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Steamship Divine Services - Sunday Mornings - 1910

Sunday is observed on many liners, especially the English vessels, where the Church of England service is used. A collection is taken up for seamen's charities. A shilling or more may be given. The plate is often passed on the deck also, so that all may contribute.

Religious Services at Sea

By the Rev. A. H. Bradford, D.D.

On almost all, if not quite all, ocean steamers Sunday has a distinct observance. On all English steamers’ services are held according to a prescribed form, and the games always in progress at other times in the smoking-room” cease.

The only formal recognition of the day that I recall on German steamers is the playing of some beautiful hymn in the saloon at seven o'clock in the morning. It is surely an incredibly beautiful way of beginning the day.

But, so far as I was able to see, that was the only recognition which the day had. Everything else went on as usual. But on the English steamers in the morning at half-past ten there is always divine service.

Whether there is a sermon or not, and how the service is given usually depends on the Captain, who usually conducts it Now and then that the Purser takes duty instead.

If the one who leads is evidently reverent and earnest, few services surpass in interest those at sea. But when they are conducted by men whose characters are known to be bad, nothing can be more repellent.

No one can have heard Captain Parsed, of the Majestic, read the lessons and prayers without a consciousness that there was in progress real and not merely formal worship.

The same is true of Captain Murray, of the Alaska, and Captain Smith, of the Britannic. Now and then ministers traveling are invited to take part. I remember one service on the Majestic at which Captain Parsed presided, and in which the lessons were read by the Rev. Dr. Arthur Brooks, of New York, the prayers by a rector from Philadelphia, and the sermon preached by Dr. Alexander McKenzie, of Cambridge.

On the Cunard Line I have never known any large part to be taken by ministers but am assured that they often do. On a recent voyage. Bishop Leonard, of Ohio, and several other Episcopalians, besides ministers of other denominations, were present but the Captain kept all the service in his own hands, when it would have been rendered vastly better by some of the many ministers on board.

But probably the most significant and enjoyable meetings are usually the impromptu song-services in the evenings, when almost all on board in some way show their interest and their religious training.

We hear much about the gambling and drinking on ocean steamers, and there is reason for the condemnation. But there is another side to life at sea.

The church services are always, on the English steamers, well attended, and even expected with pleasure, and both the way in which they arc- conducted and the way in which they are taken part in shows that they are more than formal.

Some of the best sermons the writer has ever heard have been at sea, from such men as Dr. J. W. Brown, of St. Thomas’s, New York: Dr. McVicar. of Philadelphia; Dr. N. G. Clark, of Boston, and Dr. McKenzie, of Cambridge.

The English-speaking people are deeply religious: and wherever English-speaking people go they carry with them their reverence for God and for his holy day.

The only part of the observance of Sunday on English steamers that I am disposed to criticize is the apparent neglect to provide any service for cither second class passengers or for the steerage.

They often hunger for it quite as much as the first-class passengers, but I believe that they seldom have provision made for them, except by volunteers from among ministers who happen to be on board.

The Outlook: A Family Paper, New York: The Outlook Co., Vol. 50, No. 7, 18 August 1894: 274

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1910 Travel Guide by Scientifc American

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