Notes from the Morecambe Event:

Morecambe Bay Event (Heysham)

7:30-7:40 Arrival video & music in background

7:40-7:45 Welcome & Short video – Andrew Osborn

7:50-8:10 Guest input (5 minutes each)

Steve Hemingway – local police with person experience of modern slavery

Paul Elm – with experience of victim support

Lisa Scullion – academic researching government policy and vulnerability

Howard Worsley – theological reflection

8:10-8:25 questions & input from the floor

8:25-8:35 Caroline Virgo – how to spot & what to do

8:35-8:40 Wrap up & thank you – Howard & Andrew

8:40-9 Refreshments

1) St Patrick

We have linked St Patrick to this as not only did he land at Morecambe but he is a Celtic saint whose early life saw him as a slave in Ireland.  One of the earliest sea stories is of St Patrick 390-493 AD being captured by Irish pirates when he was aged sixteen. Taken from his family home in Great Britain he was forced to serve as a cow-hand in Ireland for six years. Fortunately he escaped and returned home to Britain where he discovered faith in God.  He then returned once more went to Ireland, this time as a missionary priest. Patrick proved to be an influential evangelist and his message was to impact on St Brendan (489-577 AD) and also his contemporary St Colomba (521-597 AD).

2) Morecambe Bay and St Patrick

This event links Morecambe Bay to St Patrick who was once a slave. It was here that the memorable cockle pickers disaster happened in 2004 when at least 21 Chinese illegal immigrant labourers were drowned by an incoming tide in Morecambe Bay. We who have been sailing te past few weeks become very aware of estuary tides where areas of sand become huge bogs as the tide comes in, trapping anyone caught out upon them. These Chinese labourers were working in ignorance of the tides whilst being paid a pittance. They can be considered to be modern day slaves in the sense that Patrick was…..there against their will and being exploited with nowhere to go.

3) Celtic attitudes to slavery

Celtic society appears to have had five basic social classes and it was possible to rise from the lowest to the highest or vice versa. (Ellis 1995 Celtic Inheritance p 18-19).

1)     Non freemen or bondsmen (not slaves)…ie lawbreakers needing redemption. Patrick the Briton was of this class….a prisoner of war who could be returned after tribute is paid

2)     Tribesman (hires self out as itinerant). Crucial for army.

3)     Civil Service (deemed by Romans erroneously as Celtic nobility)

4)     Professional class (druids, bards, lawyers, doctors)

5)     Chieftains (elected)


4) The Bible on slavery

 The Bible offers a mixed record on the subject of slavery though ultimately its message of freedom is foundational.

A few comments on how the Bible addresses slavery…

1)     In the OT, the notion of emancipation for God’s people clear in the Exodus from Egypt…..’Let my people go’. Yet the Israelites did have bondsmen themselves (see the Decalogue)

2)     In the NT, Jesus was born into an oppressed culture of Roman occupation spoke much about freedom. ‘If the son shall set you free, you will be free indeed’. However he did not address the institutional structures directly over slavery.

3)     The Pauline epistles also seem to accept the prevailing culture of slavery. Paul tells Christian slaves (in the new egalitarian culture of the early church) to submit to their masters. He even tells Onesimus, an escaped slave who turns to Christ (and presumably to the protection of the early Church), to return to his master Philemon.

4)     However, the trajectory of Scripture is clearly towards freedom in Christ and towards a society where all are valued. The Kingdom of Heaven is that place where God is parent and where we are all his children, known as equal brothers and sisters. Although the Church has had a chequered history in understanding this, recent thinking across the denominations has not questioned that slavery is ever correct. William Wilberforce has been widely vaunted in the UK as being a figurehead who campaigned successfully to abolish the slave trade.

5)     The Archbishop of Canterbury has established the Clewer Initiative to raise awareness on issues to do with modern day slavery. Unfortunately Caroline Virgo from Clewer cannot be here as she has rightly committed to be with her daughter giving birth today. It was Clewer who sponsored this event including sponsoring the charts for our ship Rival Star that brings us here.