“Hope for Recovery” is the name that our team at St. Alban’s chose for itself. It’s the perfect name: it reflects what we’re all about, and it does so in three succinct words. But those three succinct words are not the most important three words in the sentence. The words chose for itself are. Because while choosing a name may seem like an insignificant detail, it reflects a highly significant and much larger reality: that the life of this ministry has been-and continues to be–developed and shaped by its lay members, not me!
When I was called to St Alban’s six years ago as a newly ordained priest with seven years in recovery, I had already made the very personal decision that wherever I served, I knew recovery would be an important part of my ministry, and I wanted folks to feel safe coming to me for help. But I had no idea then just how many families are touched by substance abuse issues! Before long I found myself wishing I has time to put together a team of parishioners to start a substance abuse ministry, so I’d have others I could refer folks to for help. Occasionally I’d refer someone to one of the parishioners I knew from “the rooms” of AA. And fortunately, because of St. Alban’s long history of hospitality to 12-step programs, there were a lot of those parishioners-folks who came here for the meetings in the basement first, then gradually discovered the services in the church upstairs!
When I heard about Faith Partners it was prayer answered. I took the Leadership Training, then identified potential team members in our congregation and invited them to watch the Faith Partners video with me after church. Before the screening, I made it clear that coming to see the video was about exploring the ministry, not committing to it; after the screening, I made it clear this ministry called for lay leadership, for which training would be provided.
The response to the video was so positive, all I had to do was make arrangements for those committed to doing the Team Member Training with me. I can’t describe how valuable that training was! It gave us the confidence and energy to launch this ministry and fabulous materials with instructions on every aspect of introducing, developing and sustaining it.
Two members serve as co-chairs, another is our publications person, yet another is our community resource person, and we all attend our monthly brainstorming meetings. My particular usefulness as a team member is as a liaison-after all, I’ve got the “best” contacts with the church! So as a team member I advocate with church staff on behalf of Hope for Recovery events, newsletter articles, and other ways of making this ministry visible; and as a member of the clergy, I make referrals to the team, provide pastoral support, and give it its “St. Alban’s Stamp of Approval” in the eyes of the congregation. But most important of all, I take advantage of opportunities like this to thank our team for the amazing grace, dedication, creativity and passion they bring to this ministry.
Thank you Hope for Recovery!
Rev. Margot D Critchfield,
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC