By Ansley Brackin
Communication Specialist for The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church
Ringgold United Methodist Church witnessed its city tumble down a harmful, and sometimes fatal, path. Their need for addiction recovery was always obvious, but the solution was unclear until it blew in unexpectedly.
In 2011 Ringgold UMC made North Georgia Conference news by providing a safe haven for the community after a destructive tornado. Churches of various denominations came together to rebuild their city and to shelter its inhabitants with comfort and protection.
Three years later, Boynton UMC, Burning Bush Baptist, Christ Fellowship, Cohutta Presbyterian, Mt. Peria Baptist, Origin Church, Ringgold First Baptist, Springs Community Church, and Ringgold UMC still aid in community recovery, but of a different sort. They decided to join the Cokesbury Recovery network to create Recovery at Ringgold.
The group pursued the Cokesbury network, and Ringgold became its third “Recovery” location after a church member returned from Tennessee with high regards for their program’s influence on her father.
Rev. John Purrington acclaims the natural disaster for clearing the way for the team of churches to provide a viable resource to the community that was desperately needed.
“We realized that together we could leverage relationships for recovery,” says Purrington.
He found members helplessly torn from the church and community because of having to leave the city on the weekends to find help for their struggling family. The travelling sometimes even provided an additional enabler.
Recovery at Ringgold began its weekly meetings in October of 2013. Thursday nights start with worship. The band, made up of members from three of the involved churches, opens the evening with uplifting songs. Children join the beginning of the service before being taken to Precovery Childcare for the remainder of the evening.
Those trained to lead the share groups go through a recovery program as well. Almost a hundred volunteers attended in September to prepare for the successful launch on October 24th.
Participants can join groups for chemically dependent men or women, co-dependent men or women, family support, and a spiritual healing group called “Life Hurts, God Heals”.
“This is really where the growth takes place,” says a group leader, most of which are recovering from addiction as well.
On March 27th an invitational recovery meeting was hosted for curious churches within a fifteen mile radius.
“Our highest need is not money it’s recommendations,” Purrington explains.
New guests learned how the program incorporates scripture into the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
“Anonymity is key,” explains a Cokesbury representative. “Leave it all here when you go.”
Usually attendees watch a telecast of Cokesbury speakers, but for this event special guests from organization attended and spoke with the crowd of anonymous attendees. Most of the speakers themselves have their own battles with recovery. One representative shares why he enjoys attending recovery church services.
“In typical church, people know they are good and they’re getting better,” he says, “but in recovery service you know exactly who you are. You know you are dead and you’re going to come back to life.”
Honesty and openness is a common topic on Thursday nights. The environment is a safe and trusting space where participants can be as in-depth in their sharing as they wish.
“It’s that depth where miracles happen,” Rev. Susan Reggin of Cohutta Presbyterian remarks of the trust that develops week after week.
Recovery at Ringgold continues to grow at a steady pace. The band of churches provides the community with a greater sense of safety and inner strength.
To learn more about the Recovery at Cokesbury Network visit. www.recoveryatcokesbury.com