By Rev. Kimber Govett | Written on March 13, 2020
Upon being appointed to Sunrise UMC almost 2 years ago, I recall a mixture of feelings of excitement and uncertainty. After all, this was my first appointment as a Local Pastor. What would the people be like? What I found is that Sunrise, like any church, is full of people on a journey of faith. As I began to know our congregation, I learned we have several folks who have celebrated many successful years in recovery from addiction. As I grew to know them, I learned how their road to recovery was enriched by a deep faith in God, which led to faithful discipleship.
I listened to stories they shared revealing how God transformed their lives and thought- how can we reach out to others who both find themselves on the path of recovery and those in relationship and community with them? How can we share the message of God’s unconditional love and grace with our recovery community beyond the walls of our church? We began to explore this at Sunrise and last fall, we made the decision to start a new Recovery Worship service, specifically designed to reach out to a new community, folks in recovery from addiction and those who care for them.
We came to realize there are people who have the desire to share how their Christian faith has been part of their journey to sobriety, but might not feel comfortable attending a traditional Sunday morning worship experience. We are cautious with our message as folks in recovery understand the hard work is up to the individual; however, many have found that a new or renewed faith in God has provided additional strength along the way, and growing closer to God has inspired them to be diligent in their work.
Our recovery worship service is open to the community and each week we welcome a speaker to share their testimony and their faith in God. Our speakers have spoken on diverse topics ranging from substance abuse, eating disorders, and mental health issues. They share freely and openly and each one of us is reminded of our own brokenness. One person shared of their time in prison and how they are making amends and living in God’s grace, while another shared of their heartbreak of having children removed from the home, followed by the joy of reconciliation once they were reunited.
Many of the stories we hear involve a journey from darkness back into the light and these are stories we can all relate to whether or not we struggle with addictions. Several folks who previously held slightly judgmental views on substance abuse have shared their transformation with us and stigmas have been removed. As a member of our congregation shared, “I use to hold judgment toward people who used drugs and alcohol, but now through this service, I am beginning to understand it is a disease like any other.
Through the ministry of this Recovery Service, we witness the reconciliation that takes place between family members and those who have entered into a path of recovery. Many testimonies share how the act of forgiveness has healed broken relationships, as well as healing their own hearts, as they have had to work to forgive themselves. We affirm in our messages the unconditional forgiveness, love, and grace we receive from God through Jesus Christ.
We listen to stories of justice and hope. Folks who have done the hard work of making amends from their past and then discovering hope in their future. Moving forward, their lives are focused on helping to make the world a better place, reaching out as mentors and sponsors to others living in addiction. During our worship service, we sing songs, pray, meditate, light candles for folks in recovery, and listen to testimony, scripture and a message. During our weekly sharing of the sacrament of Holy Communion, we have welcomed folks into this holy feast who share they haven’t felt welcome to the Table in the past. In opening our doors each week, we have welcomed a new community of people into our Sanctuary who, many have expressed, have not felt welcome in church before.
We share the following words by Micky Scottbey Jones. I believe they best describe our weekly recovery worship services:
Together we will create brave space. Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” — We exist in the real world. We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds. In this space We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world, We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere, We call each other to more truth and love. We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow. We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know. We will not be perfect. This space will not be perfect. It will not always be what we wish it to be. But It will be our brave space together, and We will work on it side by side.
At Sunrise we have taken a courageous step in ministry to reach out and start something new, and in turn we have been blessed each Wednesday evening as we gather for worship, share in the Lord’s Supper, pray for each other, and listen to testimony that transforms us all as the body of Christ.
Blessings, Kimber Govett