Four Ways to Respond to Addiction
Approximately one out of every eight Americans live with some form of addiction, according to reports by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Global Health program of the General Board of Global Ministries shares some examples of how churches and partners of SPSARV offer informed and compassionate responses to the needs of individuals and families impacted by the disease of addiction.
1. Care seeking support
Seminarian Birgitte Simpson shares how her training in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Central Park United Methodist Church, known as The Recovery Church, in St. Paul, Minn., has helped this local congregation through care seeking support.
“I had the opportunity to take a phone call from Timothy (not his real name), a methadone addict and alcoholic living with a gang. He was looking for pastoral care support as he explored sobriety and faith for the first time in his life. He asked me about Christianity and what he needed to do to be a part of the faith. He was amazed to find out that he didn’t need to do anything. I told him to come and worship with us whenever he wanted and that he was welcome here. This good news was overwhelming to him and brought him to tears. At the time of this conversation, Timothy was looking for ways to help himself continue in his sobriety through the rest of the week. I was able to give him information about all the meetings offered at The Recovery Church. As we were getting off the phone, Timothy told me that he was going to interview for a spot in an in-patient treatment program. I prayed with him that he would be accepted and able to continue his sobriety, knowing that God is working in our lives to combat the struggles that we experience along the road of life.”
Pastor Cindy Kennedy of Waterville Evangelical United Methodist Church in Minn., is a CPE student who worked in the Steele County Detention Center in Owatonna. While serving there, she hosted an art class, worship, and Bible study. Pastor Kennedy later received this short note of appreciation from a young man in the state prison:
“You have never met me, but I am the one from Steele County that made you the nice cross out of paper. I was a faithful art student for “F” and “C” (our volunteers) while I was in Steele County. I thought it was really cool how you volunteered your time for us at the jail. You are very kindhearted people. I wish there were more like you in this selfish world. ...”
The Rev. Elena Chudinov, district superintendent of the St. Petersburg District in Russia, is a leader of a feeding and substance abuse referral ministry at Aspiration United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg. The ministry is supported by SPSARV. Rev. Chudinov shares about the importance of listening to those impacted by drug and alcohol abuse.
The first thing we need to do is develop trust. Those who come for meals now feel open to express how important it is for them to speak about their problems, that there’s someone who can listen to them.
4. Creating a space
Alexander, for example, started to come to our feeding program in 2015. He had been in prison for many years. After his release, there was no place for him to live. So, he spent the night in a flophouse. In the daytime, he walked around the city gathering cans and bottles and trying to find places to eat.
One Sunday he came to the church. We talked with him and found him some warm clothes to wear. He started coming regularly to our worship services, and now he is trying to gather all the documents he needs to get his pension. We asked him about his future needs, and we got only one answer, “Nothing. I am only thankful that you treat me like a regular human being.”
Natasha, a skilled painter, has also been welcomed at Aspiration UMC. When we met her, she shared her paintings with us, told us about her family. She started coming to church quite regularly and soon brought her son and husband along. Her husband drinks heavily, but he comes to church when he is sober. Natasha also drinks, but they are thankful that they have a place where they are accepted and heard. They also started volunteering their time to clean in and around the church. We try to motivate them each time to strive for a better life.
The people of Aspiration UMC know that they are not experts in substance abuse treatment, but by being a welcoming community and relying on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members and sponsors, who understand recovery, they have made a difference for Alexander, Natasha, and others.
Find information on treatment for addiction here.
To learn more about the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches' CPE in Recovery Ministries program, or to see if a similar program exists near you, contact Juliana M. Federoff at SPSARV at email@example.com or 212-870-3883.
The Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPSARV) is a part of Global Ministries’ Global Health unit. SPSARV has supported the training of 19 CPE students in a total of 20 units of CPE from 2012 to June 2016. The most popular placement sites have been at The Recovery Church, St. Paul, Minn.; Mounds Park UMC, St. Paul, Minn.; and Hennepin Avenue UMC’s Dignity Center in Minneapolis, Minn.
All photos are stock images through the Creative Commons CCO license.