RNLI chaplain took the plunge by becoming a full crew member 

First published on: 19th April 2024

A vicar took his chaplaincy duties with the RNLI a step further when he was invited to become part of his local crew.  

Now, more than five years after he first joined the RNLI as chaplain, he has put on a lifejacket. Anthony O’Grady, vicar of Woodhorn with Newbiggin, enjoys his voluntary role, which he insists feels so natural. 

“Both of these roles – as chaplain and crew member – play a significant part in my ministry and in my personal life,” said Anthony, who is based at the RNLI Newbiggin Lifeboat Station.  

Having served his curacy at Christ Church with St Ann in Newcastle, Anthony arrived in Newbiggin five years ago and was happy to take on the role of RNLI chaplain. 

After the annual lifeboat blessing service in 2022, Anthony was called upon to take an unexpected leap of faith.  

“They asked me to join the crew,” he said. “Before moving to Newbiggin something like this had not crossed my radar as I had never previously lived near a lifeboat station. I realised that I wanted to do it and it felt so natural to respond to the encouragement I had been given about signing up.” 

Anthony was initially a member of the shore crew – carrying out key tasks on dry land as part of rescues and other missions, while his colleagues were called out in the lifeboat. Shore duties include ensuring the safety of the public, the crew and equipment, while also operating radio communications.  

Having committed himself to weekly training sessions, Anthony is now a member of the lifeboat crew and like his colleagues, is part of a call-out rota, which means the station can be ready for call-outs around the clock.  

“As individual members of a crew, we are on call when we are personally available,” he explained. “Major incidents can emerge from people using the sea for leisure, such as swimmers or paddle boarders getting into difficulty, to fishermen and vessels in distress”. 

Anthony remains a valued chaplain of the lifeboat station and has presided over a crew-related marriage, as well as baptisms and funerals – and of course he gets to bless the lifeboat and fellow crew members every year.  

“Being involved gives you a sense of belonging,” he said. “I previously had no seamanship experience and this has been brand new, but it has been a remarkable experience.” 


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