The Rev. James (Jim) R. Wilkinson retires this year in April after over 11 years of service to the nation’s inland waterways community as their first full-time, fully-dedicated chaplain. In 1998, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) called Wilkinson to head up Ministry on the River, a first-of-its-kind endeavor offering pastoral care to river mariners and their families in the United States.
Wilkinson’s congregation of mariners spanned thousands of miles of moving waters from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Greenville, Miss. Wilkinson visited mariners, often traveling with them on their vessels, and established a network of clergy and churches who serve as a resource to mariners traveling through their communities.
In his ministry as a chaplain with SCI, Wilkinson reminisces of both difficult times (like crewmember fatalities) and grand occasions (like christenings of new vessels). Voyaging through significant life experiences with mariners, Wilkinson said that he received many rewards. “I will never forget the many mariners I have met and will always have as friends.”
Prior to coming to SCI, Wilkinson served as a chaplain in the US Army. After retiring from the Army, Wilkinson’s bishop at that time recommended him for the newly created river chaplain position at SCI.
His shoes will be difficult to fill, according to SCI’s Executive Director, but adds that Wilkinson leaves SCI with a great inheritance. “Thanks to Jim, Ministry on the River’s infrastructure and its well-built reputation empowers this original ministry for wonderful things to come.”