Westminster Abbey

May 2017

Westminster Abbey - DrugFAM Service 9th May 2017

Graeme Skinner testimony


In St Paul's Cathedral you will find the tomb of its architect Sir Christopher Wren. His memorial stone, simply says, "Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you... Look at the solid pile of stones making the cathedral".


Can I invite you around you to look around you right now... but not at the building... look instead at the people, at those behind and in front of you... catch their eyes... smile with them.


Many of these are family members of those affected by other's addictions, they are living and enduring monuments. Just as the stones of St Paul's declare something of the life of Wren, so these people in Westminster Abbey today are living stones, representing the lives of those who are 'worth talking about'.


I lost my son Jim to heroin almost 10 years ago. Just after Elizabeth Burton-Phillips phoned us and invited us to come to this inaugural DrugFAM event, I stood on the soil where Jim's ashes are dug in and said to him, "Son, your name is going to be mentioned in Westminster Abbey". I guess that if he could answer me he would have reverted to teenage talk,
"So embarrassing, but - whatever!"


Let's all do something 'embarrassing' right now... Let’s say out loud the name of one person we know, who has either died through drugs or alcohol, or who is struggling with an addiction. We believe that their lives are worth talking about, so let’s speak their name aloud right now. Have you got a name? OK, let’s speak their name out loud, after three, 1, 2, 3... That amazing sound of spoken names resonates with what we are doing today. We are more than just remembering, we are proclaiming; ‘Lives worth talking about’.


There is no doubt that putting words like drugs, alcohol and addictions into a pot draws in other words like stigma, shame and hopelessness. But, we will not be silenced by these words; we have named those we love.


The monuments to great writers are located in this cathedral in Poet’s Corner. You will find an inscription to the famous Christian author CS Lewis. He is quoted, ‘I believe in Christianity. I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything’; that’s spelt s-u-n. Our son Jim kept a diary, we didn’t know he did until we were handed it after he died. He wrote about his belief in the risen s-o-n. Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection’. In response Jim wrote, ‘I believe this’.


But know this, to love - is to be vulnerable to pain. CS Lewis writes about this too after the death of his wife. In some ways it might be easier to let the stigma and shame around addictions silence us... it goes like this... "Don't mention their names and you don't get hurt".


Over time, and by being real to myself, I have begun to weave the disruption that has crashed into my life into the pattern of how I live and who I am. How we respond and react to the rubbish that life throws at us, especially the excruciatingly painful feelings that accompany addictions, shapes the quality of hope we can lay hold of for ourselves... and also the hope hold out to others. This is how, and why, DrugFAM exists - offering hope.


In DrugFAM, we are choosing love and hope, and to speak their names out loud. We are determined that loss and pain can be held in creative tension with hope and gain. This route is not pain free or disappointment free... it’s the route of vulnerability, which literally means... ‘easily wounded’... that’s us, wounded. But, what a difference hope makes.


Today, listener, if you seek hope, look around you.