It’s one o’clock at Central United Church in downtown Calgary on a Friday afternoon and people are coming in and out like bees around a beehive.
Out are the “Jazzcercisers” who just finished their workouts. In are members of the Muslim community for the Friday Prayer.
It’s not surprising to see this level of activity at the Church as it has been playing a key role in the Calgary community “even before there was a community,” likes to point out Diane Shreibner, Chair of the Board of Elders.
The first Methodist service (it became a United Church in 1925, when the UCC denomination was formed) was in held in 1875. Calgary was incorporated in 1884.
Central United Church has discovered a unique niche as part of the downtown community in providing supports to people recovering from addictions. This includes 12 Step and day recovery programs, as well as an affiliation with the Calgary Drug Treatment Court.
As part of the recovery ministry, Central offers a Sunday evening service. “It attracts people who are recovering from anything or nothing, it’s quite a unique service,” says Diane.
The evening starts with a band playing the Blues. People come in early and feel they are in a safe environment.
“People come for the music and stay for the message.”
When people leave, they feel uplifted says Diane, who also teaches a co-dependency class. This positive, hopeful boost can help them make it through the challenges of the next day and the next week until they connect again with others on the journey in the 12 step groups or Sunday evening services.
Recently Central United Church signed on for the Loving Your Neighbourhood project with The Calgary Foundation and The Edge (with the United Church of Canada) so it can take a step back and look at all the ways it is part of downtown Calgary and new possibilities.
Although the recovery focus for Central is not new, it has been doing this work for 20 years, Diane believes there is room to grow. “We can do more,” she says without hesitation. She would like to see Central working with other agencies that are helping families. “A huge component of addictions is abuse and I think that there are places where we can partner with people to give tools in recovery from abuse.”