Several years ago a new family joined my parish. They were engaged in worship, came back to coffee hour and were otherwise showing all the signs of settling in. However I noticed that they never came up for communion.
Eventually I found the right moment to ask. It was at that time that the husband told me that he was an alcoholic. But, since we only offered wine (and not juice) he didn’t feel like he could fully participate. This was a real eye opener for me.
While I’ve done a lot to try to help establish a healthy and balanced relationship with alcohol at church, since then I have been increasingly aware of the ways in which addiction affects the lives of my congregation. Just two weeks ago after services I spent hours counseling parishioners about coping with their own addiction or those of a family member.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This past Sunday alone 9 people in Philadelphia died when they overdosed on heroin. All around my neighborhood I see people with the telltale signs of “meth mouth.” The real trouble is that for every person willing to talk about their problem there are many more who are silent.
Last year it was estimated that 40 million adults struggled with addiction to drugs or alcohol. If you start to account for their immediate family that number grows geometrically. The Church needs to respond.
Thankfully many denominations and individual congregations already are. Within my own denomination there is Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church which offers support and resources.
Taking their lead, I am pleased to announce that St. Tim’s is holding its first Recovery Sunday on December 11th at both the 8 and 10:30 am services.
In worship we will offer prayers, encouragement and support for those affected by addiction. After church several members will speak about their own struggles and recovery. And we will have resources on hand to help you get more support once you leave.
I don’t know how many people will be helped but I do know that offering love, acceptance, hope and support is an essential expression of what it means to be a Christian.
If you are affected by addiction and need support and happen to be in the area, I sincerely hope you will join us. You don’t need to talk about it. You don’t need to stand up and introduce yourself. You just need to come and be with us. Sing with us. Pray with us. Let us pray for you. Or just sit quietly. Whatever works for you. Just come be with us as we acknowledge the reality of addiction and celebrate the hope and possibility that can be found through the love and grace of Jesus Christ.