Have you ever dabbled?

At the moment the country is watching whilst the Conservative party select the next Prime-Minister. Grabbing most of the headlines at the moment are not their stances on Brexit, or their policies for making Britain more prosperous and great again. The headlines are centring more on their personal lives and relationships, and on whether they have taken illegal drugs at some time in their life. When I spend time with our guests who come to the Mission, this creates yet another interesting discussion. Opinions differ – significantly.

The biggest question seems to have been between: if one of the candidates has taken drugs, then they are more worldly wise and more suited to office; drugs and high office do not really mix.

Of course, the drug of choice for people has changed over time. Alcohol in various forms is still a popular (and legal) drug for many; cannabis smoking is widespread; heroin has always had a presence; and now there is the rise of cheap synthetic drugs. The supply of illegal drugs has become part of “everyday life”, and despite police and community attention, it is still very evident in our communities.

Whether drugs are illegal or legal, whether it’s a small quantity or heavy usage, the question still holds – why do you want to consume a drug.

One argument I heard recently (Johann Hari) was that addiction was really about a response to loneliness and isolation. Scientific experiments has established that when rodents are isolated and on their own, when offered a choice of water or drugged water, they choose the drugged water, becoming increasingly addicted. However, when they are placed into a rodent “paradise” – other rodents, good food, an environment to explore and play with -  then when offered the choice the rodents choose ordinary water.

I am very attracted to a rich welcome environment being the answer to the root of the problem, rather than stricter and limits. They have actually tried this out in society – in Portugal in 2000 they had a real problem with heroin addicts (1% of the population) – so the decriminalized everything and put the money previously used into helping with jobs, homes and the drug users environments. Over 15 years it has led to a 50% reduction in drug use in Portugal – they are sorting the problem

So one answer to the problem seems to be no enforcement (which we often contract out to agencies like police and social services) but building more community. When people hear and feel and sense that they are loved then that is what will make the most difference. Now this surely is what being church is all about. Sharing the love of God with people, being present and helping to create and form communities, is what church is all about. On the downside this takes time and risk and emotion and yet…

I wonder how Jesus might have approached this – would he seek prohibition, or encourage loving? I guess we know the answer – it's just so difficult to do. As always – we are not expected to sort this out on our own. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that our sense of hopelessness and weakness will be overcome. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that the war on drugs will be transformed from a losing battle into a movement of love. Of course we are expected to play our part – its risky but ultimately life-changing. Let's give it a go!

Grace and Peace  
Revd John Hayes

Please call 03000 111 400 or e-mail info@whitechapel.church for further information.

Our Impact in 2019

  • Over 5,200 volunteers, offering over 36.400 hours of their time.

  • New figures reveal that 16,134 people were found sleeping rough on any given night in England in 2018/19, an increase of 32% on the previous year.

  • Figures reveal that 8,096 people were found sleeping rough on any given night in London in 2018/19, an increase of 7% on the previous year.

  • Rough sleeping in England has now increased by 250% since 2010

  • 24% of rough sleepers have been on the streets for 2 years or more.

  • 108,398 breakfasts served during this year, an average of 297 a day.

  • 5,698 different people used our services during this year.

  • 2,457 people used our advice services during the past year. 566 were women.

  • 24% of people using our services are under 26 years of age.

  • 49 people use the Whitechapel Mission's address to receive their post.

  • 47 people were helped to find employment

  • 58 were referred to drug or alcohol programmes.

  • 298 people received help in claiming benefits.

  • 32% of people using our services have been in care at some point.

  • 15% of people supported by the Whitechapel Mission have been in the armed services.

  • 63 people found permanent accomodation, either a flat or apartment. 312 people found a hostel during this year.

  • 29 birth certificates purchased during this year.

  • 52 people came to us without any form of ID at all.

  • 23,800 showers during this year.

  • 38% of people using our services have been in prison.

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