The Rev. Michael Hammett, the newest addition to the staff of the Ministry on the River team of the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI), said that he wants to make a big poster that reads, “Your chaplain is here for you.” After completing a two-week chaplaincy training program in Houston, TX, the Louisiana native began work last month, overseeing a ministry to workers on America’s inland waterways in the lower Mississippi River region. The enthusiasm Hammett brings to his new assignment teems with ideas and wide-reaching strategies, including, as he put it, “taking ministry outside the walls of church.”
Hammett has worked inside and outside the walls of churches as an ordained United Methodist Church minister for 25 years. He spent seven of those years as a chaplain in the United States Air Force Reserve, and he has worked as a civilian chaplain in hospitals and in law enforcement. Hammett said, “A ‘ministry of presence’ has always been something that has intrigued me.”
When asked why he was drawn to this type of work, Hammett described how his father worked in the petroleum industry. Hammett said he feels comfortable and at home in the environment of a community of workers. “There are similarities between the towboating community and the oil field community,” he said. “Both work hard and compete for jobs, but they take care of one another as a family.”
Hammett is eager to become an integral part of the towboating family. He is committed to being a good listener, he said. “I want people I encounter to know that I care, and that they can talk to me about whatever they like. I am here for them whenever they need or want me to be there for them.”
Hammett brings a vision of the future of his ministry and SCI’s ministry to river mariners. He wants to make sure that SCI’s resource of a chaplain, friend, and advocate is further extended to shore-side workers and dispatchers. There are many people working in this industry, and Hammett believes that expanding the network of supporting churches and volunteers will ensure that SCI can be there for all of them. He also looks to the Internet as a way to expand SCI’s presence and connect with more people scattered around the region.
In his spare time, Hammett participates in geocaching, an outdoor treasure-hunting game in which the participants use GPS receivers. He is also a General Class Ham Amateur Radio operator. Hammett has two adult children. Jonathan, 28, follows in his father’s footsteps as a seminary student in California, and Sarah, 26, connects with her father’s new responsibilities as the wife of a merchant marine officer. His immediate family is annexed by a 13-year-old mix-breed canine companion named Teddy.
Hammett joins a team of two other Ministry on the River chaplains, operating from various home bases along the inland rivers from Pittsburgh to Houston.
To contact Chaplain Hammett, you may email him at [email protected]