Church Leaders Turning to Faith To Combat Substance Abuse, Life Issues

Pastor Earnest Watkins displays program materials for “Celebrate Recovery,” a plan he and Pastor Terry Endsley plan to offer the public starting next month. Photo by Heather Ziegler

WHEELING — Church leaders throughout the Ohio Valley have expressed frustration over the number of people who are facing drug abuse issues as well as problems with gambling, pornography, depression and more.

Two local pastors, Terry Endsley and Earnest Watkins want to do something to help. They have been meeting since last fall with other church folks who have been working to introduce a nationally recognized plan to help those overwhelmed by the above mentioned issues.

“Celebrate Recovery,” written by Rick Warren and John Baker, is a structured program to help those with addictions and other life issues they can’t overcome without help. The program has been in place throughout the country for more than 20 years.

“This is a Christ-centered, biblically based program. It uses the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to support 12 steps that are similiar to Alcoholics Anonymous, and biblical references to support eight biblical principles to address and eliminate life issues,” Watkins said. “We don’t use the word addiction a lot. Our language is ‘hurts, hangups and habits,’ which is a more holistic approach.”

Endsley pastors the Centre Wheeling Fellowship Church at 22nd and Chapline streets in Wheeling and Watkins leads the New Life UMC congregation that is in the process of identifying a permanent church home.

The program is expected to be up and running at the Centre Wheeling Fellowship Church at 6 p.m. July 13. At that time, the program will follow the program structure that includes a light meal, a large group meeting and then small group meetings that are gender specific. The program includes a lesson each week with testimonies heard on alternating weeks. A cafe hour for socializing and developing supportive relationships end each session.

Watkins, a member of the Upper Ohio Valley Ministerial Alliance, said he’s hoping other clergy and churches will get on board the program.

“As a member of the Upper Ohio Valley Ministerial Alliance, I am struck by the lack of willingness to join us. I think once we get up and running and people in the community begin to see the impact that such a program can have on people’s lives, that’s when people will jump on the bandwagon,” Watkins said.

To learn more about the Celebrate Recovery, call Watkins at 304-542-0348 or Endsley at 740-359-2642.