Beginning April 1, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) welcomes a new chaplain dedicated to serving mariners and other workers in the offshore exploration and production industry. The Rev. Winston Rice, a former offshore worker and maritime lawyer, joins two current chaplains for SCI’s Ministry on the River, the nation’s only full-time pastoral care ministry on the Ohio and Lower Mississippi River systems, extending the Institute’s inland ministry efforts into the Gulf of Mexico.
SCI’s new chaplain understands the challenges faced by offshore mariners and workers. With a father and grandfather who between them have worked in the petroleum exploration and production industry over the past 100 years, he says he was“born into the oil patch.” Before becoming a lawyer, Rice worked in the industry, too, including working as a rotary floor hand, or “roughneck,” and barge engineer on mobile offshore drilling units. Later, as a maritime lawyer, Rice specialized in marine and energy law, with special emphasis on insurance and reinsurance of those industries. Over time, Rice’s legal career found him practicing on every continent, except Antarctica.
In the mid 1990s, Rice began exploring his Christian faith more deeply, becoming increasingly involved with his church and serving as a Chancellor (a church lawyer), member of its Vestry, Eucharistic Minister, and Worship Leader. Six years ago, Rice was ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church, saying about the Church, “I realized that I needed to be in service to people.”
As an SCIchaplain providing pastoral support services to mariners and other offshoreworkers in the Gulf of Mexico, Rice will serve the people he came to know well in the offshore maritime industry. Rice says that he understands the uniquechallenges presented to mariners and offshore workers. “I've been there and done that,” he explains.
Rice will begin by introducing himself as an SCI chaplain to offshore industry employers, enabling him later to board offshore vessels and facilities and visit with mariners and offshore workers. Rice believes a connection with industry employees will come from his simply “being present,” a pastoral gift he feels is important.
Oil rig mariners face similar issues to mariners in the river industry and aboard cargo ships, but the offshore industry also carries a distinctive set of challenges. Offshore oil platforms and mobile units have been described as small communities with their own discrete support functions. With 40 years of professional involvement in the maritime industry, including the personal supervision control of well operations, Rice knows these challenges. To mariners, Rice says, “There are people like me who understand your unique challenges.”
Tailoring pastoral care to the offshore industry enables SCI to meet the needs of theoffshore mariners who work in remote and harsh environments. The Rev. David M. Rider, SCI’s President and Executive Director, believes this model ofspecialized approach to care will better meet the needs of Gulf mariners and other offshore workers.
“As I’ve traveled to the Gulf and met mariners, I realized that with a tweak to its pastoral care team, SCI could do a better job of reaching the offshore worker,” says Rider. “Dedicating a chaplain to the Gulf will enable us to share the range of our services with people who want and need them.”