A pastoral roll of 2,500 is no simple job for a minister, especially when most of them have no connection to any local church.

For Diane Smith there’s the added challenge that the hundreds of people in her care work at one of Europe’s biggest and busiest container ports, Felixstowe, where more than 3,000 ships a year dock.

Felixstowe handles more than 3,700,000 large metal boxes each year and provides some of the deepest water close to the open sea of any European port. Around 30 shipping lines operate from there.

Diane has been in post for just under six months, stationed in the Felixstowe Mission Area of the Ipswich Circuit, and working as chaplain to the Port of Felixstowe – a requirement of the post for the past 25 years.

“I attend the port for the equivalent of one day per week,” Diane said, “and I am a listening ear for all shore-side staff. In this context I regularly meet with individuals of different faiths and none.

“I think people may be getting used to seeing me around and I am delighted that the union office now regularly invites me to their meetings.”

The port has a thriving Mission to Seafarers Chaplaincy ministering to crews coming into port from across the globe. Diane and the mission are in regular contact, but the two chaplaincies have their distinctive characteristics.

“My work is primarily with the shore-side employees,” said Diane.

“Many of the workers work long shifts and some are very isolated. Working at what is currently the biggest port in the UK can be stressful to both the workers and their families.

“It is a privilege to be chaplain to the port and be alongside employees during significant periods in their lives.” As well as responding to any emergency situations at the port, “part of the work also involves attending and conducting baptisms, marriages, funerals and memorial services as required.”

One of the more specific areas of work that Diane has been especially involved in over the past few months is the development of ongoing bereavement care. “This is often with individuals and on a

one to one basis, but it can also involve groups of people, as was the case recently when one department saw the sudden death of a member of staff they had all worked with for well over 20 years.”

All of life, it seems, sails to Felixstowe; and all of life, for sure, is Diane’s concern.

This article originally appeared in the connexion magazine, issue 2.