By Christopher Bennett
Recently I had the pleasure of hearing a sermon on community and its importance in spiritual life. Discussing the importance of community in recovery is “preaching to the choir” if such a thing has ever existed. Sobriety is a lifestyle shift that is foundationally built on community and social supports. You see this very clearly in the mission and practice at Desens House! While the building completion is drawing closer and closer, there is such a huge and loyal community building before there is even a physical location to call home. An important note in this sentiment is that this is an observation from a Virginian that was introduced to the organization by the crowd favorite, Dr. Alicia Vann. If an outsider such as myself can see this from several hours away, it is surely something special to experience in person!
I think this is also a prime example of when Jesus called Simon to become Peter, to become and build the Ekklesia (Matthew 16:18). Most of your bibles will use the word “church” in place of Ekklesia but I have often heard it to mean “gathering” or “community.” Others still suggest it means “called ones” or “congregation.” Without getting lost in a word study, I think this is an important distinction from the often-used translation of “church.” We regularly hear that “church is the people and not the building” and while this is certainly true, this is also why I prefer to think of Ekklesia as something other than “church.”
The recovery community, and very much Desens House, is an Ekklesia in the truest sense of the ancient Greek word. A people without boundaries or walls, joining together for a common purpose… a calling. And just as Jesus intended, a group who leans into each other for support in turbulent times whether it is with substance use or other stressors that often lead to a return to use. We have to remember that while substance use is the underlying thing many seek to avoid, it does not stop the world from throwing things at us to search for a reason to resume escapism. That is where Jesus and our various Ekklesia come in!
But the same sermon that sparked this line of thought also brought up another important facet: as a community we all need to have buy-in. It is easy to let the leaders lead and others follow but sometimes the leaders need to rest and the followers step into roles to not only allow this break, but to find their own growth and areas of opportunity. If you are reading this, you likely have an affiliation to Desens House or myself, and I would challenge you to do the following: find out where you can get more involved in your own Ekklesia!
Maybe it is simply by greeting people you may not know or who may be checking out your gathering for the first time to help make them feel important and welcome. Maybe it is by preparing the coffee and snacks so that people can feel physically fed in addition to the emotional, mental, and spiritual connection associated with your group. Be intentional about your involvement and look for ways that may be uncomfortable at times in areas you are not used to. A funny thing happens when you do this: you grow! And if it isn’t painstakingly obvious by now, when you grow… so does your Ekklesia.
Biography: Chris Bennett is a faithful believer in Jesus Christ whose heart is to see folks go from point A to point B. Recently receiving his Licensed Bachelor of Social Work designation in Virginia, he is completing his Masters Degree venture at Columbia University in May 2023. He currently works as the Lead Case Manager at a homeless shelter. Chris felt drawn to contribute to the Writers Nook because “I think we really isolate people in recovery and sometimes it’s important to know we are all fighting battles in our own way.”