Spiritual Retreat to Offer Care and Support to Clergy Who Grew Up in Alcoholic and Dysfunctional Homes

Retreat to be held at Rolling Ridge Retreat Center in North Andover, Mass.

NEW YORK CITY, June 23, 2011 -- The United Methodist Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPSARV) will hold a two-day retreat designed for clergy who have been adversely affected by growing up in an alcohol, drug or other dysfunctional family setting. SPSARV is The United Methodist Church’s global initiative to equip church leaders and partners to be informed and compassionate responders to alcohol, other drugs and related violence worldwide.

The clergy self-care retreat, cosponsored by the New England Conference of The United Methodist Church, will be held on Aug. 21-23 at Rolling Ridge Retreat Center in North Andover, MA.

Led by Elene Loecher, a spiritual director and educator at the Hazelden Foundation for more than two decades, the retreat seeks to foster a better understanding and use of the 12 Steps and meditation to help Adult Children of Alcoholics to recognize the connection—and consequences—of having been brought up in a dysfunctional home and work towards healing.

Today, some 28-30 million Americans -- or 15 % of the population -- are Adult Children of Alcoholics, ACOA. According to Ministry Health, an initiative providing support and resources to pastors and Christian ministry professionals, as many as 50% of all clergy, may be adult children of dysfunctional homes.

Rev. Wayne Dobratz, a minister who is an ACOA, shared his experiences growing up in an alcoholic home in hopes of inspiring other ministers to get help. “I didn't know it, but I was one of 28 million adult children of alcoholics--people whose close family relationship with an alcoholic was still having an impact upon their lives…. I had no idea that my father's alcoholism was still impacting my life,” wrote Dobratz for the Ministry Health website. “After all, he died in 1966 and I was only 17 years old. But it was affecting me and I didn't even know it.”

Rev. Cynthia W. Sloan, Program Associate for SPSARV, which is administered by The United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), noted that although there are no clear statistics on how many clergy men and women are from alcoholic and dysfunctional homes, she wonders if some choose to be ministers from theologian Henri Nouwen’s concept of the “wounded healer”.

“I believe many of us have had a painful experience of living with a parent[s] who abused alcohol and left us feeling less than,” said Sloan, ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church.

“I believe many of us recognize that we are adult children of alcoholics but have never done the work around healing,” she said. “I believe many of us need this healing in order to learn to take care of ourselves. I believe that much of clergy burnout, mental and physical health issues and people pleasing can be eradicated by doing our own inward work.”

Below are some characteristics exhibited by Adult Children of Alcoholics:
1. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
2. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
3. We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (denial).
4. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem
5. Alcoholism is a family disease and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.

Sloan encouraged clergy from alcoholic or other dysfunctional families to consider doing some spiritual work around this issue by attending the retreat. “If you can relate to any of these you will benefit from our time together,” she said. “This will be a unique opportunity for clergy since we hardly have the luxury of a treatment center stay.



For more information or questions on the clergy self-care retreat, please visit www.umspsarv.org or contact Rev. Cynthia Sloan, SPSARV Program Associate, at csloan@gbgm-umc.org or call (704) 882-0282.



The United Methodist Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPSARV) equips United Methodists and partners to be informed and compassionate responders to alcohol, other drugs and related violence worldwide. Visit www.umspsarv.org.