When I moved to New England, I soon became a fan of Maritime music and sea chanties. New England has always been a seafaring area drawing from our British, Spanish and Portuguese roots. The shipping industry is always fraught with impending peril but in the early days, if you had trouble on the seas, you were pretty much doomed. There was no Coast Guard to look for you. No airplane searches. Many a widows and orphans have been made from storms on the open seas. If you are ever in Nantucket, Provincetown or any number of towns up and down the Maine shore, you will see evidence of a shipping past and sometimes artwork of shipwrecks.
In 1820, a sperm whale attacked the Nantucket whaler, Essex. The ship was sunk and 20 men were stranded to their whaling boats. They were far from land and the end of the story was 95 days later. Of the 20 only 8 survived. Imagine the stories they had to tell.
Years later in 1864, Gail Huntington, who was then the captain of another whaling ship, Three Brothers, wrote a poem to commemorate those lost on The Essex. The poem was found in his journal. It was set to music years later. (Look it up on YouTube, “Row On, Row On”)
The words of the repeating chorus tell of the courage of those men.
“Row on, Row on, another day may shine with brighter light.
Ply, Ply the oars and pull away, There’s dawn beyond the night.”
I can’t imagine 95 days and nights lost on the open sea. Imagine the work of the captain to keep the men focussed on the mission to survive.
Recently, during an after church coffee hour, we were discussing the pandemic and how people were faring in it. I remember saying that if I had known in March when we shut down that we would still be shut down in August, I would not have been able to face it. But strangely enough, now it seems that I can face the possibility of further shutdowns into the new year. I don’t like it. But I can do it.
So, my message is that I’m doing better than I would have expected. As the old gospel song says,
“We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord.
Trusting in God’s Holy word, God never failed us yet.
Oh, we can’t turn back. We’ve come this far by faith!”
Church! You are amazing! You are showing the world how to do church in a pandemic. It’s awesome to see you greeting each other in a virtual sanctuary and I love seeing each others faces in a zoom room. I encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. Stay connected! Send a card! Make a call! Go for a protected walk with a friend! Keep trusting God. Keep rowing! There’s dawn beyond the night. There will be another sunrise.