Hello Friends (New & Old)!
Eight years ago, following a divorce that stalled my life, I accepted an invitation to relocate to Wilmington, NC to get a new start. I had lived in Bethlehem, PA for over 20 years and before that in Reading, PA for my entire childhood — it was a big decision and a big move. Once I got to Wilmington, I almost didn’t stay. I was struggling to find work and my roommate situation was not working out. There were a few moments when I considered packing up my car and going back to Pennsylvania. There was one day right before Thanksgiving 2011 when I actually had the car half-packed.
The day I almost drove home, I sat at the coffee shop, sharing my sob story with the barista at the counter… trying to make the decision to leave or stay. As I was sobbing into my coffee, a girl I had seen in AA meetings walked into the shop and sat down beside me. She didn’t notice that I was crying but looked directly at me and confessed that she wanted to go home for Thanksgiving, but hadn’t made amends to her parents and was afraid they wouldn’t welcome her. I halted… dead stop… wiped my tears away and asked her if she had some time and some paper.
That afternoon we worked for several hours writing her 4th Step, doing a 5th step, discussing and praying over character defects and writing out the amends she would take home and read to her parents. She would later report to me that her Thanksgiving was wonderful and that he parents had received her. I believe only because she had committed to doing her 12 Step work.
I didn’t leave Wilmington. I stayed. I stayed put. I got new roommates and finally landed a job and I believed that God wanted me here for a reason…
In 2012, I started attending Celebrate Recovery with a friend. I just wanted to go for a few weeks and work on some relationship issues I was having with my mom at the time. I didn’t want to get too involved… Well, my friend Karen J. had come to visit me and the first time I took her to CR, she outed me!!! I would begin to help and lead CR for the next six years. It was a wonderful experience, rich with personal and communal growth, where I found a real family of friends.
In the summer of 2016, after completing another 4th step, I began to sense that God was calling me to do something with the best of recovery and church. Because of a rich and wonderful team of folks with wisdom and a love for recovery, I was able to create and lead two years worth of teachings for CR, which they lovingly and willingly let me “test drive” in the CR venue. Pastor Jim helped me do “sacrament” every fifth week – hosting Holy Communion or sitting in silence after engaging the text with Lectio Divina practices. It was beautiful, as well as fruitful. In 2019, I felt a shift and a new season upon me. Time to start really thinking about what recovery church would and could look like.
2019 was a painful and productive year. The journey to saying, “I believe God is calling me to start a recovery church,” has been an ebb and flow of pure bliss, excitement and anticipation and also many, many doubts, fears and tears. It’s been a process. For every “NO!” I’ve said, there has been a deeper “yes….., ok…… yes…… YES!!!” When I’ve tried to get out, I’ve found myself only called to dig in deeper. When I’ve cursed and stomped me feet, I discovered greater understanding and unity. When I’ve tried to run away and forget, I’ve run into a wall made of God in every direction I’ve tried to hide. I am at a place where I can no longer say no – no matter how hard I try.
So here I am with a idea, a webpage and a dream. That’s tangibly what I got right now on Monday, November 18th, 2019. I also have my deep love and appreciation for the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which taught me how to live in 2001 when I was a lost person. I have the teachings of all the wisdom people who loved me directly (sponsors, friends, mentors… even enemies). The wisdom of all those who shared their experience, strength and hope with the rest of us who are trying to find peace, freedom and joy: recalling my early years reading De Mello, Fox, Williamson, listening to Joe H. and Mark H. and witnessing the inspiring fearlessness of a few guys from NJ who created a group for the worst off of us called ANA (Alcoholics-Narcotics Anonymous).
I do believe it is my turn to share my wisdom with others, to steward a space/place where people can encounter the living God, meet the heart of Christ and the experience the power of the Holy Spirit. To foster a place that welcomes people as they are, but loves them enough to challenge them to walk free from their states of suffering. Because that was me 18 years ago, standing one evening outside of The Sunlight of the Spirit meeting, crying in the cold dark night to my sponsor, Joanne P., saying that the 12 Steps would not work for me… I was simply hopeless. She said to me something that has always remained clear in my mind and heart, “I’ll believe for you until you can believe for yourself.” And her belief was enough for me to make a beginning… a beginning then… a beginning now.