Ask anyone on the street, in the stores, or around the water cooler what they think Bennington’s biggest problem might be, and you’ll surely hear a lot about addiction. Call it the “drug problem.” Or the “opiate crisis.” Lives are being destroyed and lost, and a host of problems, both personal and public, are directly related to addiction.
There are various services and help for those affected by addiction. 12-step programs are well-attended, and lives are being reclaimed. We are making progress, yet we’re in the middle of our generation’s greatest battle. Professional and volunteer services are growing, addressing medical, psychological, social, vocational, and other needs.
But where do we find hope for our souls? How can we piece back together our shattered spirits? If the disease of addiction attacks our innermost being, how do we find healing? The spiritual needs of those affected by addiction are very great indeed. And when it comes down to it, we’re all affected by addiction in some way, and many of us are affected very, very deeply.
I have spoken directly with many of the leaders of our local churches and faith communities — my friends from all over the social and theological map. I have discovered that our faith communities do not yet have much direct engagement with the spirituality of those affected by addiction. I hope to change that, and I hope to start very soon, with a small step of faith.
So on Friday, July 7 at 7pm at 601 Main Street, we are starting a monthly gathering called “Mercy Street.” It is a simple gathering of those affected by addiction: whether in recovery, in active use, family, friends, survivors, supporters, or whoever. Those of all faiths or no faith are welcome to come together for music, story, and prayer. I believe that hope, healing, and wholeness are found as we gather together in community and look to God for grace. So we will gather to sing songs of hope, to share our stories of redemption, and to pray with and for one another.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am, on paper at least, very poorly qualified to call for such a gathering. But I am convinced that God enjoys using the unlikeliest to make a difference (Moses the great prophet stuttered, for just one example). And as I make more and more friends who are greatly affected by addiction, I’m discovering that we’re all in the same boat: we all need hope and healing from above, no matter who we are, where we’ve been, or what we’ve done. I’ve found that gathering around song, story, and prayer ignites something that nothing else can.
You and yours are welcome to join us on “Mercy Street” on Friday, July 7 at 7pm at 601 Main Street in Bennington (the facility of First Baptist Church). We hope to gather monthly. You can find more information at www.mercystreetbennington.org or facebook.com/MercyStreetBennington
Bob Wiegers is Pastor of First Baptist Church of Bennington and board member of the Turning Point Recovery Center of Bennington County.