Meet the Parishioner: Luke Skiff
One of the most delightful regulars to St Luke’s on a Sunday is, appropriately enough, called Luke himself.
Luke Carritt rarely misses the 10.30am Sung Eucharist where he welcomes visitors, directs the choir and helps clear up afterwards. As his mother Christian says, “He’s not at all shy, he’s very jolly and will talk to anybody.”
Father Sam Hole says, “It is wonderful having Luke as part of the congregation. He is always there, in the front pew, and always says hello during the coffee after the service.”
Luke, who has Down’s Syndrome, lives in sheltered housing during the week, and stays with his 95-year-old mother on the weekends. He is very gregarious and is loved by all those who know him in the church and beyond. “He talks to everybody. He is always smiling and completely disarming,” Christian says. “He loves going to parties.”
He was born in New Zealand, at a time when the family were living in Fiji; his father, from the US, was in the state department there. “We had a lovely time there,” Christian says. “I was determined he would be accepted by society, and he was.”
After six years in Bangkok – “he was adored there” – they returned to London. He was around eight years old and Christian gave him as much freedom as she could. He thrived as a result.
“He manages pretty well,” she says now. “He has created a life of his own here. He goes out and gets all the papers… he visits all the shops on Gloucester Road, and goes in and says good morning each day.”
His sociable nature has left quite an impression not just with the shopkeepers but those in the local takeout restaurants and even the bus drivers. Christian remembers bringing Luke to a nearby fish and chip shop, “There was a sort of uproar, because the owners were so pleased to see him.” She adds, “He is friends with all of them. He knows the local bus drivers.”
Christian says he enjoys shopping, but an even bigger love is football. On matchdays he will go round to all the pubs and tell everyone the results.
Luke supports both Liverpool and Arsenal, which means he’s often on the winning side, with at least one of his teams emerging victorious, and when they play each other, he says he can’t lose!
When we meet after one Sunday service, where appropriately enough there was a passage read out from Luke’s Gospel, he asks me who I support. After a nervous pause, I had to admit my team is Chelsea, an arch rival to both those he supports.
Rather than any recriminations, Luke immediately put out his hand to shake mine. “My mother supports Chelsea,” he said proudly.
Another passion, Luke says, is watching TV and movies, especially action moves. “I love James Bond,” he says, adding he also enjoys the Rock and Rambo too.
Ever since the family moved to London, Luke has been attending the church services. “He has a routine and nothing would break that routine,” Christian says. On Saturdays he goes to a café in Boddington Square.
While he is dressed in a very dapper fashion on the day we meet, especially with the Peaky Blinders-style flat cap, he is not averse to fancy dress – especially if it raises a laugh. He dresses up as Santa Claus at Christmas and at Easter wears his Easter Egg t-shirt.
One of his favourite things about church, is the music and those who make it. “I like the choir,” he says, “They are my friends.” And last year the choir sang him happy birthday, which was a very special moment. This June, when he turns 52, he hopes they will again.
Billie Hylton, a member of the choir, says, “He’s amazing. He’s our number one fan, bringing us presents and chatting. He knows everyone’s name, and as he rightly says, this is his church. He runs out to meet us, to welcome us back in and his main aim during the service is to make the choir laugh.”
And as the chat with Luke ends, he’s off up again, looking for more people to share a joke with or to see if there is anything he can help with, bringing that ray of sunshine with him wherever he goes.