A call for the “12-Step Church” in 2012

By Blogger Bo Dean

Imagine if we did “church” on Sundays the same way that 12-step groups do their meetings. A moderator opens the meeting with a prayer, readings are done, and then a topic is suggested for the meeting based on a shared principle or a problem or situation that someone is struggling with or experiencing at that moment.

From that point on, each person in the room shares his or her “experience, strength and hope” on the subject or related issues. The moderator or meeting chair guides so that one person never dominates, and there is this amazing sharing that goes on. Typically, the sharing is so gut-level and real that the honesty in the room is palpable. Imagine us as Christians doing this very thing.

I have begun to think more about this as I not only experience the way in which we do “church” but how we choose the very churches that we attend. The one-stop shop delivery of “the message” by one person in a typical Christian church is how most churches operate. Sure, there are hymns sung or music played, some readings that are based on some lectionary whose origin or development I would bet most people have no real knowledge of, and then there is “the sermon” or the homily or some form of speech that may or may not be based or derived from the readings of that day. But there is no discussion, no room for questions and the only “message” comes from the top down.

For me, I have learned to want and pray for spiritual growth. I know that is what truly counts in my life. I will leave behind me what I have done, not what I accumulate. So, increasingly, I need in my “church” or in my life (which is church…as those gathered together to share and witness in God are a church) to be a place of sharing and differences and that growth. Where is the challenge if I am fed what I believe? Where is there a call among each other to grow?

As Christians, where is there anything remotely resembling that call for love, hope, charity, if we cannot worship, discuss, and find our way as a body? Where is there true understanding if that understanding is coming from just one source or from a theology based on an understanding we have not explored with one another?

I was introduced to these posts as a writer and a voice for LGBT issues. Well, I am a gay man, happily married these last 15 years, and someone who is deeply, devotedly, and gratefully a servant as well as a loved son of God. I have discovered in my own journey, through just those questioning bodies, through understanding my own heart, and through seeing the work of my God in the world around me that I am just as he would have me and just as he made me. So, as I write, I write with one and only one certainty: that I am loved just as I am.

I am going to write on this blog about my spiritual beliefs, about issues that we face as a world and, yes, about my experience as a gay man. But I believe I am going to write them like what I would like to see in that 12 step church.

I will write my experience, strength and hope and share my viewpoint and hope that if there is discussion that arises from it, it will come from each person’s experience, strength and hope. In this “church” we all have a place to share what we believe with that certainty of love. In this “church” we can open ourselves up to other thoughts, ideas and notions and not be subject to heresy. It is my hope that in the writings ahead this can be a place to be about the business of true spiritual work.

So, let’s have church.


3 responses to “A call for the “12-Step Church” in 2012

  1. Excellent! We all have to imagine a better way to relate, learn and evolve so that our needs for individual growth and community relations can be met. Enjoyed this very much!

  2. Well said. Religious and spiritual growth requires inquiry, discussion and even doubt. As Ghandi said, Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into. It is not a passive endeavor.

  3. Good insights about how church can be more meaningful. We Christian Scientists try to do this at our weekly Wednesday testimony meetings. Our elected Reader reads citations from the Bible and our textbook on a topic of interest, and then the meeting is opened up to us to relate personal experiences of how our prayers have solved problems of personal relationships, employment, health and physical challenges, or whatever. This is the opportunity for us to prove that we practice what we preach, and to share with others who may find our experiences comforting and helpful. I find these get togethers comforting and empowering.

    Cynthia Barnett, Raleigh

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