600-year-old ceremony Blessing of the Seas by the Rev Canon Helen Griffiths and Right Rev Debbie Sellin at Mudford
An excited crowd including the mayor of Christchurch watched the Blessing of the Sea ceremony on the waters near Mudeford Quay.
Shadowed by an RNLI lifeboat, the Rev Canon Helen Griffiths and Right Rev Debbie Sellin, acting Archbishop of Winchester, took to a small salmon punt and rowed out into Mudeford Run where they took part in the 600-year-old tradition where prayers are said before a metal cross is cast into the sea.
The Blessing of the Sea dates back to 15th century Italy and is believed to have started when a bishop travelling by boat during a storm on the Feast of the Assumption feared for his life. Following a prayer, he apparently cast his pastoral ring into the ocean and the waters immediately became calm.
Called Rogation Sunday – when crops in fields across the UK are blessed – in Mudeford it is the sea which is the focus of the ceremony, asking for God’s help to keep fishermen safe and provide abundant fish to catch.
Among those watching from the quay was the mayor of Christchurch, Avril Coulton, along with other dignitaries.
There was also a brass band which played several hymns, and two young sea cadets read passages from the Bible.
Cllr Gill Jarvis, who was also present, said: “It was fantastic. Really lovely to see such a tradition continuing. There was quite a crowd on the quay, and we were lucky as the weather held off and it was quite nice.
“It really was fascinating to see what happens during the ceremony with the cross being cast into the sea. “
The ceremony was organised by All Saints Church Mudeford. The Rev Griffiths was at the church for 11 years before she retired in 2017 although she returns for the blessing. It was the first time the Rev Sellin had taken part.