I had a powerful experience over the weekend. Representatives of our local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting wanted some time with me in order to clear up some tensions that have arisen in the recent months about the relationship between AA and the parish. The meeting ended well, but like so many other issues meetings just mean awareness of issues. Actions take time and success requires mutual effort.
See, the thing is we have been growing as a parish. Not just in numbers, but also in programs. Both Music and Spiritual Formation have been looking for times to get groups together throughout the week in order to offer more to each other and to the wider community. So, things like our "Popcorn and a Movie" series and a more ambitious concert series are putting strain on our ability to provide AA with a place/space/time to meet on Friday evenings.
AA requires a regular schedule, a sense of predictable routine. People need to know that a meeting exists, that it is easy to find and that it happens on a consistent basis. People also need to feel welcomed.
Not easy most of the time in most churches. It sometimes takes being willing to let the rest of the programs "go dark" on that night(theater term--indicating that the lights on the marquee are not lit to indicate a show that evening). This parish, though, aches for space and time to schedule its expanding programming. Trinity looks like a big church, but we really lack in multi-use, comfortable space for medium sized groups to gather in comfort. Mondays and Tuesdays, we have meetings chewing up nearly every open room. Wednesdays, the youth group takes over. Thursday nights, choir. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the "quiet" evenings...But even then we get hit with programs. Concerts, movies, dinners, etc. There aren't enough hours or days available to the membership of the church, most days, much less any group "from the outside."
Still, I don't consider AA an "outside" group. AA was started under the shadow of the wing of the Episcopal Church. I can't imagine being the rector of a parish without being willing to embrace some form of recovery group. The program is important...It literally saves lives. For that, we need to keep the group going and supported.
And yet...There is always an "and yet" in parish life...We have Clothing Sale/Grandma's Attic going on this weekend. Every square inch of available floor space in the Parish Hall and Chapel are covered in second-hand, gently used clothes and the knick knacks of attic cleanouts.
AA needs a place to be...Where?
When all else fails, the Church. This week, they are in the sanctuary. I don't like moving them around, but at least we have them on the ground level. A tough choice, but one that I hope, along with our meeting this past weekend, will bring us more closely together.
That is one of the tough parts of Parish ministry. Finding a place for everyone is a great philosophy...But putting that idea into everyday practice means push back. This time, it is coming from two inanimate places: the calendar and the floor plan. This is a problem, because there isn't enough, never enough, space...Or time...For everything.
So, God willing, we will weather this storm together.