by Lisa Tome
The parish hall at North East's St. Mary Anne's Episcopal Church gets heavy use by the community.
"Four of the six nights are 12 step groups," said the church's rector, Rev. John Schaeffer.
So after thinking about it from time to time over the past six months, Rev. Schaeffer decided that once a month the church will host a casual church service geared to those in all stages of recovery from addiction. The services are geared to "help strengthen those in recovery with the message of hope, redemption, and God's grace."
"With the opioid crisis, it (attendance in 12 step groups) has spiked even more," said Rev. Schaeffer. He also said that among the church's parishioners he also heard stories about the impact of addiction.
"Rather than just use the hall, we've gotten (those battling addiction) involved in the community," he said. Church members have also gotten involved with the groups.
Rev. Schaeffer said that since 12 step programs are faith based, it was natural that the church would offer a service for this segment of the population and their supporters.
He said the effort avoids "the disconnect" between the church and those battling addiction.
The Faith & Recovery service, held on Sunday nights, the second Sunday of each month, incorporates the 12 steps into the liturgy. Someone who is currently in recovery provides testimony. "That adds to the impact. It's not the Father John show. It's their service and I'm leading the service. We wrap it in a church blanket." Music has also been incorporated into the service.
"It's working. We've had good attendance and the church members help provide a meal following the service," he said.
"I've learned that the personal invitation is important. What we're trying to do is build a service for anyone who is in any level of recovery," he said.
He explained that the service is casual. He doesn't wear robes.
"I'm wearing jeans and I don't use the altar. Communion is on a card table. Many of these people are broke and they don't want to see fancy. What I've heard is that people are finding this comforting through God's word. Our church can reach out to people," he said.
The next Faith & Recovery, a 12-step church service and light supper will be held on Sunday, March 11 from 6-7 p.m. at St. Mary Anne's 315 South Main Street, North East.
The service is open to all those in recovery and support groups and their family members and friends.