Before the days of COVID, Good Friday services at this church were unlike any I’d ever been to before. Because this was the first time I belonged to a church that offered recovery meetings on Friday nights.
This church partnered with the local criminal courts, so that when the court orders someone arrested on drug or alcohol charges to attend a recovery program, these Friday night meetings were an option for them.
This program includes the 12 steps, with step 2 being faith, and step 3 being surrender to a higher power. And what better place to surrender to a higher power than in church?
Since these meetings are always on a Friday night, every year they coincide with the Good Friday church service. The first year I attended the Good Friday service, it felt a little awkward. Seeing people I didn’t recognize because they only go to the recovery meetings, made me feel like I was crashing someone else’s party.
First, the pastors spoke about Jesus’s story of death and resurrection, and how it was all about redemption. When the church service was finished. A man and a woman stood in front of the altar with chips. These chips, or coins, were given to people to mark different milestones in their sobriety. They would call out, “Who has 30 days?” Meaning, “Who has been sober for 30 days?” Then people would go up there and one by one, take a 30 day chip. Some would choose to speak their name into the microphone.
“Mike, alcoholic.” He takes his chip and then people would cheer and applaud him for making it to 30 days.
“Susan, alcoholic.” Cheer and applause.
“Chris, drug addict.” More cheers and applause.
As each person went up and got their chip, that’s when it struck me. Every Friday night was a redemption service for all of these recovering addicts. An opportunity to make a new start for themselves. I also realized how much courage it must have taken some of them, to publicly say their name and addiction out loud to a couple hundred strangers. I tell you some of the most humble people I know are people in recovery. It’s a beautiful thing.
Sure, some people attended these meetings just to get their court ordered paperwork signed. But many others grew to love the people at the church, and not only continued with the program, but became regular church members and volunteers.
Like the man who used to be homeless and addicted to crack cocaine. He is now over 20 years sober, a business owner, and happily married. He’s also someone I consider to be a dear friend.
However, he doesn’t know MY addiction. Oh, it’s not drug or alcohol related. It’s more an addiction to my ego, my selfish behavior, my reluctance to think of others before myself. It’s why I go to church, and why I never want to miss this redemption service.
Good Friday service won’t be happening the same way this year because of the COVID restrictions. But I’m going to pray that it restarts next year, and continues every year after. Because for me, there’s no greater hope than seeing someone who has beaten the odds in their own personal struggles. It inspires me to do the same. To choose my higher power over my higher ego.
Maybe one day, I’ll also earn a 30 day chip.
Stay safe, and have a beautiful weekend!