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An already fruitful and thriving ministry at the Manning United Methodist Church was blessed to grow and reach more people through the work of church members and pastors involved in the ministry, aided in part by the Healthy Church Initiative (HCI) process.
With The Source worship service and its parent Recovery Bible Study ministry, Manning UMC is touching hearts and helping to repair lives in its congregation and the broader community, in a team effort that has flourished for years between the church laity and pastors.
Back in 2008, then Pastor Lanette Plambeck and a small group, including church member Lynn Phillips, began a Friday night recovery Bible study at the Manning church using the Life Recovery Bible and Workbook.
Rev. Plambeck had connected with leadership at the Manning Family Recovery Center and also with church members who’d shared their recovery stories with her, as well as having been a 5th-step partner with members of the Friday night AA program.
“Walking alongside one family - their lament was that they desired more “Bible and Jesus” in their recovery,” she recalled. “We did the whole “what if” and the study was born.”
They invited a few friends and on the first night, there were five in attendance. The group met weekly to wrestle with faith in the context of recovering from addiction, current pastor Vicki Fisher said.
The Recovery Bible Study continued for seven years and through two pastoral changes, Angie Loomis and now Rev. Fisher, who said she sees as the most important aspect of her work to encourage the lay people who are in leadership and empower them to keep growing the Recovery Ministries.
There was a steady core group of about 10-12 members, Phillips recalled, one of whom suggested they invite clients from the Manning Family Recovery Center, which includes both inpatient and outpatient treatment for addiction.
“Alcoholism is easily concealed and overlooked in small towns, but that doesn’t diminish its destructive power,” she stated. “There certainly is a need for faith-based recovery ministries to supplement the work of the Manning Recovery Center and the various 12 step groups.”
By the spring of 2015, attendance at the Bible Study of more than 30 people was not unusual.
It was when Pastor Loomis transferred to Ankeny First United Methodist Church that Phillips learned of the church’s ministry The Road, a recovery ministry which offers a worship service, meal, and small groups.
“I went a couple of times, and it really impressed me,” stated Phillips. “It just occurred to me, we could do that.”
Church Leadership Approves The Source
The idea met with enthusiasm, and within several months, after meetings with Rev. Fisher and the Church Council, church leadership gave its blessing to expanding the recovery ministry by offering a second worship service on Friday nights.
They set a budget, a steering team was formed, and The Source officially began in September 2015.
Manning UMC was two years into the HCI process when the idea for The Source came up, and the initiative was instrumental in taking the existing recovery ministry further.
“Beyond the prayer team aspect, being involved in the HCI process prepared our leaders to say “yes” to the vision,” Rev. Fisher said.
“HCI kept us asking, “what does God want to do here?” she recalled. “HCI helped us focus again on the mission. Because of HCI, our leaders were able to recognize and embrace a God-sized dream.”
The Source is very much a ministry of God working through the laity, Rev. Fisher said, and as pastor she simply supports and fosters them.
God Touching Hearts
“First, it was birthed and continues to grow by God working through the laity,” she stated. “Second, God is bringing people to The Source and to Recovery Bible Study, who have little experience with the church. It has been wondrous to see God touching hearts.”
For some, this is their first glimpse of a church being there for them, and as they have a life-long recovery process ahead, Rev. Fisher continued, and she hopes they seek out a faith community along with a recovery program as they return home.
The Source is a different kind of service, Rev. Fisher explained, lasting only 35 minutes and having three different people rotate in sharing the message. Along with Rev. Fisher, who preaches once a month, this includes two certified lay speakers, Esta Denton, and Sheryl Dammann.
The group uses music videos for worship and invites those willing to lead prayers, read scriptures and receive the offering. Rev Fisher shares communion once each month. Pizza and the Recovery Bible Studies follow worship.
“On any given Friday, when the weather is good, over 50 different people will participate in some aspect of Recovery Ministries at Manning United Methodist Church,” said Rev. Fisher. Rev. Fisher pointed out that only five or six of the regulars are members of the Manning UMC.
“For many, The Source is their only church,” she said. “We are reaching people with no church home.”
“People invite their friends, the Recovery Center in Manning buses their clients over who want to participate,” Rev. Fisher continued. “People come from as far as 40 miles away to attend our Friday night Recovery Ministries.”
A second study for those who would prefer to be in a smaller group has been added recently since the group has grown so big. Following the Bible Study, AA and Al-Anon groups meet at the church with child care provided for all the activities.
With each step of the Bible study, scripture is read, said Phillips, who has 34 years in recovery, and who has lead the Bible study from the start, continuing to lead the larger group.
“The Source is Christian-based,” he said. “It’s about Christianity,” and thus offer more structure and depth to recovery.
Phillips said the whole thing is inspired by group members’ love for each other, no matter who they are or where they come from, and this is something that people who walk in off the street have remarked upon, how happy people attending the ministry are so together.
“Early on in my recovery I learned the only way I was going to keep my serenity, and keep my recovery, and keep God in myself was to give it away,” he said.
Going all in and taking things to the biggest degree he can, he said, in this case by being involved in The Source and recovery ministry, has brought unbelievable reward.
Starting such a recovery ministry in Manning was pretty ambitious, he pointed out, a risk and a leap.
“My life is more full than it’s ever been,” stated Phillips. “Truly, I can’t wait for the next chapter (of study).” He is quick to point out that it’s not about him, “It’s just about giving and receiving love.”
“Everybody has their story, and everybody has their crisis,” said Phillips. “Nobody is excluded.”
Phillips was not alone in saying The Source is affecting people’s lives for the better.
“It’s life-changing,” stated Sheryl Dammann. “I experience God in our sanctuary every Friday night in a way I’ve never experienced God in a church before.”
“His presence is palpable in our Friday night church service,” she said.
Dammann, who lets her message for the group simmer inside her throughout the week before she speaks for the worship service, then lets it flow from her heart on Friday night, has seen the Lord alive in people who are served by the ministry. Being part of this affects her as well.
“To see people come alive through God, to watch their faces change through their eyes, their whole countenance change,” Dammann said, “To have life and light come back into their face, to see men who stand in the back when they first come start sitting in the front pew, it’s just a miracle happening before our eyes, to see God change lives.”
“You will find joy in the church on Friday night,” stated Rev. Fisher. “There is a spirit of encouragement and hope that sinks into your soul as you share with God’s people.”
“This is taking the wonderful world of recovery,” said Phillips, “and making it available to anybody who walks through the door.”
“It’s going places; it’s exciting,” he said.
“It’s amazing what gets done when God’s behind something,” said Dammann. “God is behind this; I know it.”
“There is a hunger to see God moving in our lives and enabling us to live in freedom,” Rev. Fisher said. “There are people who bring many questions and struggles, and discover they are loved, valued, and not alone. God is working to transform lives.”