Agape in the Alps and the third along the Italian coast to Pisa. The outstanding and indeed unforgettable memory is our visit to Agape.

The Director, Pastor Tullio Vinay,and the local Waldensian Minister, Pastor Aldo Comba, were there to welcome us. We left our luxury coach in the village below to trudge the last glorious half mile to Agape. Whilst we partook in the diningroom-cum-chapel of a hot sumptuous Italian luncheon, Pastor Tullio Vinay told us the miracle story of Agape – a story that none of the forty of us will ever forget.

Now we are looking forward to Naples and Rome.

And last, but certainly not least, when in Scottish waters we had the rare opportunity of going ashore and journeying to Dumbarton, in company with the Rev. A. Orrock, an ex-Naval Chaplain, now minister of Cardross, to hear the Moderator, the Right Reverend George F. MacLeod, M.C., D.D. It was much appreciated when we were afterwards taken to meet Dr. MacLeod.

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