A new take on church
I've started to attend Al-Anon meetings. Which, by saying that, I hope doesn’t betray the "anon" aspects of the meetings. I'll have to ask someone about that. You know me, I like to talk about things that help me.
Al-Anon is for people whose lives have been affected by someone else's addiction. At this point, I fall in that category. Close friends and professionals have been recommending that I go for several months now, and I finally started. Very eye opening.
What I've found at these meetings is total acceptance, understanding, love and fellowship. Instantly. I found affirmation for recent decisions I've had to make and encouragement for the doubts I still have.
The first meeting felt like the best Christian Science testimony meeting I'd ever been to. CS testimony meetings include prayer, readings, and sharing. Al-Anon meetings do as well. The difference is that at Al-Anon the people sharing aren't speaking from a place of "everything's all better now." They're speaking from the middle of the process, what they're learning as they go. So listeners get and give both inspiration and encouragement. Everyone in the room is just doing their best, day by day.
Apparently this is quite powerful. I've only been a couple of times, but some of these folks have been coming to Al-Anon for decades, and they keep coming even after the immediate cause (another person's addiction) has been resolved. Meaning, even after the person becomes sober and sticks with it, the Al-Anon folks still offer each other love and support. It feels to me like this is church to those people.
I've been thinking often about the early Christians, who met anonymously in little cells to wrestle through what it meant to follow Christ in their pagan world. They had to be anonymous, because if they weren't, they could wind up on a cross of their own. They had to have each others' backs. And, I'm sure their questions as the Christian life was forming up are very similar to those being asked at the meetings I've attended: What is letting go? How do we trust our higher power? What is perfection?
It's made me wonder what church would be like today if it were structured not around a particular dogma or creed, but around what the individual church goers need. Like, we could start a Church of the Single Parent, and everyone who came would support each other in that journey. When you're no longer single, you could go to the Church of the Newly Married. Or, the Church of the Jilted Lovers. Or, the Church of the Exhausted Mothers. Or, the Church of the Financially Strapped. You could talk about what's on your mind, your challenges and your victories, and everyone would understand.
I'm so grateful to know about the unique culture of sharing that is Al-Anon. There's something immeasurably powerful about finding a group of people who have walked where you need to walk, and who can offer companionship along that journey.
Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or submit a question.
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