WILLIAMSTOWN -- Christa Ryan, along with Rev. Peter Daniels of the First Baptist Church, is launching a new program at the church called Celebrate Recovery, a practice aimed at people's "hurts, habits and hangups."
The program itself was formed 21 years ago by John Baker and Rick Warren, author of "Purpose-Driven Life." This recovery program is based on the 8 beatitudes from Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, and has been used at thousands of churches.
All 12-step programs originate from the beatitudes, according to Ryan. The first six steps were created in 1890, which were written in full to become 12 steps by Bill and Bob from Alcoholics Anonymous. She believes Celebrate Recovery takes it one step further, biblically into the depths of the beatitudes.
"It talks about the hurts, habits and hangups of most people -- the way that they are broken -- and how we as a church have to start developing a program that will help the Christians learn how to heal from their addictions," explained Ryan. "John Baker was a fall-down drunk, but was able to get into recovery, and when he walked into Rick Warren's church, they realized people were all suffering from something."
The impact upon people, for Ryan, can occur in childhood, highschool or marriage, but regardless of the individual circumstances, life can be difficult just to grow up into. Her current topic of interest is sexual abuse in the church, and its correlation with addiction and pornography.
"I'm talking about victims of molestation and incest who have nowhere to go with this because the churches are set up for ‘you don't talk about it, you keep it under the rug,' " said Ryan. "You can't keep turning away from these people who have been innocent victims, who have been raped. ... From all the women I've talked to, it seems like three of four women have had incest or have been sexually molested. That just opens them up to a whole other behavior that follows them the rest of their lives."
Ryan previously worked as a landscape consultant in Long Island, then moved to Great Barrington, and eventually met Rev. Daniels from the First Baptist Church. Ryan had been wanting to get a local church connected with the Celebrate Recovery program, and so she approached Daniels with the idea, and he was receptive to it.
"I think he wants a healthier church for his own church, but also to reach out into the community and let them know that there is healing for all forms of habits, addictions and hurts" said Ryan. "Our hangups we hold on to keep us from living the purpose we were designed to live. We all had a purpose at one point, but when we hang onto stuff, we can't live the destiny of what we've been designed for."
The program itself will be set up in typical recovery program fashion, with testimony and teachings being offered on alternate weeks. Each of the 12 steps will be focused on individually and related to the Bible. After the teaching sessions, attendants will break off into small sex-segregated groups for discussion.
"It's a recovery program for people who want to get closer to God," said Ryan.
To Ryan, the deterioration of the world and concordant trials and tribulations are likely to lead people back to what she considers old values. Many people who grew up in the church have left the church for various reasons, and she is not hesitant to assign blame to church structures at large for this result. Her TV show, ‘Recovery from Religion,' is based on this premise, the idea that the church is broken and so are its people.
"What I really hit on in the TV show is all the pre-meditated legalism that's been forced into the church, driving believers out of the church, and keeping non-believers away from the church," explained Ryan. "We set ourselves up on a legalistic format that is not conducive to bringing people closer to church. It's a church formed to be about righteousness, judgment, fear and money, which is not conducive to people wanting to come in and heal from problems most people are facing."
"Because we have this glorified attitude of the way church should be, we have a lot of people who do love God and Jesus who don't want to come to church because of the way church is set up right now," she said. "It comes down to an inner relationship between you and God and how you can achieve a closer relationship that gives you knowledge and guidance. So many people don't have an understanding of what having an intimate relationship with God is about. ... People are broken; we live in a broken world."
Celebrate Recovery will launch at the First Baptist Church on Oct. 3, a night which will include a free dinner and testimony from Ryan. Subsequent meetings will take place Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 8:30. All meetings are free and open to the public.