The Program

Midnight again, and posting about the Lord. Good times.

I haven’t been to church in quite awhile, and it’s bugging me, so I’m going this Sunday come…well, I’m just going. But it occurred to me last week that I went to something very churchlike last Saturday. I have several friends who are in AA, and I went to a speaker meeting with one of them last week. A speaker meeting is slightly different from the usual format, in which a lot of reading and discussion take up most of the meeting, and someone speaks for a short time. In a speaker meeting, obviously, someone speaks a lot and there isn’t as much (or any) discussion.

Anyway, if you know anything about AA, you know that a spiritual component is very important to the program. You don’t have to believe in God, but you do have to believe in something that’s bigger than you – many people think of the collective energy of the meeting they go to as their higher power. But AA is very much like church for reasons that have nothing to do with the spiritual aspect.

There’s a common purpose that everyone shares (to stop drinking). There’s a shared set of principles that every member believes in (the Twelve Steps). There’s a text that everyone refers to (the Big Book). There’s definitely a community of faith that makes it pretty easy for most people to talk to each other, whether they know each other or not, and whether or not they’re at the same place in the program.

What I liked about this near-church experience was that I think it had something that a lot of churches aspire to but don’t have. One of the things I’ve heard mentioned at more than one meeting (I had a partner for many years who was in the program) is that weakness, not strength, is what binds the members of the program together. They come together because there’s something they can’t do unless they have a lot of help. That seems to create a bond that allows for humility, kindness, dedication, effort – so many complex and positive things that come out of the shared principles. On the other hand, sometimes when I’m in church I feel that people come together because they’re many different things – strong, angry, frightened, judgmental, needy. But unlike AA, because there isn’t that admission of common weakness, it’s easy for people to hide the weaknesses they carry with them.

Not that I’m accusing churches everywhere of being filled with hypocrisy. Don’t get me wrong. I just have felt that bond more strongly when I’ve gone to AA meetings with friends, although maybe I was romanticizing the whole business. Anytime you go to a place where you think people really get to belong, it’s attractive. At any rate, it’s good to know that it isn’t necessary to go to church to feel like there’s a community of faith out there.

Then again, without being an alcoholic, I seem to be missing a fairly important qualification for membership. 🙂

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3 Responses to “The Program”


  1. 1 dean July 6, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    you’re right again Holly, church isn’t a place, it’s the people. and when A church becomes something that talks AT you rather than WITH you, then it isn’t really a church at all.

    keep visiting –

  2. 2 tobeme July 11, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Interesting take on an AA meeting. When everyone has commonanlity and everyones common thread is an acknowled weakeness I can see where in many ways this would be a mush more enriching experience than attending a religious service.

  3. 3 hdolezalek July 12, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    The interesting this is that a higher power is part of, but not the main focus of, the meeting. Every meeting has a concrete goal (helping its members to stay away from alcohol), and the higher power is an essential part of meeting that goal. But it isn’t the goal. That way, everyone’s spirituality and way of being in touch with their higher power is personal, while everyone’s ultimate goal is the same. The commonality based on that formula is remarkable. I had people coming up to me and saying hi left and right, because they felt a commonality with me that transcended any difference among us. I felt bad saying that I was just here with a friend. (Then again, that probably made them think I was just in denial. 🙂 )


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