Alcoholics Anonymous & History of AA
Forming the Group
We regularly receive phone calls and emails from those who believe in God, want His help in recovery, and want to start a group in a 12-Step Fellowship or among church brethren that is patterned on the format and successes of the early Akron A.A. Christian Fellowship.
Our most recent published suggestions on how to conduct “old-school,” Akron-style A.A. meetings are embodied in our two titles:
Dick B. and Ken B., Stick with the Winners! How to Conduct More Effective 12-Step Recovery Meetings Using Conference-Approved Literature (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2012): http://mcaf.ee/ok81l; and
Dick B. and Ken B., Pioneer Stories in Alcoholics Anonymous (Kihei, HI: Paradise Research Publications, Inc., 2012): http://mcaf.ee/rh0gw.
Those forming a should, ordinarily, like the Akron pioneers, believe in God, establish their relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ, and look to both, as well as to the Bible, for answers to their problems. Or, they should be persons who want that type of help.
The qualifications for “membership” should thus focus on a newcomer who wishes to end the use of alcohol and addictive drugs in his life forever; will do whatever it takes to accomplish just that; and will surrender to God for relief from his problems—recognizing that neither he nor any human power has been able to cure him of his illness.
The group should begin its organizational efforts with a prayer to their Heavenly Father for His power, love, guidance, and suggestions for conducting the group. Which means, of course, looking to a loving God as He may express Himself in a group conscience. This is the beginning of reaching democratically an informed group conscience on group content.
Agenda items should include keeping a written record of all group decisions; selecting a Secretary; adopting a name; selecting the time and place for meetings; developing a format for the meeting; and deciding on what literature shall be used and where it shall be placed for view and use.
Conducting a Meeting
· “Old-school” Akron A.A. opened its meetings with a prayer by the leader, reading from Scripture, and then having a selected individual give a brief “lead” (talk).
· The content of a talk will be most helpful if it covers very briefly the speaker’s problem that brought him to the fellowship, what he learned about the original Akron A.A. program, what he did that fitted that mold, what his “vital religious experience” (if any) or “turning point” was; how he surrendered to God, learned from the Bible what obedience to God’s will included, practiced daily via Bible study, prayer, Quiet Time, and the reading of religious literature; what he has done to help others get well; and what he still needs and wants to hear.
If the speaker wishes to discuss the Big Book or Twelve Steps, his remarks will be the most helpful if focused on the language of the Big Book and of a Step, what he did, where he turned to God for help, how the Bible and prayer helped him, and what he still needs and wants to hear.
Drunkalogs and war stories were simply not a part of the early meetings. And Dr. Bob specifically said they didn’t amount to much. Other oldtimers had different reasons for excluding such diatribes.
· There can be group prayer and a group quiet time for communicating with God.
· If, based on the speaker’s presentation, there can be a group topic; and the Secretary should permit very brief questions or comments to be raised by members present.
· If there are members or newcomers who have not yet made a “full surrender,” the meeting may briefly adjourn. The prospect should be escorted to a private place by two or three selected leaders. The prospect should kneel in prayer; and the leaders should pray with him.
· The prayers—if they are to be like those of the pioneers-- should consist of three parts:
(1) The newcomer professes his belief in God—Hebrews 11:6; and he accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior—Romans 10:9 and John 3:16.
(2) Then the newcomer asks God in the name of Jesus Christ to take alcohol and drugs out of his life forever.
(3) Then the newcomer petitions God in the name of Jesus Christ, with thanksgiving, and according to God’s will, to meet his particular needs as to guidance, healing, and forgiveness, as well as serving and glorifying God and serving God and others.
· Attention should be called to the literature table and how to use it.
· The meeting should adjourn with a group prayer.
Variations as to Meetings
Each group, after asking God for His guidance, should then be autonomous and free to decide what to include in meetings and how many meetings should be conducted in a week by the group.
· There should be a special period for orienting newcomers as to what Alcoholics Anonymous is all about, and the resources that are available—with particular emphasis on reliance on God, study of the Bible, prayer, obeying God’s will, and helping others as much and frequently as possible. See DR. BOB and the Good Oldtimers, page 131.
· There can be a Quiet Time meeting patterned on those conducted by Dr. Bob’s wife each morning where she opened with prayer, read Scripture, led the group in prayer, read from her journal, and discussed godly subjects raised. See Dick B., Anne Smith’s Journal, 1933-1939 (http://mcaf.ee/okuca).
· There can be a Big Book or a Twelve Step meeting where heavy emphasis is placed on using and reading from the Big Book and where an informed leadership as to how to take each Step. See Our A.A. Legacy to the Faith Community workbook by three Clarence Snyder Sponsee Old-timers and Their Wives (available from www.CameToBelieve.org).
· There can be a Bible study group--with particular emphasis on the three segments Dr. Bob said were considered “absolutely essential:” See The Co-Founders of Alcoholics Anonymous: Biographical Sketches: Their Last Major Talks (A.A. Literature Catalog item # P-53); and Dick B., The James Club and the Original A.A. Program’s Absolute Essentials (http://mcaf.ee/v1nh9)--in both cases dealing with the Book of James, Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and 1 Corinthians 13.
· There can be an A.A. history study group--utilizing the forthcoming “Bill W., Dr. Bob, and the Cure of Alcoholism: The Rest of the Story” video series by Dick B. and Ken B. for teaching.
Other history topics could include: (1) The roots of A.A. in Vermont. (2) The Christian upbringing of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. (3) How the first three AAs got sober. (4) The original seven-point A.A. program summarized by Frank Amos. (5) The 16 practices of the Akron A.A. “Christian fellowship” members. (6) The resemblance of the early Akron A.A. “Christian fellowship” to the practices of the Apostles as recorded in the Book of Acts. (7) Where Bill W. got the ideas for the Big Book and 12 Steps before they were changed. (8) The “Broad Highway” established by the last-minute changes in the printer’s manuscript of the Big Book before it went to press. (9) The immense support (still present in A.A.’s own General Service Conference-approved literature) for the “old-school” practices and for applying those practices in today’s Fellowship.