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  • Saturdays and Sundays
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    Mon-Sat 10am-4pm

Introducing Recovery Church: An Invitation to a Brave Space

Last updated: October 2022

Please note: This page is retained for archive purposes.

Newcastle Cathedral’s Lantern Initiative seeks to be a beacon of light to people experiencing dark and difficult times. Some of this work concerns those struggling with chronic drug and alcohol addiction, explored below.


Addiction is part of the human condition and can be understood as both ‘dis-ease’ and disease. Many people talk about ‘being addicted to’: their phone, gaming, social media, food or work. Fewer people, though, will admit to an addiction to unhealthy relationships, pornography, sex, gambling, alcohol or drugs. Shame, stigma, ignorance and judgement surround addiction. As a society, we are often uncomfortable or unable to talk about addiction honestly or the reasons why we become addicted in the first place.

An addiction is when someone is not fully in control of doing, taking or using something to the point where it becomes harmful. Typically, chronic addiction is associated with excessive drug and alcohol consumption which, tragically, can lead to death.

“The difference between passion and addiction
is that between a divine spark and a flame that incinerates.”

Dr Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

Historically, addiction has been framed as a moral issue; some argue it is simply a question of the choices an individual makes. More recent research understands addiction as a medical brain disease and points to the high correlation between addiction and neglect, trauma and emotional loss – especially trauma experienced in early years.

However it is understood, many people describe their addiction as a way of coping with pain and hurt and as a way of avoiding being fully present in one’s unbearable reality. Not everyone who struggles with addiction has experienced trauma and vice-versa. A more insightful look at addiction will not ask, “why the addiction?” but rather, “why the pain?”.

Or put another way, “what has happened to you?” as opposed to, “what is wrong with you?”.


There are different pathways to recovery. Some advocate total abstinence, such as The 12 Steps of AA | Alcoholics Anonymous, whilst another approach manages a harm-reduction programme such as substituting Class-A-drugs (such as heroin, cocaine or ecstasy) for methadone, a legal alternative, with the aim of reducing drug consumption gradually over time.

Recovery from addiction is impossible without honesty, openness, and a willingness to change. In the case of chronic addiction, there needs to be an acceptance that the individual is utterly helpless and must reach out beyond for support and inspiration.

  • They can do this by firstly, being in a community: connecting with others who identify with a similar struggle and who will encourage, challenge and celebrate in a shared journey of recovery together.
  • Secondly, they can do this by reaching out to a Higher Power or a ‘spiritual awakening’. The belief in a power greater than oneself enables an individual to connect with a loving and caring presence as well as a source of inspiration, healing and wholeness, sometimes referred to as, the God of our knowing, or God as we came to understand them.

Addiction is, by its very nature, perpetually isolating. The things an individual will do to maintain their addiction typically involve secrecy and telling lies both to themselves and others. Writer and journalist Johann Hari highlights how, where addiction is concerned, becoming increasingly disconnected from the self and from others can be harmful:

I was taught by the people I met – and by the growing scientific evidence – that we are all more vulnerable to addiction now because we are increasingly isolated from each other, and from the things that give us meaning. The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety, its connection.

Johann Hari, Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

Recovery Church

Revd Jon Canessa, Newcastle Cathedral’s Lantern Initiative Lead, facilitates Recovery Church with Methodist Minister, Deacon Tracey Hume and Des Hunter, Expert By Experience. All three are in recovery and identify with those they walk alongside in solidarity.

Recovery Church services take place online, on a Sunday evening and in-person on a Wednesday night. Services are for people who are in recovery from a range of addictions and respect people of all faiths and none. Recovery Church aims to help people to make connections within the self, with others and with their higher power.

Recovery Church complements the excellent rehabilitation and recovery work that takes place in and around Newcastle, including, but not limited to, Newcastle Treatment & Recovery (NTaR); Changing Lives ‘Oaktrees’ and ‘Continuing Care’ groups; George Street Social; Recovery Coach Academy and a variety of established 12-step fellowships.

As Jon explains:

“In the service, we name (confess) those things that control and shame us, and by doing so, push them into the light, where shame and guilt lose their power. We look to create ‘brave space’ which is characterised by honesty, belonging, loving kindness and anonymity (safeguarding procedures are followed where necessary). We work hard to withhold judgement because it takes courage and vulnerability to talk about our addictions; it is always a liberating experience when we are honest with ourselves and others.”

Invitation to Brave Space

By Micky Scottbey Jones

Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”.
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars, and we have all caused wounds.
In this space, we seek to ‘turn down the volume’ of the outside world.
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love.
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
But it will be our brave space together,
And we will work on it side by side.

Reflections from the UK Recovery Walk Service

A service was held on the eve of the UK Recovery Walk 2022 in Newcastle. The annual walk celebrates people who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Find out more

Deacon Tracey describes Recovery Church as, “a space of celebration, lament, learning and intercession that enables those who come to acknowledge and share the realities of life and recovery. It is a holy space where we encounter Jesus in every person who joins us and where community is built.”

Click here to email the Revd Jon Canessa for more information about in-person Recovery Church @ Newcastle Cathedral.

Click here to email Deacon Tracey Hume for information about Recovery Church online meetings.

If you are struggling with addiction, you should contact your local GP in the first instance, who can assess your situation and put you in touch with relevant support.