my name is…

19 10 2011

A name and a weakness. That is a profound way to begin a relationship.

Since leaving youth groups, and with the exception of a couple of years in a congregation of mostly 20-somethings, there have rarely been any people my age in church. And certainly not men. But yesterday I found a fellowship meeting in a church, made up almost predominantly of young men, aged 35 and under. It was quite a revelation. Here are my peers!

Only it wasn’t a church.

It was a Cocaine Anonymous meeting.

I was there supporting a friend, and as I found when I’ve been to AA with a friend as well, it is a striking place to be. If you’ve never been to a 12-step group, we the church have a lot to learn. The first two things you learn about people are their name and their weakness. That is a profound way to begin a relationship. Everyone is there because they know they need to be. Everyone is there because they have had their moment of clarity when they realise they cannot do this alone.

Why do we have a lot to learn? Because church is about people with a name and a weakness. Church is about people saying ‘I can’t do this alone’. Church is not somewhere you go because you always have, because everyone does, because it feels nice, because you need  a power struggle, because it looks good. To go to church is to say My name is … , and I can’t do this alone. I need God, and I need you all. You are different from me, we will disagree on matters of faith and the structure of worship. But we are here because we are weak. 

There was such power in that CA meeting. Men, young men, a broad spectrum of them, admitting they need help and seeking it from each other. That is a precious thing. I wonder why cocaine grabbed them. I wonder why young men are so susceptible. And I wonder why we don’t usually see them in church.

I wonder.

If you or someone you know has a drug problem called Narcotics Anonymous on 0300 999 1212. If it is specifically cocaine or crack, call Cocaine Anonymous on 0800 612 0225. I did, and they were brilliant.

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7 responses

19 10 2011
Edward Green (@EdwardBGreen)

I have known people say the same about AA meetings – if only Church could be like this.

Our Steps group explored weakness(http://www.future-shape-of-church.org/?e=29) and it was very moving. But folks still struggled that as as the leader/priest/minister I was working from weakness too.

I think part of the problem is we can’t get our head around sin as Christians. We are sin-aholics, yet we either deny it or beat ourselves up over it.

When I go to Confession I am always surprised by stuff I hadn’t prepared for – yet in that space where absolution and reconciliation is so clearly offered there is space for the spirit to reveal not only things I do, but inner attitudes.

19 10 2011
Kevin

Weakness is such a powerful thing. Weakness modelled in leadership can be frightening, disconcerting, or just misunderstood! But to paraphrase what you say, it’s only in our weakness god can truly meet with us.

19 10 2011
layanglicana

“If you’ve never been to a 12-step group, we the church have a lot to learn”:
Oh yes, indeed we do and I hope this blog post may trigger some action by the church. This is a compelling post, compellingly written.

19 10 2011
Kevin

Thank you. We are the church and we have a lot to learn! All the time.

19 10 2011
Edge

My name is, my name is, my name is… Slim Shady. Or Edge. Or something.
My weakness is possibly the best part of me and/or the worst part of me. It depends sometimes.
One of the saddest things I’ve discovered in churches over the years is how often the people who encourage us to bring our hurts out into the open are the people least likely to do the same if their own lives turn dark.
I’m guilty, too. It’s easier and safer to turn silent and withdraw. We talk glibly about things that we can’t live up to.
If there’s something about our churches that discourages people from opening up, I think it’s partly because the leaders and the elders and the movers and the faith-shakers don’t model such openness themselves.
This is complicated by our human frailties. Some of us probably don’t want our role models to be ostentatiously displaying their sins, and if they did, some of us couldn’t be trusted not to judge them or cause difficulties for them. But nor do we want churches where the authority figures are unwilling or afraid to be seen to stumble.
You’re right, Kevin – there is a real developmental need. Dare we get more real with each other? Maybe I’ll tell you my weaknesses if you tell me yours… but who dares start?
Do CA and AA meetings allow people to be honest because there is an atmosphere of trust which is rooted in a shared sense of brokenness and desperation? When religious people gather together, as Jesus discovered, trust and brokenness are dangerous currencies to tender. Because fear and smugness and judgementalists are everywhere. And you might just get crucified…

21 10 2011
Kevin

I think your final paragraph sums it up – there is an atmosphere of trust rooted in shared sense of brokenness and desperation. There are many Christian experiences of the same, but one of the reasons many churches do not feel like this is I think there are so many competing factors and motivations. CA/AA groups are small, with one aim; churches are usually large, with a multitude of motivations and understandings. They can never be the same, and maybe I am being unfair to compare them. But they can certainly help us as we are part of creating churches where weakness and vulnerability are a given…

27 10 2011
David Eversden

The process or recycling takes time. Christ has not saved us fully yet. We are rescued from the heap and slowly lovingly restored back to God’s orginal design by the saviour. To say I am saved is incorrect. We are fully saved when we are stood with Christ in a shiny new ressureuction body with Sin totaly absent. I think Churches fail because we sart relationships, not from my name is I struggle with, but my name is and I got saved and can do x, y and z. God is calling me to be at, blah blah blah. Straight away you put up a barrier or image of success and so the competition for superior Holiness begins and people hide and push down their weekness becasue fear or exposure keeps them from wanting to admit amongst all these successful Christians that they are weak and need help.I think a sence of Piety has crept into the circles I have been in, when I look back i see a rat race to being filled with God and being better and better in play and opporating in more Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I think people are afraid of being judged by the others. Thank God he is not fooled by any of it and holds each one individually accountable. My Twin brother shared a stroy about how his wife and a couple of others in a large congregation in Lower Region Street, London, are the only ones who talk to a blind man amongst them. I was shocked. Why? Why do the others ignore him. Would Jesus do that? Ignore Him? No way. It is sad. The mark of a disciple of Christ is love, love for God and your fellow human being, and what are we doing more than others, Jesus would ask?

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