The Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI), an agency serving both blue-water and brown-water mariners in the United States, has expanded its team of full-time chaplains with the hire of the Rev. Christine Brunson, who will serve as part of SCI’s Ministry on the River in the Houston area.
A native Texan, Brunson comes to SCI from St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Cypress, Texas. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Baylor University and a Master of Divinity from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.
“We are truly excited to have Christine joining our team of chaplains focused on serving inland and intracoastal mariners,” SCI President and Executive Director Mark Nestlehutt said. “In addition to her exceptional credentials, I am particularly impressed by her past work with veterans and first responders around issues of trauma and resilience, and her recent relief work at the Ukraine-Poland border, resettling families following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
After joining SCI in January, Brunson spent time visiting boats and maritime companies along the Texas Gulf Coast with the Rev. Tom Rhoades, SCI’s senior chaplain, and Chaplain Associate Dallas Hughes. She was also officially installed as an SCI chaplain in a ceremony held at the chapel of the Houston International Seafarers Center. Longtime river chaplain Capt. Joy Manthey is also spending time training Brunson and introducing her to various maritime companies, according to SCI.
“It has been a pleasure getting to know Christine, and we’re excited to have her join our SCI chaplain team,” Rhoades said. “She possesses competence and self-assurance and has been a comfort to the mariners she’s met with already.”
Brunson’s February agenda includes attending the benefit gala of the Women Offshore Foundation; working with the Rev. David Shirk, SCI’s Paducah, Ky.-based river chaplain, to receive ASIST suicide prevention training; and attending the American Waterways Operators’ regional safety training along with Phil Schifflin, director of SCI’s Center for Mariner Advocacy.
Brunson said her time so far with SCI has been action-packed and nonstop, reflective of the industry she now serves.
“My first couple of weeks with SCI have been much like work on the river—ever-changing, fun and full of excitement at what lies around the bend,” Brunson said. “I have enjoyed getting to know the mariners who are traveling the Houston Ship Channel and Gulf Coast region. As they teach me their language and customs, I can see how genuine they are. I am learning that their work is the lifeblood to this country, and I am honored to serve as their chaplain. I have also enjoyed getting to know SCI’s senior staff in New York and the staff at the [Center for Maritime Education] here in Houston. SCI is a historic organization, and I am grateful to step into its ranks in the Ministry on the River program.”