County Churches Join Drug And Alcohol Awareness Effort

April 28 Services To Help Get Message Out

April 24, 1991|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff writer

To awaken their congregations to the dangers of substance abuse, 56 county churches are dedicating part of their services on April 28 -- Drug and Alcohol Awareness Sunday.

For some pastors, personal experiences will help bring the message home.

"We have a couple of people in the congregation who have had youngsters -- now grown -- that have had problems with drugs," said the Rev. Marina Flores of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Snydersburg.

"Luckily, they're off drugs and on their way to better lives, but it was rough while they were going through it," she said.

"On a number of occasions, they lost jobs, boyfriends, girlfriends and were involved with people who were arrested or died. It was a heavy time for them."

Yet calling attention to individual cases is not the purpose for this day, Flores said.

"It's mainly to have the congregation aware of the problem and what is to be done about it," she said. "Not so much stopping individual teen-agers, but being able to help those who are under the influence get back on track."

The first event, created by the parenting subcommittee of the county's first Drug and Alcohol Summit in April 1990, has garnered more interest than its organizers imagined.

About one-third of the 169 churches asked to participate have agreed to distribute literature provided by the committee.

"The response has really been an overwhelming success," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy Jr. "It's beyond all our expectations. But with a response like this, we'll slowly but surely make the entire community a better place to live for all families."

George Geiss, director of the Youth Services Bureau, is pleased with the initial turnout, but is still looking for the event to grow.

"We hope to have this every year," he said. "We'll get (all the churches to participate) next year."

The parenting subcommittee -- consisting of members of the school board, Youth Services Bureau, Junction, Carroll Community College, the Department of Recreation and Parks, a pastor and a few students -- has been planning the special day since last September,said Geiss.

"We picked April 28 since it's after Easter and before Mother's Day," he said. "That way the pastors didn't have to worry about it with their sermon on Easter Sunday or Mother's Day."

Eachchurch was offered business cards and brochures -- paid for by a federal grant to Junction -- with phone numbers of support groups to distribute to their parishioners.

A sample sermon -- prepared by Dennis Foster, chaplain for the Carroll County Civil Air Patrol -- and counseling training at Carroll Community College for the religious leaders also was available.

Student volunteers from each high school delivered the supplies to each participating church in their area on Friday, Geiss said.

"We're really looking to contact more and morepeople in Carroll County with our anti-drug and alcohol message," said Lippy, who is the commissioners' representative to the drug and alcohol summit. "If we can reach them through the pastors, who are better with words than we are, then a lot of people will really listen toit."

From there, some pastors are hoping their congregations willturn inspiration into action.

"The awareness will allow us as a congregation to come up with something to help the rest of the community," said Flores. "That's generally what we pray for when we ask God's will to be done, and I don't think it's God's will for people to beon drugs.

"What kind of vision that (prayer) will produce is up to the congregation and the Holy Spirit."

The Rev. Ronald Fisher, of Ascension Episcopal Church in Westminster, said he hopes the day will raise awareness about how to help an abuser. His congregation already sponsors about a dozen alcohol and drug abuse support groups.

"We consider this a natural continuation of a ministry we've had for a long time," he said. "We really hope people will be aware (of support groups) for themselves, a neighbor, a friend or family member to take action if need be."

Flores -- who was a drug counselor in New York before becoming a minister -- said more steadfast prayer may be what is needed to reduce substance abuse from an epidemic to a controllable problem.

"I know the problem's been around for a long time, and we're not going to solve it overnight," she said. "But the application of the Gospel to this problem may be exactly what is needed.

"From people I have known, the problem is lack of meaning in theirlives, and the Gospel can certainly answer those questions."

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