One Firm Anchor: The Church and the Merchant Seafarer, an Introductory History

By R.W.H. Miller

A comprehensive study of the history of Christian ministry to seamen and sailors, from the Early Church to the modern era.

ISBN: 9780718892906


One Firm Anchor uncovers nineteen centuries of contact between the churches and the seafarer. This extensive introductory history goes beyond anything previously written on the subject in scope and detail. Until now, much has been written of the sea, but little about the relationship of the seafarer to Christianity.

R.W.H Miller adeptly sets out the origins of seafaring mission in the Early Church and the medieval era. The early modern period is also considered, leading to a detailed exploration of the developments in the nineteenth century that saw the foundation of The Missions to Seamen, the British Sailors’ Society, the Apostleship of the Sea and the Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen. Particular attention is given to the work of the Catholic Church during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These developments are set against the backdrop of the economic, technical, and cultural developments of each period and society.

Miller reveals the role of key figures, such as G.C. Smith, John Ashley, Francis Goldie SJ and Peter Anson, whose determination and vision instigated real change. One Firm Anchor is both a triumph of scholarship and a lively narrative of heroic ministry and (occasionally) erring clergy, and will appeal to historian, academic, and student alike.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 366

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Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Currently a Catholic Priest in the west of England, Robert Miller has been a long-time student of Maritime Social History and member of the Society for Nautical Research and the International Maritime Economic History Association. He has worked for both the Missions to Seaman and the Apostleship of the Sea. He is the author of Priest in Deep Water (2010), also published by the Lutterworth Press.


Abbreviations used in the text

1. The Early Church

The Medieval Scene
2. Where was the Shipping and who was at sea?
3. Devotion to the Saints
4. The Canons and Sea Codes
5. Religious Practice at Sea
6. From the Reformation to the Nineteenth Century

The Nineteenth Century
7. The Nineteenth Century Revival
8. Early Anglican Societies
9. The Church Congresses
10. The Missions to Seamen
11. St Andrew’s Waterside Church Mission
12. The Gibraltar Mission to Seamen
13. American Work
14. The Religious Orders
15. Work among Fishermen

Nineteenth Century Catholic Work
16. Fr Goldie SJ and the CTS
17. The Work for Catholic Bluejackets
18. The Œuvres de Mer

Twentieth Century Catholic Work
19. Catholic Work 1900-14
20. Peter F. Anson
21. Catholic Work after Anson
22. Conclusion



Endorsements and Reviews

This extensive introductory history goes beyond anything previously written on the subject in scope and detail. … One Firm Anchor demonstrates that maritime history is more than the study of seas and ships, and that religious practices of the men on board represented an integral part of life at sea.
Catholic Southwest, November 2012

This very meticulously researched work by Fr Miller should be a welcome addition to the library of historians and theologicians and also to some general ‘maritime’ readers … This book is by no means a light read but should in time become a definitive work on the subject, making Fr. Miller a very worthy successor to the late Fr. Philip Caraman SJ …
Primrose Peacock, in Unity Magazine, No 147

The pick of the new releases.
The Church of England Newspaper, No 6172, April 14, 2013

… provides both invaluable information and a high level of densely detailed documentation … Miller has, with his new book, given a great and lasting service to maritime mission studies.
Roald Kverndal, in The International Quarterly Journal of the Society for Nautical Research, Vol 99.2

… an invaluable contribution to our knowledge of maritime religious history in the medieval era. … [Miller] provides both invaluable information and a high level of densely detailed documentation. … a great and lasting service to maritime mission studies.
Roald Kverndal, in The Mariner’s Mirror, 30 April 2013

One Firm Anchor is more than a mere introduction to maritime mission work and the religious life of sailors. Instead, R.W.H. Miller has utilized a host of primary documents to write a thought-provoking missiology (study of missions) that incorporates not only the Catholic Church’s efforts to administer to the spiritual needs of seafarers but also similar efforts by other evangelical and charitable organizations, both denominational and nondenominational.
Lori Bogle, in The Catholic Historical Review, Vol 100, No 1

… a fantastic introduction to the history of chaplaincy at sea and what preceded it.
Theological Book Review, Vol 25, No 2

The present volume … provides what should become a standard work for those interested in religion and the merchant seafarer. … Miller aptly shows the ability of those promoting religious outreach to merchant seafarers to adapt to the ever-present but ever-changing maritime community and maritime industry. He has provided readers with a rich and timely overview and history of Christian outreach to ‘those who go down to the sea in ships’ (Psalm 107:23). It is a book well worth reading.
Timothy J. Demy, Professor of Military Ethics, US Naval War College, in The Northern Mariner/Le marin du nord, No 4, October 2013