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Local United Methodists aim to raise more than $100K to fight opioid addiction

STAFF • Apr 30, 2019 at 5:30 PM

Local United Methodists are raising more than $100,000 to fight the opioid crisis that is tearing away at their communities in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and North Georgia.

By mid-June, the 872 United Methodist congregations of the Holston Conference expect to take a significant offering that will help create new ministries or strengthen existing programs that help families and individuals struggling with addiction.

“Resurrection begins at Easter. It doesn’t end at Easter,” said the Rev. Tim Jones, director of communications. “As Easter people in Holston Conference, we want to celebrate new life and resurrection through ministries that address the opioid crisis.”

A SPECIAL OFFERING

United Methodist churches will take special offerings throughout May, then take their offerings to the Holston Annual Conference held June 9-12 in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. “The funds will then be distributed through grants to churches that want to fight drug addiction in their communities,” said Jones.

Every year, the Holston Conference collects more than $100,000 for a designated mission. In 2018, church members gave $110,191 for South Sudanese children and pastors living as refugees in Uganda. In 2017, church members gave $105,588 to provide education and care for children in Zimbabwe.

Holston Conference leaders chose opioid addiction as their 2019 mission focus after surveying church members indicated it as a disease affecting many families in their communities, Jones said.

The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline states: “We commit ourselves to assisting those who suffer from abuse or dependence, and their families, in finding freedom through Jesus Christ and in finding good opportunities for treatment, for ongoing counseling, and for reintegration into society.”

LOCAL CHURCHES OFFER SUPPORT

Several United Methodist churches in the Tri-Cities area already host recovery worship or related support groups, including Crossroads, First Broad Street and Shades of Grace in Kingsport; First Bristol; Gate City; Lebanon Memorial; Munsey Memorial in Johnson City; Piney Flats; and State Street.

The grants will not only support those ministries but will also inspire other ways congregations can prevent drug abuse or support families struggling with addiction, such as:

• Providing transportation to attend support groups.

• Hosting “sober living” activities.

• Providing meals or child care for grandparents raising the children of addicted parents.

• Partnering with law enforcement or hospitals to host prescription “take-back” events.

“I am extremely thankful to see our annual conference address this epidemic with tangible means of support,” said the Rev. Will Shewey, pastor at Shades of Grace. “I believe every community of faith is struggling with the questions surrounding this health crisis.

“From dealing with this in our Shades of Grace storefront setting, I am convinced that without intervention and deliverance, people with addictions ultimately face incarceration, institutionalization or death,” Shewey said. “As United Methodist congregations, we stand in the gap between literal life and death.”

The Holston Conference includes about 160,000 members in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia. The organization’s main office is located in Alcoa, Tennessee.

For more information, visit Holston.org.

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