Attending an A.A. Area Assembly
Last weekend I attended an Area Assembly representing our group as the GSR or General Service Representative. The A.A. Service Manual describes the Assembly as the “mainspring of the Conference structure-the democratic voice of the movement expressing itself”. Every two years there is an election assembly where committee members and the delegate to the General Service Conference are chosen.
The assembly I attended was non-voting and provided a venue for the GSR’s to report on the welfare and activities of their individual groups, and for the various committees to meet and discuss the action they are taking to better carry the message to the suffering alcoholic.
Since this was the first area assembly at which our group participated, I felt it important that I be straightforward and honest in my presentation as I introduced ourselves to the Assembly. I reported that our group started meeting in August with two members meeting once per week, and that we now meet twice a week and our meetings average between ten to fifteen in attendance. I explained that we do not open or close our meetings with a prayer, and that people are attracted to our group who are uncomfortable with the religiosity found at other A.A. meetings. I mentioned that our meeting discussion is taken from a combination of conference approved and non-conference approved literature. .
I found it interesting that our group was the only new group and the only group that was reporting growth and was interested in starting a new meeting. There were several groups that reported attendance problems, the need to cut back on meetings and financial woes. Was anyone at those groups asking why they are shrinking instead of growing? It seems all the excitement in A.A. is found among We Agnostics, Atheists and Freethinkers in A.A. We are growing so quickly. It seems that every day I hear of a new WAAFT meeting starting somewhere. There’s a new meeting in Santa Cruz, another in central Illinois and yet another starting in Toronto. We are reaching out to alcoholics who otherwise may not think A.A. is for them.
After the GSR reports, we broke up into various committee meetings. I decided to attend the meeting for the Literature Committee. There was mention of a book that will be discussed at the next General Service Conference. It sounds like they are simply going to add the Twelve Concepts to the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, making the 12×12 a 12x12x12. I was a little disappointed that we weren’t going to get some new updated recovery literature. Unfortunately an update of the 12×12 to bring it into the 21st century is not in store for us anytime soon.
The committee meeting ended with those present joining hands in a circle to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Typically at a traditional A.A. meeting, I will join the circle out of unity, but simply not recite the prayer. However, I made a commitment to myself to not join in the prayer circle at District and Area meetings. I feel that at these service meetings, I am not simply representing myself but I am representing my group and to some extent all agnostics, atheists and freethinkers in A.A. By standing outside the circle, I am demonstrating that it is possible to close a meeting without praying, and I represent the alcoholic who they are unknowingly and unnecessarily shutting out.
This was my first experience of refusing to join hands in prayer and to instead stand outside the circle. I stood there, looking straight at them, my eyes wide open. They all had their heads bowed as they prayed with the exception of one woman who looked straight ahead, but had her eyes closed as she passionately recited the prayer. This was an unusual experience for me because typically, I just go along and get along. I basically conform to whatever norms the group establishes as acceptable. I must say it felt empowering to stand outside the circle and to be true to my principles. I believe I may carry on this practice at traditional meetings that close in a prayer circle.
I had to leave the assembly earlier than I planned because the person I drove there wanted to leave early. I missed out on other committee meetings and voting on the budget that took place the next day. I vowed that I will go by myself next time and spend the night. All in all it was an enjoyable experience, I met the Area Delegate, I made at least one friend and I introduced our group to the Area. The A.A. groups in Western Missouri have been made aware that agnostic A.A. is alive and well in their state.