Church Offers Up Support With Celebrate Recovery!

January 09, 2010

By Jessica Farrish

Addiction, compulsion and dysfunction can take many forms, but First United Methodist Church on Heber Street in Beckley is providing an answer to those who feel trapped in struggles they are afraid to share with others.

The church is one of around 12,000 nationwide to offer Celebrate Recovery!, a program started by the staff of Pastor Rick Warren, author of the Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church in California.

Celebrate Recovery! is a “broadly based Christian response to the hurts, hang-ups and habits that people face in life,” said Dr. Bob Stoddard, First United Methodist’s lead pastor.

“It’s open to people with all kinds of problems and needs,” Stoddard said. “It’s all over the map, age-wise.

“We know from what people are saying that this makes a real difference in people’s lives, including my own.”

Stoddard can’t talk about the issues of people in the group due to privacy, but gambling, anger, pornography, drugs, alcohol and abuse are all problems that many people need help to overcome.

There is no cost to participate in Celebrate Recovery!

Stoddard said he’s had to confront some “real issues” regarding his health, and being involved in Celebrate Recovery! since the program started last March has helped.

“A lot of that was to call my doctor and say, ‘You know, I haven’t seen you in two years; you said to lose weight ... I’ve gained 10 pounds,’” Stoddard admitted. “‘I’m not taking care of my blood pressure, and I’m embarrassed to come talk to you.’”

Since making that first phone call, Stoddard has lost 25 pounds.

Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered program that operates on eight principles.

Members also follow the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, with Jesus Christ being the “higher power” acknowledged in the group, but people of all faiths are welcome to participate.

The program begins with a regular worship service.

Music is provided by Flight of Faith, a Coal City group that is currently working on a CD.

Flight of Faith leader Craig Smith wrote a song as a teen-ager when he was struggling with his own demons, and that song has become the theme of the FUMC group, Stoddard said.

“You’d almost think those of us who are 60 would say that’s not our kind of music because we rock the house,” he added. “In my opinion, we rock the house.”

Pastor David Rumberg delivers a message on a recovery-related issue after worship.

Following a break, the larger group then divides into smaller groups to discuss the issue.

Men and women each have their own groups because very personal issues are often discussed more openly with those of the same gender.

“Pornography is not going to make it into a mixed group,” Stoddard said, adding that women often don’t feel comfortable talking to men about experiences involving abuse.

Stoddard said the group — called an open share group — gives each member who wants to talk a certain amount of time to share their thoughts, struggles and experiences with others.

Speaking is not mandatory, but the privacy of every speaker is protected, Stoddard stated.

“What is said in the small group stays there,” he said.

After the small groups, all members come together again for Lighthouse Cafe, a shared dinner.

“We assemble in a large group around the tables, and people have a chance to share with each other,” he said. “Occasionally, in an open-share group, they’ll say something I want to respond to personally to them, or they want to talk to me personally.

“Lighthouse Cafe is when we do that,” he said. “We can sit down one-on-one or six people around the table.

“We’re following a model that was developed at Saddleback, and we’ve stuck pretty close to the book.”

Stoddard and FUMC staff attended a Celebrate Recovery! training group at Saddleback Church in August, and FUMC is one of six groups in the state approved by the international Celebrate Recovery!, Stoddard said.

People who have struggles with food, anger, drugs, alcohol, depression, anxiety, pornography, abusing others or being abused by others, or any other issue, are invited to attend, he added.

“We don’t require them to identify themselves beyond their first name,” he said, adding they are not required to join any group. “We don’t ask for money.

“People can come on Monday night and participate in the level they’re comfortable participating.”

Laura Fygetakes, a deaconal minister, takes newcomers through the Celebrate Recovery! pattern so a visitor “just doesn’t get thrown into an open share group,” Stoddard said.

He encouraged both men and women to come to Celebrate Recovery!

“This is not a Methodist program,” said Stoddard, who hosts the radio program “Faith First” on WJLS. “I want the program to reach a wider community.”

Plans are in the works for another men’s “step-study group,” which leads men who struggle in many areas through the 12 steps of recovery developed by the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Celebrate Recovery! is held at 7 p.m. each Monday.

© The Register-Herald, Beckley, WV

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