Hope Begins with One Person

June 3, 2009 by  
Filed under Theological Perspectives

You see now that it is by deeds, and not only by believing, that someone is justified. – James 2:24

The referral process in our congregation began with one person, Jim, stepping forward after a Sunday morning worship service. He gave me his business card, introduced himself as a licensed addiction counselor and offered to serve as a resource if anyone needed help due to substance use. His help was soon needed. Over a few months, we ended up working together with several people.

A pastor well known in our city for his pastoral care in the recovery community retired and moved away. Jim asked if I would be willing to listen to 5th Steps due to this loss and the great need. I agreed to be trained by him. The retiring pastor also coached me.

200414997-001It wasn’t long until a waiting list was formed. It was clear that my time could be consumed by listening to 5th Steps so I needed to limit the number of people I would see within a month.

I asked Jim if he would speak at one of our monthly clergy conference meetings to share the need for involvement. He agreed and we formed a panel of speakers who addressed the impact of substance abuse on our community. As a result of this program, additional members of the clergy offered to listen to 5th Steps.

Soon Jim was asked to be a speaker at our annual women’s salad luncheon. Shortly after that our quilters became involved in making fleece lap robes to be presented as gifts for people who complete their 5th Steps. These robes serve as a reminder of being “wrapped in God’s love” as people continue their journey through the Twelve Steps.

Jim chairs our congregations’ mutual ministry committee. As the vision of leadership became more focused on mission and outreach, this committee was invaluable at sharing that vision within the congregation as well as supporting the staff.

Another important aspect of our referral network was the development of an Outreach Recovery Ministry Task Force involving congregational members as well as community leaders who represent medical, judicial, educational, and various social service programs. A professor of neuroscience at the University of North Dakota’s Medical School, also a church member, agreed to chair the task force. She has spent the greater part of her life studying and providing needed research about women and alcoholism.

CB059209A group of members from the recovery community, chosen by the task force, planned worship services for the outreach ministry of the congregation. The task force also began conversations with our local university, with the hope that our church will host an outreach counseling ministry utilizing student interns working toward their master’s degree in counseling.

In January, Jim and I were asked to offer a workshop at Luther Seminary’s annual convocation on developing an outreach ministry to the recovering community. We provided the same workshop plus a workshop on listening to 5th Steps at our synod assembly. Again, Jim was invaluable in providing important, helpful information.

As a part of our system of referrals, I have been asked to speak on the topic of spirituality to several recovery groups. It is easy to proclaim the love and grace of God as we watch the blessings of this ministry unfold. It began with one person who was willing to step forward and use his experience, talents and vocation to help others. I thank God for his presence and desire to serve.

If you are a member of the recovery community or serve in a vocation that works with the recovery community, please speak to your pastor and/or other leaders in your congregation. If you are willing to help, you might be amazed how God will use your gifts to bless others.

Rev. Kathryn Ann Brown is pastor of Augustana Lutheran, Grand Forks, ND.

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