THE Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has appointed its first full-time chaplain, as it celebrates the 200th anniversary of its founding.
The chaplain, the Revd Thomas Ebbens, who is 30, has worked for the MCA since starting as a volunteer in 2010, since rising to become a full-time senior coastal-operations officer in the Isles of Scillly.
He began ordination training in 2017, and then took on a part-time post as a multi-faith chaplain alongside his duties working with coastguard volunteers. Since his ordination last year, he has also worked as a self-supporting minister in Cornwall.
Mr Ebbens told local media this week: “I thought it was strange that all the other emergency services have chaplains, but the coastguard does not. So, in 2019, I started working as a chaplain on a voluntary basis. It was an odd period of time, as at the beginning of 2020 we started a whole new way of life with lockdown.
“It was a strange time, but one in which people have valued having someone who is independent, confidential, off the record, and who understands their language; their search and rescue experience. Someone they can talk to.
“As someone who has been a coastguard for 12 years, I have experienced similar things to them. It is hard when you hear a mother screaming on a 999 call, or if you are dealing with deceased people. There is a bit of a sting that goes through the body when you hear the word ‘mayday’ on the radio.
“Also, we have got 3500 volunteers who give a lot of their time, and, if you are giving, then you are taking from somewhere else; so there can be a bit of a struggle.”
He plans to visit coastguard stations all round the British coast, but one of his first priorities is to meet the crews in Dover who have been tackling the refugee crisis. “It’s a really important task,” he said. “It will be good to go into their experiences and speak to them.”
He names his favourite hymn as “I, the Lord of sea and sky” for its chorus lines: “I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me.”
“A lot of our guys do that when they hear the pager go off in the middle of the night,” he said.