KALEO Notes: Christians on the Titanic, Pt. 1

Scripture: Psalm 130:1 / Acts 16:31

Introduction: Today marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. At the time of her construction, the Titanic was the longest vessel that had ever been built, over four city blocks in length, and the largest made-made movable object in the history of the world. A trade magazine, The Shipbuilder, claimed that the Titanic was practically unsinkable. On May 31, 1911, an employee at the White Star Shipbuilding Company reportedly said, “Not even God Himself could sink this ship.” When it sank on its maiden voyage packed with the world’s rich and famous, it created a story for the ages. Historians say it represented the end of the age of innocence and prosperity, which had marked the opening years of the 1900s. People thought the Millennium was at hand. The sinking of the Titanic was soon followed by World War I, then by the global flu pandemic, the rise of Communism, and the Great Depression, then by World War II. The sinking of Titanic seemed to symbolize the moment when things went wrong in the 20th century. But on board the ship were many Christians, two of which are the subject of the message tonight on this 100th anniversary of the sinking of the most famous of all ocean liners. One survived the disaster and the other didn’t.

1. Archibald Gracie IV

Archibald Gracie was a writer and real estate investor who was fascinated by the Civil War and became an amateur historian. His father had fought for the South at the Battle of Chickamauga, and Archibald wrote a book about the battle. It was such an exhausting project that when he finished the manuscript he went to Europe for some rest and relaxation. His wife, Constance, remained at home. When he finished touring, he booked a first class ticket home on the Titanic.

On Sunday, April 14, he went to the onboard church service then relished a swim in the ship’s pool. This was a “six-foot tank of salt water, heated to a refreshing temperature. In no swimming bath had I ever enjoyed such pleasure before.” But his account went on to say, “How near it was to being my last plunge. Before dawn of another day I would be swimming for my life in mid-ocean in a temperature of 28 degrees!”

After his swim that Sunday night aboard ship, Colonel Gracie retired to his cabin and fell asleep, only to be awakened by “a sudden shock and noise.” Dressing quickly, he ascended to the deck and learned the ship had collided with an iceberg.

During the same moments in New York, his wife’s sleep was disturbed. Seized by sudden anxiety, she sank to her knees holding her prayerbook, “which by chance opened to the prayer ‘For Those At Sea.’” She prayed earnestly until about 5 a.m. when the burden lifted. She rested quietly until eight when her sister “came softly to the door, newspaper in hand, to gently break the tragic news that the Titanic had sunk.”

What had happened meantime to her husband? He later wrote: I was in a whirlpool, swirling round and round, as I still tried to cling to the railing as the ship plunged to the depths below. Down, down, I went: it seemed a great distance… (Ascending back to the surface) I could see no Titanic. She had entirely disappeared beneath the surface of the ocean without a sign of any wave. A thin light-gray smoky vapor hung like a pall a few feet above the sea. There arose the most horrible sounds ever heard by mortal man, the agonizing cries of death from over a thousand throats…

Col. Gracie pulled himself onto an overturned lifeboat. A few dozen other men climbed onto the overturned lifeboat too, but as the night wore on and they suffered from exhaustion and hyperthermia, it was almost impossible for them to cling to the slick surface of its keel. Somehow Gracie did, and he was eventually rescued.

He wrote a book and shared his testimony, basing it on Psalm 130:1— “Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.” He said: I know of no recorded instance of Providential deliverance more directly attributable to… prayer.

Continued on the next post…