Alcoholics Anonymous & History of AA
A.A. Cofounders Dr. Bob and Bill W. both were born and raised in Vermont, had a Congregational upbringing, were much involved in Bible study, knew of conversions, attended church weekly or more, and daily chapel at their Academies daily. Each was steeped in the seven basic Christian roots of early A.A.
One: Evangelists and Revivalists: These strong Christian men included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey, Allen Folger, and YMCA laymen. They fostered The Great Awakening of 1875 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont and preached salvation and God’s Word.
Two: YMCA lay personal work revivalists: Their focus was undenominational and outreach by lay people. They conducted Gospel and Revival meetings in St. Johnsbury, galvanized the Great Awakening, and stressed conversion to Christ and Bible study
Three: Rescue Missions: These served derelicts and drunks, gave them “soup, soap, and Salvation,” opened services with “Jesus Saves,” Hymns, Bible reading, and the altar call—the very decisions for Christ that Bill Wilson and his friend Ebby Thacher experienced at Calvary Rescue Mission in New York.
Four: Salvation Army: The fundamental outreach by one recovered alcoholic to another, bringing him to Christ, the good news of the Bible, and then serving others in “God’s Army.”
Fifth: Young People’s Christian Endeavor Society (“For Christ and For Church): Dr. Bob was active in this in his St. Johnsbury North Congregational Church. The program was almost identical to that of early Christian A.A. in Akron. It involved Confession of Christ, Conversion meetings. Prayer meetings, Bible study meetings, Quiet Hour, reading and discussion of Christian literature, and the slogan “love and service”—which popped up in Dr. Bob’s A.A. talks.
Sixth: The Oxford Group: Formed much later about 1919 and espoused a Christian life-changing program with twenty-eight principles that impacted upon A.A. and were incorporated in Bill Wilson’s 1939 Big Book and Twelve Step program.
Seventh: Rev. Samuel M. Shoemaker, Jr., Rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York. An American Oxford Group leader, prolific writer, and teacher to Bill Wilson of the ideas behind all the Twelve Steps, particularly Steps Three through Twelve.
Resources: Dick B., Dr. Bob of Alcoholics Anonymous; The Conversion of Bill W; The Oxford Group & Alcoholics Anonymous; New Light on Alcoholism: God, Sam Shoemaker, and A.A.; Real Twelve Step Fellowship History. See www.dickb.com/titles.shtml