January 15, 2015 by  
Filed under What's New

We’re happy you found us.

We have been busy relaunching Faith Partners as an independent nonprofit. With this new website we want to reassure you we are moving forward, committed to continuing our work of initiating, nurturing and sustaining the faith community’s efforts to address alcohol, drug, and addiction issues.

For five years we collaborated with the Johnson Institute, functioning as the Rush Center of Johnson Institute. During those years we hosted a national summit and expanded our efforts. We are grateful we had this opportunity. And when the Johnson Institute closed their doors the end of February we knew we wanted to continue this important work. So our trademark name for our teams – Faith Partners teams – became our organization’s name again. Our location didn’t change, though – we are still in Austin, Texas, where the teams began over 20 years ago.

It is a challenging yet exciting time for us.

This year we received a grant from the Center on Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) to enhance our evaluation capacity. We are working with wonderful colleagues – friends from the University of Texas School of Social Work and staff from the Gulf Coast Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) to carry out this effort. Our hope is to become an evidenced based environmental strategy. Thanks to our teams for their dedication to this process, particularly the scheduling of a second congregational survey.

Other exciting things are happening.

We recently participated in a webinar with our friends and colleagues from Harford County, MD, Faith-Based Coalition, thanks to Michael Koscinski from SAMHSA.  It was a new and good experience for us, using this method to reach others interested in faith community involvement with coalitions. We’ve posted that online here under the topic,  Awareness. We will also make a presentation at the mid year CADCA conference in Louisville this summer.

Our work is cut out for us.

The faith community has an important role to play in prevention and addiction recovery support. Congregations who have connected to community resources including community coalitions are in a better position to help the people they serve find the resources and services they need. Clergy are aware, lay people come with expertise and life experience and with training and support we can mobilize the religious community to be a big part of the solution to this challenging problem.

Lastly, we want to thank KD & Company for their generous technical assistance and support, under the direction of Rick Drewien. Thanks to Rick, facilitator for the Mt Zion United Methodist Church Faith Partners team in Marietta, GA, for all that he has done to help us launch this website. Rick has provided important leadership for his team and this site would not be possible without the many hours of expertise he has given us out of his passion for this ministry.

Take your time reading through this site and learn what others are doing. It is not only possible but many of our teams are making a big difference. Won’t you let us know what you are doing and how we might support you?

Ministry Initiation – Essential Questions

January 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Teams

Upon the start up in developing our Faith Partners ministry there was an all important initial phase where we tried to create support and consensus for the new project by dialoging with congregants. Much discussion centered on the extent of the problem and what we, as a church, could do about it. Sometimes difficult and complex, and often straight forward and innocuous, questions always spurred discussion. Here are a few of those most frequently encountered.

What part should the church play in dealing with issues of alcoholism and addiction?

My knowledge of Scripture is imperfect, but I do know that Mark’s Gospel, verse 12:32 talks of “loving your neighbor as yourself.” This is also shared in Matthew’s Gospel, verse 22:39-40, where it says that “on these two Commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Clearly, I should treat those in my community who have succumbed to addictive disorders as I would treat a family member…or even myself.  Further, Psalm 41:2-4 says “the Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.” I would think that we all have responsibility for assertively restoring those suffering for addictive disorders to full health.

 Who would want to try to tackle difficult addiction and alcoholism issues for others?

For some, it involves an expression of gratitude as much as compassion, for there is much to be thankful for in their own personal recovery. Besides, none would be here without SECOND CHANCES.” Those who are deeply involved with their addiction and alcoholism are barely living. In recovery, we see them thrive.

What role does education play?

Education is an important component in breaking the stigma of addiction and substance abuse. It is far too easy to be scared or ashamed of anything that you don’t understand. Creating any ministry program should always include an educational aspect, not just to impart information but to open a dialog as well.

What role does our faith conviction play?

Of course, faith convictions vary, not just interdenominationally, but within the same denomination. Its really quite personal. For me, the answer lay in exploring the divine power present in the Christ. From my reading of Scripture, I gleaned that Jesus was inviting the world to allow the essence of God to be born in them. Where some saw the Gospel message as something to be literalized, I felt convinced that it was meant to be lived. At one time, I even suggested that how could one worship the great “I am,” except be having the courage to be the self God created each of us to be. Each of us – even in our addiction and alcoholism – is called so deeply into life, into love, and into being that he or she can say with Christ-like integrity, I AM!  

 Isn’t there a stigma associated with alcoholism? What message(s) will you convey?

You will know a new freedom– Not weighed down by the shackles of secrets, anyone can feel a relief lifted off their shoulders as they come to terms with who they really are.

You can be honest with yourself and others– It’s exhausting trying to be something we’re not. Being true to ourselves means living our truth.

You will gain inner peace– Admissions of familiarity with alcohol and substance abuse issues iis one more secret that can’t keep anyone sick anymore once its released.

If not us, then who?- It’s easy to sit around and say, ok great idea, I’m sure someone will do it. Sometimes we have to come out of our comfort zone and take action to make a change. Just assuming someone else wil do it doesn’t make an impact. Why not you? Why not now?

You will inspire others– You could literally save a life. By sharing with others who are suffering, you may inspire a change in them. We can help plant the seeds of change.

We are all entrusted with the responsibility to do whatever we can to stop the shaming and live in the light.

Ministry Initiation – Correspondence

January 13, 2015 by  
Filed under Teams, What's New

One of the projects that I got involved with in early Faith Partners ministry had to do with the incarcerated population. It seems as though I was confronted after church one Sunday, out in the parking lot, by the two parents of a young man who was sentenced to a year in county lock up for a variety of substance abuse-related offenses. They had heard me mention in Sunday School the work of Alcoholics Anonymous and its efforts at taking meetings inside jails. They explained their sons circumstances and wanted to know about the possibility of meetings in the county jail where their son was located. I told them what I knew.

They invited me to visit their son a couple of Sundays later, and I accepted. Face time was limited to a “visitation area” where people talked to the incarcerated population over video phones. In any case, I offered to correspond with the young man for the duration of his stay. Not thinking of myself as too overly pious, I justified my intent based on the simple principle that if I was on the other side of the video, I would appreciate hearing from people on the outside myself.

On my way home, I gave some serious thought to the quandary: what does one write about to a person that they just met, years apart in age, with no apparent shared interests, and the desire not to be too patronizing. After all, I thought, I didn’t even know his family that well, and there was over 30 years difference in our ages. I was into work, jazz music, tennis, and foreign movies. What could he have been interested in? I reflected on the many “prison ministries” I’d learned about over the years, but still was skeptical. Quoting Scripture was fine, but applying it to an unknown situation seemed to be a bit presumptuous.

By the time that I sat down to type out a letter, I decided that I would focus on two things: 1) my interest in studying Scripture, and 2) my life in recovery. And that’s how I introduced myself. I told him in three lengthy paragraphs of some abstract event that happened in my life of late and how I handled (or typically mishandled) it. I said how I meant to intentionally redress the issue and seek to make amends. Those familiar with AA parlance will know where that is coming from. Then I made mention of some topical Scripture passage that was struggled with in Bible study or in Sunday School that week. I enumerated points I’d heard and tentative conclusions I’d drawn. Lastly, I posed a question which was meant to elicit a response, thinking that if there was going to be ongoing correspondence, I would to my best to facilitate it.

After my second letter a couple weeks later, I decided that I could commit to sending a letter on a schedule of every 10 days or so, sometimes even once a week. I found that I could even meet this schedule while traveling for business on the road. Interesting that the recipient noticed the different postmarks from around the country – Seattle, WA; Philadelphia, PA; Los Angeles – and asked me what that was about. That just gave me another topic for discussion. I found that I was no longer fighting boredom of staying in a hotel room, but found it relaxing to talk about my experiences in another town with different people. I could put my ongoing life in perspective.

Over the course of a couple years, this correspondence “ministry” took on legs and grew. People approached me quite frequently about dialoging with loved ones and friends who were incarcerated for substance abuse. At one point I found that I was mailing letters to as many 9 letters at a time to various corrections facilities within the area. To this day, I still find it a gratifying experience. I have met many of those to whom I’ve written, either through visitations or after they were released and they showed up at church. Some have actually gone on to experience a life in recovery, apart for drugs and alcohol. I like to think that my ongoing correspondence and sharing might have played a small role in that.