As Executive Director, I preach the gospel of “big tent” meetings every chance I get. I hope that at each NACR gathering we have a mix of pastors, recovery ministry leaders and participants, therapists, clients, sociologists, researchers, donors, recovery community members and gourmet chefs (every group needs good eats). I figure we’ll learn the most by learning to listen to one another’s perspective. This collaborative approach is cumbersome. It’s so much easier to sit around with people we mostly agree with and nod our heads in unity. However, my recovering friends have taught me that the “softer, gentler way” produces less fruit than actually working a rigorous program. In counseling families in my local church, I often ask them to trust the process, humble themselves, and willingly accept the gifts of wisdom that often appear in strange vessels. It is from my friends in recovery that I’ve learned to approach my life and ministry from a position of willing student, rather than someone who is charged with telling others what they need to do, know, think or feel.
- A woman in my community left a meeting inspired by a man whose recovery journey included a history of homelessness and felony convictions. This is a lady who lives in a nice house in the suburbs. I was impressed by her humility and wisdom; she was not distracted by the rough edges or the racial and socio-economic differences that potentially stood between his words and her ears. How can we find ways to spend time with people who are different from “us”?
- I attended a conference in San Antonio last month hosted by Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church. Plenty of folks in the room were willing to acknowledge their recovery room experience, but I was the lone non-Episcopal. Prior to my attendance, I was unaware of the decades of commitment to recovery ministry made by various dioceses across the country. Can we reach across denominational lines and humbly ask each other for help?
- Years ago I entered into a partnership with a therapist in our community whose work in the field of family restoration and recovery caught my attention. Together, we’ve forged a trusting relationship that we hope strengthens our serve to those who are interested in integrating spirituality, recovery and therapy. Are we willing to take the time to develop relationships with professionals in different fields of expertise?
These partnerships have their challenges: my Baptist roots don’t serve me well as I try to understand organizational nuances of my Episcopal friends when they talk about recovery within the framework of their dioceses, my church friends don’t particularly like walking through a smoking section to attend an AA meeting, and therapeutic/pastoral collaborations produce some negative feedback from our respective colleagues who don’t understand this approach. But I count these as light and momentary troubles, minor inconveniences compared to the richness of the blessings received “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV). If we can tolerate our differences, I believe with all my heart that our serve will be strengthened. Join us by hopping on our website, attending a conference, hosting an event at your church in partnership with the NACR, provide funding for our current collaborative projects, submit an article for possible publication, etc. Let’s find a way to connect, collaborate and encourage each other in this work.