LONG BEACH (AP) — After more than 30 years, the final prayers have been said at a chapel where sailors from around the world worshipped when they docked at the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex.
Last Sunday, the Rev. Paul Hwang delivered his last sermon at the chapel of the International Seafarers Center.
“After so many years, I cried,” Hwang told the Long Beach Press-Telegram newspaper after the service. “There’s a lot of memories.”
The chapel — actually a small trailer — will be torn down to make room for a $1.5 billion bridge.
That span will replace the current Gerald Desmond Bridge linking downtown Long Beach and Terminal Island.
The center, located near a container terminal under the current bridge, serves the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together form the nation’s busiest port complex.
Once it served as a waystation where sailors who spent months away from home could find comfort and a meal. But over the years its importance has faded and the center has struggled financially. The center and its chapel briefly shut down in 2000 until two long-time workers helped to revive it, the Press-Telegram reported.
The tiny chapel has a bookshelf containing prayer books and dusty CDs in more than a dozen languages, including Polish, Indonesian and Burmese.
But only a few people showed up for the final service, including the organist and Hwang’s wife.
Hwang said he will continue to hold Sunday services at the center’s club nearby and to visit crews aboard the giant cargo ships that come to the port.
However, it won’t be the same, said Paul Chun, who attended the final service.
“There is no other church for the seamen if they want to pray or read the Bible,” Chun said, adding: “It’s sad.”
Information from: Press-Telegram, http://www.presstelegram.com