Thursday, January 16, 2020

BTI and Windham Area Clergy Association launch yearlong “Spreading Abundant Hope” Program

By Elizabeth Richards

When dealing with substance use and addiction issues, hope is something that can be in short supply.  This year, the Be the Influence (BTI) Coalition, in conjunction with the Windham Area Clergy Association (WACA), is working to change that. 

The “Spreading Abundant Hope” program kicked off last Sunday, with area religious institutions including a few minutes of information on prevention and hope for recovery in their services. BTI has given participating churches 12 talking points to use to spread the BTI message once a month all year long.

Laura Morris, Project Director for the BTI coalition, said that along with the talking points, BTI offers a resource information center for each church, which includes a range of materials on prevention and recovery resources. 

The initiative began last year, as the BTI coalition worked to better involve the religious sector in spreading the message of hope and prevention, Morris said.
Reverend Tim Higgins of St. Ann’s Episcopal church is on the board of BTI, and chairs WACA.  Higgins said he invited Morris to a WACA meeting last year so they could talk about what they could do, as local churches, to be involved with BTI and do something that might make a difference. That’s where the idea for the Day of Abundant Hope was formed. 

“Each church found a way to use the pulpit to talk about a variety of services that each church could provide for substance abuse and addiction in the community,” Higgins said.  At St. Ann’s, a member shared her personal story and then Higgins talked about services available in the community, he said. 

Morris attended that service and was available afterwards to have conversations with members of the community.  She said she had at least two people approach her to tell her how much they appreciated the information, because they didn’t know where to go for help and didn’t necessarily want to talk about it with others. “That one day went over well and this year we wanted to do it more significantly,” Morris said. 

Higgins said that when they talked about it this fall, they discussed whether it was the most effective way to promote BTI in the community.  They decided that instead of a one-time event, they would create the year-long program where the message would be consistently shared throughout the year. 

“In the religious community, we believe that our bodies are temples of the spirit, and self-care is a really important piece of that. With that being the case, we fully promote folks taking care of self in this capacity because it aligns itself also with what we hear in scripture,” Higgins said. talking points incorporated into services, along with the resources available on an ongoing basis, will give community members important information about where they can turn for help.  “It’s not only getting the information out there but it’s making sure that they know there are local resources that are available to them,” Morris said. “The presence is right there in their church so as they’re walking out, they can grab it, but they always know it’s there.”

Morris said that the hope is that the program will spread beyond the five or six churches who participated last year and become region wide.  While that isn’t the case yet, she said, “If they’re doing it monthly it really doesn’t matter when they come on, as long as it’s kind of an ongoing presence.”

“We’re hoping to build on this event,” Morris said.  Future ideas include a 5K Run for Recovery, with proceeds going to help someone who is in recovery, as well as a healthy vendor fair to spread the word about resources in the community.

Although the current commitment is for a year, “The idea is that it will continue to sustain itself, and become an ongoing event,” Morris said. “If there’s a little bit of presence every month, in as many churches as possible, growing and growing, we could really affect a lot of people,” she said.

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