Monday, June 29, 2009

Initiative on addiction

I cycled to Llandaff Cathedral in the sunshine this morning, to attend their patronal festival Eucharist in honour of St Peter. The Dean presided and most of the Chapter was there, along with the two Bishops. With the exception of Peggy Jackson, the altar party was almost entirely an all male affair., not to mention the boys' choir Sally Davies is currently the only female (honorary) Canon. I didn't see her there. She's recently retired. Admittedly there was a women thurifer, and virger in attendance, but that's all. It just felt un-natural to me to be part of such a top-heavy male gathering, given the considerable number of women in ministry and leadership in the Diocese. Hardly the shape of things to come. Does custodianship of diocesan tradition inevitably mean that the Cathedral and its Chapter cannot also be innovative?

After lunch I met up with Wynford Ellis-Owen, Chief Executive of the Welsh Council on Alcohol and other Drugs, who asked if he could appraise me of a project he is working on, and seeking churches' support for. He wishes to set up in SE Wales an integrated addiction therapy and support service, which will help sufferers and their families together overcome the problems caused by substance abuse. It's based on a successful model developed in Stevenage, known as 'The Living Room'. This is well supported by the Stevenage local Churches Together Group, so naturally Wynford wishes to solicit support from CT groups as well as local authorities and health boards in the region.

I hope this is something local churches can really get behind, one way or another. The problem is that the dynamics of addiction - substance dependency and related co-dependency among people - operate not only in the lives of individuals and families, but in communities and society as a whole. There is a political and and economic dimension that touches us all. As Wynford strongly asserts, much of the initiative taken in relation to addiction problems is only about containment - coping rather than cure.

Cure is neither impossible, nor too difficult, but it does require commitment to a path of healing and spiritual development that may be long drawn out, but ends up changing everything for the better. There's every reason for every faith group to embrace this. There's no better place to start than with City Centre Churches Together, since the city centre is where so many of the problems associated with substance misuse come home to roost.

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