By: Colonie Hughes, Co-founder & Executive Women’s Program Director
If you’ve spent much time around me or 7 Springs Ministries, you know that I’m a huge proponent for faith-based recovery worship services. Around here, ours are called “GRO services.”
Once a month at a nearby church, we gather for a communal dinner, which is followed by a time of worship, an encouraging message and prayer. And it’s completely open to the public. You don’t have to be involved in our recovery program — you don’t even have to be an addict — to join in.
I struggle to contain my passion for these gatherings because I have seen their benefits bear fruit in the lives of so many people.
Of course, if you struggle with trauma, pain or addiction of any kind, these beautiful services are 100% for you. Even if you don’t, I encourage you to explore them. If your children are old enough, bring them.
I promise you: The gifts of these services can benefit anyone, addict or not. Here’s why:
We collectively put our eyes on Jesus.
Of utmost importance, we worship Jesus Christ at these meetings, lifting Him to His rightful place in our lives. If we’ve learned anything over these past two years, it’s that everyone is going through something. You may be going through intravenous drug addiction, the illness of a loved one, a pandemic-related financial squeeze, or estrangement from a family member.
Regardless of what we’re going through, it is supremely important that we take our eyes off of our problems and focus them on our Savior King. When we do that side-by-side, its meaning seems to be even richer. There’s power in making an individual faith-filled choice knowing that the person next to you is choosing the same thing.
We find community and connection.
Feeling alone in your fight can destroy your hopes of ever succeeding. Finding connection can do just the opposite. All humans crave connection. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, community is born at the moment one person says to another, “What! You too?”
I find that the communal dinner time before the service is just as important as the “spiritual” stuff. In this time of fellowship over food, we get to learn about one another and discover people in our community we didn’t know existed. We get to listen to one another and share our honest stories. I’m reminded of the words of Paul to the Galatians:
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” — Galatians 6:2
How can we carry each other’s burdens without knowing one another? A strong faith community is crucial to fostering recovery and spiritual growth.
Fear of the unknown vanishes.
I’ll admit that for many people — especially for those in the church or those who haven’t had addiction directly affect their lives — addiction can be scary. By association, addicts can be scary. So many people only know what movies and TV have told them about life-defeating issues and the people who struggle with them.
Yet, we know that Jesus wholeheartedly welcomed outcasts and was unafraid to embrace the untouchable. When we all gather together in a communal pursuit to praise our Creator, we learn about one another. Fear of the unknown vanishes from our minds.
Judgment gives way to understanding.
When we commune together, we grow in love and understanding. In fact, it’s in these worship gatherings that we discover how truly alike we are. Our “alikeness” starts with our common brokenness and collective reliance on a King to save us. Someone’s drug struggle is no worse or better than someone else’s overeating or trauma or love addiction or alcoholism or pornography.
In GRO services and group recovery gatherings, we get to hear someone’s story. Understanding doesn’t allow for excuses, but it does foster compassion.
Judgment has no place where compassion abounds.
People get the chance to express their feelings.
Almost everyone who turns to substances and self-defeating behaviors does so to numb pain. For many, feeling unheard and voiceless is one source of that pain. Furthermore, sobriety shakes up a lot of emotions and takes away an addict’s numbing mechanism.
Thankfully, at a recovery worship service, people get the chance to express themselves! At our GRO services, we even go so far as to offer performance opportunities for our Esther House dance therapy classes. Feelings ranging from anger to elation are allowed to surface in a healthy way at a faith-based recovery gathering.
We have fun and eat together!
Best of all, we get the chance to live by having a good time, encountering God and enjoying one another. Our monthly GRO services are designed to connect people through food, fellowship and faith. I encourage everyone to find a recovery worship service, meet your community and have a good time.
Struggling to find one? You don’t have to be a recovery counselor to start one. Ask your local church if they can assist by offering a space, food or worship help. A strong faith community is vital to fostering recovery and spiritual growth.
If you live in our neck of the woods, join our GRO Services, held on the first Saturday of each month at Word Alive Church in Oxford, Alabama. Dinner begins at 5 p.m. followed by service at 6 p.m. Our services include live worship, a message and prayer. GRO is open to the public as a community outreach service. You can learn more on our GRO Recovery Program page.