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Mission to Seafarers, United Kingdom

f.k.a. Missions to Seamen

Last modified: 2013-11-16 by rob raeside
Keywords: mission to seafarers | seamen | seafarers | mission |
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[Mission to Seafarers] by André Coutanche, modified by Ivan Sache

Status of the flag

The organisation now called 'Mission to Seafarers' was formerly known as the 'Missions to Seamen'.  The 'flying angel' symbol is inherited from the Missions to Seamen flag.  The Missions to Seamen changed its name to "The Mission to Seafarers" at a service of blessing and rededication in Westminster Abbey on 4th April 2001 in the presence of The Princess Royal, president of the society.

In July 2000 the society's members voted to change the name after representations from chaplains and liaison bishops around the world, said Canon Glyn Jones, the secretary general. The new name reflects the fact that there is only one mission - God's mission - and that the society serves seafarers of all nationalities and faiths, both men and women.

At the same time, the society's flying angel symbol has been modernised, the fifth change to the angel in the society's history. Canon Jones said the angel will still be instantly recognised by seafarers as representing a welcome, friendship, help and people they could trust.
André Coutanche, 21 October 2001

The new flag of the Mission to Seafarers [seen at the cathedral in Sydney, Australia] is similar to the old flag: ultramarine blue, with a stylized flying angel in white facing the fly at the centre, and with the words 'The Mission' and 'To Seafarers' in capital letters in white forming two arcs, one above the angel and one below.
Miles Li, 21 October 2001



Missions to Seamen

[Missions to Seamen] by André Coutanche

I have based the flag on the illustration in The Book of Flags by Campbell & Evans (1950).
André Coutanche, 10 June 2001


Bethel Flag

The current issue of "Mariners' Mirror" (February 2007) contains an article about religious organizations that ministered to British sailors in Mediterranean ports in the 19th and 20th centuries. It includes a brief discussion of the "Bethel flag" that fills in a few details in addition to what we have on the Dictionary of Vexillology:

"Although various ad hoc flag signals to publicize services on ships were in use, it was the designing and adoption of the Bethel flag at this time [ca. 1816?] which gave the movement, and subsequent societies, a visible symbol and title. . . Soon the presentation of the flag to a Christian master or to a Bethel Society, and its hoisting in a new port of call, became the way in which the movement was identified."

The article contains an illustration of the flag, and also the following description:

"The word 'Bethel' (House of God) in white was blazoned across a blue ground, with a star above and a dove with olive branch below."

The illustration shows the flag with proportions of about 1:2, with the word "BETHEL" vertically centered in all-capital serif, about 1/3 the height of the flag. The star is in the upper hoist corner, above the "B",and while the dove with the branch is in the lower hoist corner, under the "BE." The "star" actually looks more like a sun; it is a torus with a dot in the center, and a large number of thin, straight rays radiating from it. The dove is in flight, fairly stylized and facing toward the fly.

The article also mentions and illustrates the flag of the Missions to Seaman, which was adopted in 1857 and is referred to as the "Flying Angel" flag. It is more-or- less square, with a fairly detailed image of an flying angel holding an open book facing toward the fly, with the words "The Missions" above and "To Seamen" below. The angel is in dark outline on a light background; the lettering is all-capital sans-serif dark outline. The illustration is black-and-white and the article does not mention the colors.
Peter Ansoff, 26 February 2007