Bill Wilson became sober when he prayed to the "Great Physician" for help and had his famous conversion experience at Towns Hospital.
Dr. Bob Smith and his wife, Anne, attended the local chapter of the Oxford Movement in Akron Ohio while Bill Wilson attended the one in New York which was associated with the Episcopalean minister Sam Shoemaker. When Bill Wilson was in Akron he feared that he himself would drink again if he didn't find another drunk he could help. He had discovered, with the help of Dr. William Silkworth, that he himself had stayed sober by helping other alcoholics. The later AA saying would be, "you can't keep it, unless you give it away."
Bill Wilson was put in touch with Dr. Bob Smith by Henrietta Seiberling through Dr. Walter Tunks of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Bill Wilson had told her he was a member of the Oxford group and a drunk who needed to talk to another drunk. Henrietta remembered Dr. Bob because she'd convened a meeting at the home of the inventor T. Henry Williams. At the close of the meeting Dr. Bob was invited to pray and the group got down on their knees and together prayed for Dr. Bob's recovery. Henrietta considered Bill Wilson's arrival 'manna from heaven'.
She arranged the meeting between reluctant Dr. Bob and eager Bill Wilson at her Gate Lodge home in the Seiberling estate.
AA dated it's founding from Dr. Bob's alleged last drink, June 10, 1935. The founding of the first group in Akron Ohio followed. Almost all it's basic ideas came from the Bible
1) Abstinence, 2) Reliance on the Creator and Christian conversion 3) Obedience to God's will by walking in love and eliminating sinful conduct 4) Growing in fellowship with God through Bible Study, prayer, seeking guidance and study of literature 5) Helping other alcoholics to get straightened out.
Within 2 years about 50% of the first serious 40 had achieved continuous sobriety.
Meanwhile in time Bill Wilson returned to New York where he continued to meet with Rev. Sam Shoemaker. Later Catholic priest, Father Dowling became another of Bill's close confidants.
By the writing of the Big Book of Alcoholic's Anonymous the organizational described itself as 'non denominational'.
The Big Book still recommended that "Though the family has no religious connections, they may wish to make contact with or take membership in a religious body."
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous goes on to say, "Alcoholics who have derided religious people will be helped by such contacts."
"Being exposed top a spiritual experience, the alcoholic will find he has much in common with these people, though he may differ from them on many matters. If he does not argue about religion, he will make new friends and is sure to find new avenues of usefulness and pleasure. He and his family can be a bright spot in such congregations. He may bring new hope and new courage to many a priest, minister or rabbi, who gives his all to minister to our troubled world. We intend the foregoing as a helpful suggestion."
It's is one of the many points of humor that Alcoholics say that the Suggestions that are listed in the Big Book are like the suggestions on a parachute which say 'Pull string".
As AA has spread through out the world it is now common for recovered alcoholics to join churches, temples, synagogues and sweat lodges. William James, Variety of Religious Experience is now commonly read though not as often read as the Book of James was read by early AA's. Much of the early character of AA and the seed of its immense success was changed with the incorporation of AA.
Those who were raised in a Christian tradition as Dr. Bob was, are more likely to return to the church or cathedral they were raised in. Having done a Step 4 looking at their resentments to the institution of the church and addressing their own fears and self centeredness in their falling away from this, they will most likely approach the Christian church of today "without the contempt without investigation" that so characterized their alcoholism.
If they have no church or temple experience then often sponsors will encourage new comers to explore various churches and religious facilities starting first by attending a service where the AA meeting may itself be meeting. While AA meetings occur everywhere it's common for them to be welcomed into church basements. Giving some time to listen and participate in the meeting of the host who gives space to an organization whose members may not come in as the most appealing of humanity is an act of graciousness that is part of the maturity found with recovery.
AA began in association with the Christian church, Today AA, though non denominational, continues to be associated with churches. It's associated with the community center. The alcoholic was marginalized and alienated. As churches, synagoges, temples, sweat lodges stand at the centre of community that is where the road of recovery leads. Recovery is about coming in from out of the cold.
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