Magazine article Addiction Professional

A Church That Needed a Miracle

Magazine article Addiction Professional

A Church That Needed a Miracle

Article excerpt

Endless attempts to revive a moribund Central Park United Methodist Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, produced one flop after another. Who would have guessed that the church's true calling resided in the recovery history of its pastor and a group of earnest parishioners?

When the Rev. Jo Campe asked to be appointed to the urban ministry eight years ago, he received a somewhat puzzled reaction from his bishop. Those concerns appeared to be well founded early on, as Campe's original intent to minister to the local business community was not being realized. But the church services gradually were attracting a different group: many of the attendees of the same 12-Step meetings Campe was frequenting, having been four years sober when arriving in St. Paul.

One individual suggested that the church conduct a recovery-oriented worship service, and the idea took off. What started as a once-monthly service soon began to be scheduled once every Sunday, then for more than one Sunday service, and then on Saturday as well. Today, the St. Paul church has made the full transition, now known to all in the community as the Recovery Church.

"This isn't and wasn't my dream," says Campe, 61. "God had something else in mind that I didn't."

Community's openness

A recent census indicated that about 1,500 people visit the church every week for worship services, AA/NA meetings, aftercare groups conducted by Hazelden, and similar recovery-oriented sessions. "We maintain that we are not an AA group and we are not a regular church. We walk the tightrope between," Campe says.

While some churches have tried to adapt the 12 Steps into a Christian framework, the Recovery Church stays true to the Steps as written and doesn't demand certain beliefs of its members. "One of our guidelines is 'Get out of God's way,'" Campe says. "Everything is about recovery."

He added that the church has attracted a hugely diverse population, but with a common thread of little formal church background after early childhood. "They do not have a preconceived notion of what a church should be. But they're pretty clear about what a church shouldn't be, and that's negative and judgmental," says Campe.

A typical service at the church may begin with a joke to lighten the mood. …

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